There are so many kinds of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids on the shelves at a health food store. Some are oil, some are liquid form, some are capsules, and so on. We all know that Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) have many health benefits, but how do you know if you are getting enough and how much do you need to deliver the benefits you expect?
When I was a child, my mother used to cook many different kinds of fish almost every day. Growing up in Japan, I never thought about needing “fish oil” as a supplement. Plenty of EFAs were in my diet which is the beauty of traditional Japanese cuisine. However, I moved to Canada and my diet has changed in many ways. What I realize is that I don’t cook fish very often, due to lack of choices and quality of fish. Moreover, these beneficial fats are not produced in our bodies, so they have to be included in our diets. If you cannot consume enough healthy fats in your diet, then supplementation comes in handy.
Basic types of EFAs:
- Alpha-Linoleic Acids(ALAs): flax seed, hemp seed, pumpkin seed, walnuts
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout
- Eicosapentaenoic Acids (EPA): cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and trout
- Linoleic Acids(LAs): safflower, sunflower, sesame, grapeseed
- Gamma-Linolenic Acids(GLAs): borage oils, evening primrose oil, black current oil
- Arachidonic Acids: meats and other animal products, egg yolk
- Oleic acids: olive oil, canola oil, almonds, avocados, peanuts, cashews, macadamia oils
As you can see, Omega-6 and 9 are typically in our diets. If you are not vegetarian, you eat meats and egg yolk that contain Omega-6 fatty acids. When you use canola oil for cooking, or use olive oil for salad, Omega-9 fatty acids are consumed. In fact, many people in North America are consuming a ratio of 15:1 of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Whereas, the ideal ratio is approximately between 2:1 and 4:1 of Omega-6 to Omega-3.
How much Omega-3 is needed for particular health benefits?
The following numbers indicate the amount of EPA and DHA Omega-3 fatty acids required for consumption.
- For overall health and optimal intestinal health: 1,000mg of EPA and DHA are recommended
According to the American Heart Association(AHA),
- For general cardiovascular health: 500mg daily
- For individuals with known coronary artery disease: 1g (1,000mg) daily
- For individuals with elevated triglyceride levels: 2g to 4g (2,000mg to 4,000mg) daily
Some results from various studies have indicated,
- For rheumatoid arthritis: 2g (2,000mg) daily or more
- For brain health: 500mg daily or more
- For depression: 1,000mg daily
In order to achieve these recommendations, you can simply try some Omega-3 supplements on the market to see which one you like the best. Be sure to choose good quality products, definitely not the cheapest ones! You can also try to include flax seed, hemp seed, pumpkin seed, and walnuts into your diet. Adding flax seed oil into your shake is another easy way to increase Omega-3 fatty acids.
All is well, all the best!
Penny Kendall-Reed, and Stephen Reed, Healing Arthritis, 2004
Elson M. Haas, Staying Healthy with Nutrition, 2006
Renew Life Canada (www.renewlife.ca)