Omega 3s – The Basics

Omega 3s are one of the most versatile nutrients available, as they are not only incorporated into every cell but also provide further anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions.

Among the many types of Omega 3s, EPA and DHA offer the greatest benefits especially for the heart, brain and eye health.

Flax, Chia or Fish Oil – Does it Matter?

Vegans, vegetarians or anyone restricting seafood can easily develop a deficiency in Omega 3s. And for those not choosing to take a fish oil supplement, plant-based foods rich in omega 3s, such as flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts can be seen as a replacement for fish oil.

But the exact Omega 3s in plant foods versus the marine ones are chemically different.

Plant foods include Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), an omega 3 with a different structure from EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid). ALA has to be cleaved to create EPA and DHA. This conversion occurs at a low percent and requires for the right enzymes and cofactors (other nutrients needed to make the reaction happen) to be present and working perfectly. Many individuals may also have gene issues where they cannot create enough enzymes to have this reaction happen.

Even with everything set in place, the conversion rate is only 1-5%, meaning a 280g bag of flaxseed is the same as 1 capsule of fish oil when it comes to EPA and DHA.

In summary:

ALA – The Omega 3 present in large amounts in plants foods such as seeds and nuts, requires further breakdown and conversion to EPA and DHA.

EPA and DHA – Well researched and established Omega 3s that help support heart health, inflammation, brain and eye health and more.

Besides the source of omega 3s, the next most important thing is the amount. Although 500mg is often recommended for daily maintenance, much greater doses may be needed by those who have:

  • been deficient for a long time
  • overconsumed Omega 6s and under-consumed Omega 3s
  • have chronic health conditions connected to inflammation

Find out more about dosing here.

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