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Where Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Come From?

by Institute for Vibrant Living

According to studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, omega-3 fatty acids are among the most important nutrients we need for a healthy body and sharp mind. Not only do omega-3s lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, they also regulate cholesterol triglyceride levels, ease joint pain and support brain health. Let’s look at where these essential fatty acids come from.

Oily fish is a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids

Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Although there is no official recommended daily amount (RDA) of omega-3 fatty acids, the American Heart Association recommends 1gram per day for people with heart disease, and 2-4 grams per day for those using Omega-3 to lower triglyceride levels. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:

Fish

Fish and krill are the best sources of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the main omega-3 fatty acids we need for top health benefits. Enjoy fish in your diet two to three times a week to top up your levels of omega-3 fatty acids naturally. Sources include:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Anchovies
  • Sturgeon
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Freshwater trout

Unfortunately, many sources of fresh fish are polluted and contain traces of industrial toxins, poisons, heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Tuna, sea bass and marlin are known to have levels of mercury that exceed the amounts approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. The exceptions to this potential health hazard are wild-caught Alaskan salmon and small fish such as sardines and krill that are lower down the food chain.

Even farmed salmon does not escape the problem of toxic pollution. In addition, the levels of omega 3 fatty acids it contains are only about half of that found in wild-caught fish.

Related:  Omega 3, 6 and 9: the Basics

Fish Oil

Fish oil supplements are an easy way to source omega-3 fatty acids. However, you need to check the source to avoid the same contaminants as fresh fish. In addition, fish oil supplements generally have lower levels of antioxidants than fresh fish.

Krill Oil

Krill are small marine creatures that have 48 times more potency for omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil. Krill naturally contains astaxanthin, which metabolizes with the EPA and DHA to make them more bioavailable in the body. In addition, krill fishing is completely sustainable and eco-friendly, making it a recommended source of those essential omega-3 fatty acids. 

What about Plant-Sourced Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Plant-sourced omega-3 fatty acids come from flaxseed, hemp and chia which all produce alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). This is converted into EPA and DHA in the body, but it is a much less efficient way of obtaining the required amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

Although plant-based omega-3 does not have the possible dangers of metal toxins found in marine animals, you need sufficient enzymes for the body to convert the ALAs for use in the body.

The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is to choose a high quality fish oil supplements from a reputable company who source their omega-3 from certified, sustainable Alaskan fisheries. 

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