Omega three oils are very important to our health. They are called “essential fatty acids” because our body cannot manufacture them itself and therefore they must come from the diet. The name omega three refers to the length and molecular bonging structure of the fatty acid molecule. The two most important omega three fats are EPA and DHA.
Plant sources of omega 3’s include flax, walnut, hemp. Plant forms of omega three may be thought of as the building blocks for EPA and DHA because there are many enzymatic steps that must occur in order for the oil to be changed into the EPA or DHA form. I only recommend flax oil if: you are a vegetarian or vegan or have a fish allergy. Otherwise is lacks the DHA content found in fish. Also, note that DHA is especially important for fetal brain development. Make sure not to substitute flax for fish oil during pregnancy!
The best sources of EPA and DHA are oily fish, game meats, grass fed meats, omega three eggs and fish oil supplements. Oily fish high in EPA and DHA include wild salmon, herring and sardines. They are also a great source of protein and calcium. Beef that is grass fed and grass finished has omega three fats and a substance known as conjugated linoleic acid which has an effect on satiety.
Fish oils have very beneficial effects on the heart and overall cardiovascular system. They are responsible for cell membrane fluidity, moderating the inflammation response, and help to maintain blood vessel integrity. They are also very helpful in high doses for lowering lipid levels. HDL levels can also be raised with high doses of EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are also helpful for pain, those with insulin sensitivity, help with allergic response, and are beneficial for neural and cognitive development in infants.
There is no known recommended dose for EPD and DHA. Eating oily fish 2-3 times a week and/or taking a supplement with at least two grams of EPA/DHA daily may fulfill the body’s basic need. Dosing strategies for EPA and DHA change depending on the therapeutic result that is desired. Also, be sure to tell your doctor about your fish oil intake, as they have known blood thinning properties.
(Click the photo above to see fish that are lowest in mercury/heavy metals. This photo is courtesy of Nordic Naturals. I recommend this fish oil a lot!)