What is Omega 3
Omega 3 falls under the healthy fats and is actually a group of 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids namely ALA, EPA and DHA. Plant-based foods only contain ALA and animal foods contain the fatty acids EPA and DHA. Omega 3 fatty acids are present in all our cells where they play an important role in your health. ALA (alpha linolenic acid) is the only one of the three that is an essential fatty acid because it cannot be produced by the body. So we have to get it from our diet in order to get it. ALA can be converted by the body to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), but unfortunately this conversion is difficult in your body, while EPA and DHA are so very important for your health. In addition, food nowadays contains a lot of omega 6, which can have an inflammation-promoting effect in case of a deficiency of the Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. This mainly concerns the omega 6 fatty acid linoleic acid, which occurs in vegetable products such as sunflower oil and margarine. Because we get too much of this and the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA does not go well, the balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 is disturbed in your body. In addition to lowering your omega 6 intake, it is also extra important that you get enough EPA and DHA through food.
What are the omega 3 fatty acids ALA, EPA and DHA?
The main source of EPA and DHA is fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel and trout. The optimal dose of EPA and DHA together is between 500 mg and 1000 mg per day. That is equivalent to eating oily fish twice a week. ALA can be found in flax seed, chia seed, pistachio, hemp seed and walnuts.
Benefits Omega 3
Omega 3 fatty acids support your body in several ways. For example, DHA is good for your eyesight and your brain function. EPA and DHA are both good for the heart, maintaining normal blood pressure and normal fat levels in the blood. ALA contributes to the maintenance of normal cholesterol levels in the blood.
Deficiency of Omega 3?
A deficiency of Omega 3 is common in the Netherlands because there is very little seafood on the menu. A deficiency can cause many complaints, including:
- impaired eye function
- high triglyceride level
- impaired brain function
Omega 3 supplements
The dose recommended by the Health Council is a minimum of 250 mg of EPA and DHA daily, but the optimal dose is (as reported earlier) a combination of EPA and DHA between 500 mg and 1000 mg per day. If you do not eat oily fish at least 2 times a week, it is recommended to take a pure fish oil supplement for support. If you are vegan or vegetarian, it is therefore extra important to pay attention to your intake of EPA and DHA.
Always check the label carefully when you buy an Omega 3 supplement since there are also fillers in a capsule that can give a distorted picture of the amount of active ingredient. For example, the total amount in a capsule can be 1000 mg of which only 600 mg is EPA and DHA (the active ingredient). It does not happen quickly that you get too much omega 3.