Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Something Fishy?


Lizzie from Melbourne asks:

“We hear a lot these days about the importance of Omega-3 fatty acids in promoting longevity and limiting the likelihood of sudden heart attacks. Many nutritionists recommend that people should eat two meals of fish a week or, at least, take fish oil capsules. I just can’t take fish oil capsules! Are there any vegetarian alternatives?”

My reply:

Yes, it seems we need Omega-3. Fish oils supplies it adequately. But I don’t want to eat fish oil either.

Omega-3 fatty acids have traditionally been supplied in the diet by deep water fish, unrefined vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables, sea vegetation and through free-range animal meats.

Unfortunately with the industrial revolution, and consequently, the mass refinement of foods, delicate Omega-3’s are either destroyed, transformed to toxic compounds in processing, or purposely removed to avoid spoilage of shelf-dated foods. The most abundant source of animal derived Omega-3 comes from cold water fish.

The most abundant source of vegetable Omega-3 comes from flaxseed oil. While it is possible to derive Omega-3 in the diet from fish or flax, there is a foundational difference between the types of Omega-3 supplied by each source.

Only the Omega-3 derived from vegetable sources such as flaxseed oil has been found to be dietary essential. That is, all forms of Omega-3 can be formed in the body once vegetable Omega-3 is ingested. This is good news for vegetarians. In other words, it is not necessary for vegetarians to resort to consuming animal meats or fish oil supplements to obtain the health benefits of nutritionally required Omega-3.

So unrefined, fresh, organic flaxseed oil is the easiest and best source for a vegetarian. Flaxseed oil contains more Omega-3 than any other source at a whopping 55%. Citing the potential for lower blood lipid levels of Omega-3 in vegetarians, the American Dietetic Association has taken the written position that “it is recommended that vegetarians include a good source of ALA in their diet.” The Association goes on to list flaxseed oil as the richest source of ALA.

I am asked about Omega-3’s often, and a while ago I blogged an answer to a similar question. A reader in West Virginia sent me this excellent advice:

“For a fraction of the cost of flaxseed oil, you can buy actual flaxseeds and grind them yourself in a little spice or coffee grinder. Flax oil is never fresher than immediately after grinding. Purchased oil should be in a dark container and kept refrigerated, as Omega-3’s go rancid faster than other oils, accelerated by light and temperature.

Additionally, you get the fibre from the seed, which has its own set of benefits. Flaxseeds are 40% oil.

We add it to soups and oatmeal porridge. It does have a slight taste, but ignorable. It adds fat feel to the taste.

Low cooking of ground flaxseeds in a bit of water creates an eggwhite substitute, though the heat may have an adverse effect on the Omega-3’s.

Omega-3’s are also known to help with mild depression and post partnum depression.

In a more traditional setting, the straw of the flax would be used to make linen, and a flax field in bloom is beautiful, a sea of blue flowers.”

Here’s a complete rundown… more…
Posted by Kurma on 5/12/07; 4:19:23 AM

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