What’s so great about Omega 3?
Omega 3 will make you a better person in every way. It’s been scientifically proven to make you:
- Smarter (a large amount of your brain is made of it for one thing, it can also increase blood flow to the brain)
- Fitter (it decreases recovery time, and can improve muscle growth/toning, as well as bone and joint health)
- Happier (treats depression better than antidepressants,a lack of healthy fat is linked to aggression and even suicidal ideation)
- Leaner (it raises metabolism making you burn fat faster, and store fat less, reduces stress hormone, increases insulin sensitivity, turns on fat burning genes and turns off fat storing genes)
- Sexier (can make skin smooth and velvety as well as less prone to acne and aging, and helps in the construction of sex hormones)
- Sick less often, if ever (by boosting immune system)
- Healthier, reducing risk of any disease you’re likely to get (including heart disease, stroke, arthritis, dementia, age related blindness, asthma, crohn’s disease, fatty liver and has even been shown to reverse tumours among many other conditions)
- Heal quicker
- Keep young (much of the muscle weakening and reduced brain function associated with ageing comes from a lack of nutrients to help repair, omega 3 being a prominent one)
- Reduced menstrual pain (better than ibuprofen: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3770499/)
- Birth healthier children (higher omega 3 during pregnancy and breastfeeding associates with increased intelligence, social and communication skills, as well as decreased risk of mental disorders, developmental delay, behaviour issues, and diseases like cerebral palsy
- Predict the future (okay I made that one up…)
What you need to know
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid. The term essential means that your body cannot produce it and that it is essential for you to survive. The other essential fatty acid is omega 6 – you need both of these to be healthy. You need other fats too but as you can make those from omega 3 and 6 they are not essential.
Although omega 3 and 6 are very similar they often have opposite effects on the body so The balance of these two nutrients is very important. The Same enzymes are used to digest both so the ratio of fats you eat is very important. Omega 6 is not bad in itself, but the imbalance is, Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory whereas 6 is proinflammatory, and most people are already too inflamed.
There are different types of Omega 3, such as EPA, DHA and ALA. The ratio of EPA and DHA can be important in treating specific conditions. ALA needs to be converted into the others to become active in humans, something we’re not greatly efficient at – potentially converting as little as 0.5% to DHA. ALA is a type that predominates in high fat plant products, whereas EPA and DHA are found more in fish, seafood and to a lesser extent grass fed meats, which is why Omega 3 from fish is superior to plant sources, head over to PubMed to read more about this here.
The cell wall in every cell of your body is made of fat – it’s a really big deal. You can’t build a decent house if the walls are made of crappy bricks, it is important to ensure your cell walls are made of the right fat. This healthy outer layer lets your cells work effectively and interact with the rest of you body well.
People evolved to live on a ratio of roughly about 1:1 omega 3 to 6, some people closer to 4:1 and some 1:4. Nowadays, modern changes to diet and farming methods mean people are often closer to a ratio of 1:16, some people much higher again. Unless you make a conscious effort otherwise it is almost certain you have way too little omega 3 compared to other fats. Omega 3 makes an enormous difference to your health, not because there is anything magic about it, but because people just don’t get enough of this essential nutrient.
How to get it
Oily fish is the best source, such as mackerel, herring, sardines and salmon, and other seafood is (such as prawns) are good too. These fish tend to be quite cheap, and you can often get them tinned. Another bonus is that as they are small fish low on the food chain, they are not very polluted. Any amount of oily fish will be beneficial, but up to 5 portions a week has been shown to have significant improvements over less. In some studies, and the methodologies of some top coaches, even more improvement has been shown on much greater doses. I would recommend supplementing in addition to eating more fish, as it can be hard to eat oily fish 5 times a week, so keeping supplements handy can be very handy.
A good supplement will have a balance of EPA and DHA, and you should get at least 1000mg per day, but some more could be better to help you lose fat quicker. Omega 3 itself is very safe so as long as the supplement is of good quality. It can be in a capsule or as an oil. Fish oil (preferably not cod liver) is great, and the best source if you are vegetarian and won’t eat fish, is algae. Algal oil is also environmentally friendly, so great even if you’re not a vegan. Flax oil is good if you can’t find algae, but vegetarian sources other than algae are inferior, largely due to being more ALA.
Eat supplements ideally after a meal. Obviously sustainably sourced is better – from what I’ve seen Nordic oils seems a safe bet as a supply. Antioxidants like vitamin E can keep it fresh longer but oils can go rancid, so don’t buy in too much bulk, and keep your omega 3 away from heat and light
As the ratio of fats you eat is so important, you want to increase omega 3 while reducing omega 6 and saturated fats by reducing processed foods, and most importantly eliminate trans fats. Trans or hydrogenated fats are unsaturated fats from oils that have been damaged through processing. Any amount of trans fat is bad for your health, they increase risks of many diseases, age you, contribute massively to obesity and can damage mental health. They also interfere with omega 3. Avoid like the plague: crisps, donuts, margarine and anything deep fat fried like chips or Bhajis because of trans fats. Omega 6 fats also interfere with absorption of 3, so be careful not to eat too much of foods cooked in vegetable oils (again like the deep fried stuff), soy, or other processed junk or fast foods like store bought biscuits, mayonnaise and processed foods in general (Also be wary of peanut butter though a little of that does have it’s value).
Where trans fats and omega 6 interferes with omega 3s, other nutrients such as vitamins c, b3, b6 and zinc and magnesium work with essential fatty acids to help your health, so it’s always important to eat a healthy balanced diet generally.
The quality of food, particularly meat and dairy will have an effect on the amount of omega 3 and other fats, more natural meats such as organic, grass fed or wild meats, will have a better diet and more exercise, and will be healthier, with a healthier balance of fats with more omega 3. By eating healthier meats and dairy, you will be healthier – it’s pretty intuitive.
Other good sources of omega 3 include: grass fed meat, flax seeds, eggs (when chickens fed flax seeds or organic). Many other natural whole foods contain small amounts of omega 3, such as spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, basil, oregano – it all adds up. Nuts (especially walnuts) have omega 3 but also lots of 6.
If you are on blood thinning medication, you may want to speak with your doctor before supplementing omega 3.
- Eat more oily fish and seafood (aim to get 5 times per week), as well as other great food such as vegetables
- Reduce intake of high omega 6 foods such as processed foods or vegetable/seed/flower oils other than flax
- Omega 3 in meat and dairy is dependant on quality, grass fed is important
- Athletes should get more Omega 3 daily to help exercise recovery
- If you are fat or have eaten badly in the past you should get more
- Quality Supplements can help you ensure you get enough
In summary, eating plenty of omega 3 could add years to your life and help you live it to the fullest, physically, mentally and emotionally.