Thursday, January 10, 2013
Article # 204. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Which Type Is Best?
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Which Type Is Best?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of three fats: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Once eaten, the body turns ALA into DHA and EPA, though not very efficiently -- some estimates say the conversion is as low as 5%. Thus, many dietitians recommend we focus most of our efforts on consuming DHA and EPA fatty acids.
While there's no standard recommendation yet for how many omega-3s we need, suggestions range between 500 to 1,000 mg daily. You can find over 500 mg in a tin of tuna or a few ounces of salmon. Some fortified foods offer 100 mg or more.
Shopping for Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Ready to get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet? We've put together this quick shopping list to take along the next time you go to the supermarket.
Fish: Top Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Seafood is a great source for DHA and EPA omega-3s, both essential for healthy hearts and brains. Look for seafood rich in omega-3s, such as:
· Tuna (fresh)
The Cold Case: Fortified Dairy, Juices
Functional foods are defined as any food that provides health benefits beyond basic nutrition. These days, supermarkets are brimming with foods enhanced with omega-3s, from fortified juice to eggs produced by chickens fed omega-3s in their grain. You'll likely find the following foods fortified with omega-3 fatty acids:
· Soy milk
Grains and Nuts With Omega-3s
Bread and pasta are some of the foods most commonly enriched with omega-3s. You'll also find them in whole foods like seeds and nuts. When shopping, look for omega-3s in:
· Crunchy Oats
· Peanut butter
· Pumpkin seeds
· Pizza, packaged
· Flour tortillas
Fresh Produce With ALA Omega-3s
Vegetables, especially green leafy ones, are rich in ALA, one form of omega-3 fatty acids. Although ALA isn't as powerful as the other omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, these vegetables offer a host of benefits, from fiber to antioxidants, in addition to omega-3.
· Brussels sprouts
Oil With ALA Omega-3s
Oils can be a good source of ALA omega-3s, too, including:
· Rapeseed oil
· Cod liver oil
· Flaxseed oil
· Mustard oil
· Soybean oil
· Walnut oil
Baby Food With Omega-3s
Research suggests that the omega-3 fatty acid DHA may help babies develop cognitively, which is why you can find them in:
· Baby cereals
· Infant formula
· Jars of baby food
Other Omega-3 Enhanced Products
Whole and fortified functional foods aren't the only places you'll find omega-3 fatty acids; they're cropping up just about everywhere. You can also find them in:
· Children’s vitamins
· Meal replacement bars
· Protein powders
· Weight loss shakes
· Pet food
· Skin care creams
· Tanning lotions
As with most nutrients, fresh, whole, real foods trump any enriched, fortified or processed foods. Omega fatty acids can oxidize if overly processed or allowed to become stale, so fresh is best.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Talk to Your Doctor
There's little danger of getting too many omega-3s in a typical diet, even with supplements, but it's worth noting that although fish oil supplements (EPA/DHA) are safe for most people, they do have anti-clotting actions and could be dangerous for people with blood clotting disorders or those taking anti-clotting medication. There's little evidence to suggest that an intake of less than 3 grams per day would increase the risk of significant bleeding. DHA has not been associated with bleeding.
If you have questions about how best to add omega-3s to your diet, talk to your doctor.