Article contributed by Starr Lindegger (Botswana-based Banting Buddies coach)
Do you suffer from depression? Are you often tired and irritable? Do you look older than your actual age? Are your eyes often dry? Do you have cracked heels?
A deficiency in omega-3 can cause or contribute to the above ailments, as well as more serious mental and physical health problems. The reality is that many people today are omega-3 deficient. Most of us just don’t eat enough oily fish, and if you are a child or a vegetarian/vegan, you are particularly at risk of omega-3 deficiency.
What is Omega-3?
Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids. They are necessary for human health, normal growth and efficient metabolism – BUT the body can’t make this nutrient itself. Therefore, you have to get these fats from the food that you eat or from supplements. The three types of omega-3 fatty acids are ALA (found in plant oils) and EPA and DHA (both commonly found in marine oils). DHA is the most crucial for our health.
Which foods contain omega-3?
Plant sources of omega-3’s, include walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds. But plant sources only provide the ALA form of fatty acids. ALA can be converted to EPA in some individuals who are young, healthy and female, but on the whole it is extremely inefficient.
A study published in the Journal of Lipid Research shows that none of the ALA in flaxseed oil can convert into DHA and only 2% can convert to EPA – so if you are a vegetarian or vegan please don’t think that supplementing with flaxseed oil is sufficient to avoid a deficiency in this vital nutrient.
Why are omega-3’s so important?
They have been shown (through scientific studies) to have beneficial effects for:
- Heart health
- Weight control
- Behaviour and learning problems
- Autoimmune diseases
- Brain health
- Eye sight
- Hair, nails, skin
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate
Did you know? Studies have found that heart attack patients who supplemented with fish oils, markedly reduced their risk of having another heart attack, stroke, or dying.What about omega-6’s ?
Omega-6’s are also essential for human health. It is important however that we get these fatty acids in the correct ratio . The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1. Unfortunately, the consumption of omega-6’s in general is much higher than it should be sometimes as high as 50:1. This upsets the ratio , which has very serious consequences for our health and well-being.
Omega-6 is primarily sourced from corn, soy, canola, safflower, and sunflower and other damaged seed oils. These are over-abundant in the typical Western diet due to the consumption of highly processed and fast foods. Omega-6 fats cause inflammation in the body and we now know that inflammation is the root cause of most diseases that people suffer from today.
The good news is that if you are eating healthy, low carb, high fat foods, and oily fish then that balance of omega’s is pretty much sorted out.
Did you know? Omega-3 tends to reduce cancer cell growth, while highly processed and toxic omega-6 has been found to cause cancer growth.
What about my child?
The production of fertile eggs and sperm, plus optimum growth and development of the foetus are all dependant on omega-3. Therefore women who are trying to conceive, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding, should be supplementing with omega-3.
Once your child can swallow they should be given an omega-3 oil off a spoon, and when older they can swallow a capsule. DHA affects your child’s learning, behaviour and helps maximise your child’s intellectual potential. A 2013 study linked low levels of DHA with poorer reading, and memory and behavioral problems in healthy school-age children. Previous research also found that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and related behavior or learning disabilities are more likely to have low omega-3 fat levels. (Mercola.com)
How much should I take?
The recommended adult dose for omega-3’s is 1-2 capsules or 3–6g of fish oil daily. Children can be given half of the adult dose. Never take a supplement that contains omega 6 or 9 – you already get enough of those.
Avoid krill oil, as you need to take large quantities of it to make it useful to the body; it is expensive and not to mention the damage it is doing to our seas. Krill is an incredible food source for our penguins, whales and filter-feeders and a lot of krill are harvested to make a little oil!
So, the health benefits of omega-3 are numerous. It can help you look younger, have thicker and shinier hair, as well as more flexible joints. Fish oil has also been found to reduce all forms of depression and mood swings. Plus, using fish oil can help you lose weight as it helps you to mobilise stored fat. If you are not currently taking an omega 3 fish oil supplement – go out and get one today!
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