From your heart health, joints and skin to the menopause, pregnancy and your brain function, Omega 3 is one of the most important nutrients your body needs. Some studies suggest more than two thirds of the world's population are deficient in Omega 3 so we explain Omega 3, why it's good for you and who's at risk of deficiency.
What is Omega 3?
Omega 3 works in direct balance with omega 6 fats. The ideal ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 intake is 2:1, however this isn't often achieved, with some modern diets having a ratio of only 15:1.
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There are three types of omega 3 fats - ALA, DHA and EPA. EPA and DHA are the active and most important forms. Omega 3 algae oil contains both EPA and DHA. Other plant sources of omega 3 such as flax seeds contain ALA, which the body converts into DHA and EPA.
Why is Omega 3 good for you?
Omega 3 fatty acids are needed for every cell in the body, particularly for the membrane of cells, helping cells communicate between each other and the rest of the body.
Omega 3 fats are found more abundantly in some parts of the body, including the nerves, your brain and skin, and it's also needed for the production of hormones, most notably anti-inflammatory hormones.
Signs of Omega 3 deficiency
Omega 3 deficiency can present itself in many ways including:
- Weak nails and weak hair
- Conditions of the skin
- Difficulty concentrating
- Joint pain
Benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids
Given it's needed for every cell in our body, ensuring your diet is rich in omega 3, or taking an omega 3 supplement, has many benefits.
Arthritis and Omega 3
Omega 3 is beneficial for heart health by balancing the levels of other fats in the blood, helping to maintain good cholesterol levels, and reducing the development of arterial plaques. Omega 3 fats may also lower the risk of heart attacks.
Learn more in 'How to keep your heart healthy'.
Omega 3 is needed directly for incorporation into the skin cell membranes. Research has shown additional omega 3 added to your diet can help with conditions such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. The best foods and vitamins for glowing skin are rich in omega 3 and antioxidants.
Our brain has the highest fat content in our body. Omega 3 DHA is needed for the brain structure, and omega 3 EPA is needed for communication between brain cells. Studies show omega 3 fats may also support healthy moods, memory and cognition.
Learn more in our blog 'What supplements to take for brain health'.
Menopause and Omega 3
Some studies have shown omega 3 may help to lower excess testosterone in menopausal women, as well as decreasing hot flushes and supporting moods. Testosterone is an important and often overlooked hormone in women, with too low testosterone causing fatigue, low moods, reduced concentration and memory, and other symptoms.
Discover MenoFriend | Menopause Support
Pregnancy, breastfeeding and Omega 3
Omega 3 supplements are especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers as the infant requires omega 3 for brain, nerve and vision development.
If there is not enough omega 3 fats in the diet, the body takes them from the mothers brain to give to the infant, further creating risk of deficiency in the mother. Learn more in 'Is it OK to go plant-based while pregnant'.
Best foods for Omega 3
Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or trout are the best source of omega 3. Omega 3 can be found in a variety of plant food sources, however it is very difficult to gain sufficient quantities.
Good plant sources of omega 3 include flax seeds & flax seed oil, walnuts & walnut oil, chia seed and hemp seeds & hemp oil. Broccoli also contains omega 3, however you would need to eat a lot of broccoli if you were going to rely on it for your primary source!
As a result, a vegan omega 3 supplement is often the best choice for those who don't eat fish or are vegetarian or plant-based.
How much Omega 3 do I need?
The official recommendation for omega 3 daily consumption is 250mg per day of combined EPA and DHA. However, if you are a vegan and relying on ALA sources only, a higher level would need to be consumed as the body loses some omega 3 when converting ALA into EPA and DHA. Most people on a vegan diet find a vegan omega 3 supplement from algae oil the most convenient way to get their omega 3 as it contains both EPA and DHA.
The difference between algae and fish Omega 3?
Fish get their omega 3 by eating algae, or by eating other fish which have eaten algae. Algae is the main starting point for omega 3 into the food chain.
Fish oil has a higher EPA content, whereas algae oil has a higher DHA content. However the problem with omega oil from fish is the fish can be contaminated with many pollutants and the oil needs to be intensively purified before it is used. Along with the damage to the environment of over-fishing, an omega 3 supplement from algae is the more sustainable choice!
Discover our range of vegan supplements and vitamins.
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