So what are the Omega-3 fats?
Omega 3's are one of the two Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs – see Omega-6 blog) and the one you will hear most about in the media. It is called an EFA because your body is not able to make the primary Omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid – ALA - see diagram) from other fats, so you have to get your supplies of Omega-3 in your food.
The richest natural sustainable plant source of Omega-3 (ALA), readily available in stores, is flax seed oil (61%). Flax seed oil also contains 16% Omega-6 and 14% Omega-9. (Due to crazy labelling laws in NZ we are not permitted to put the Omega-6 content on our labels, unless we have more than 40% Omega-6, so our labels do not show the Omega-6 content).
Organic flax oil is produced by a sustainable process (unlike fish oil), is natural and a plant based source of Omega 3. The only other readily available plant oils with useful amounts of Omega-3 are hemp seed oil and walnut oil (See Table). There are a few unusual nut and seed oils which do contain useful quantities of ALA , but they are not readily available and are expensive.
You will get a little Omega-3 out of free-range or grass-fed meats and green leafy vegetables - so be like Popeye and eat your spinach!
You recall (from the Omega-6 Blog) that our bodies evolved with an equal 1 : 1 ratio of Omega-6 : Omega-3, but most people now have a ratio of between 10 to 30 : 1 in their body – way too much Omega-6.
So how do you get enough Omega-3 in your diet to get your body back into the balance it needs to be WELL?
If you look at the Omega-6 : Omega-3 ratio of what are often considered the Omega-3 oils, the flax seed oil is the only one with more Omega-3 than Omega-6, so eating more hemp and walnut oil is not going to do much to improve the balance of Omega-6 : Omega-3 in your body.
So flax seed oil is the only readily available source of ALA which has the potential to reduce the major imbalance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 in your body and get it back to close to 1:1, as nature designed you to be.
That does not mean you should take straight flax seed oil every day for the rest of your life – that has the potential to be just as bad for you as too much Omega-6. Once your balance is restored then you need an oil like our Flax Balance to maintain wellness.
There is a lot of work showing very strongly that it's not enough to treat lack of Omega-3 like - say a shortage of zinc and take a zinc supplement. You need to get flax oil into your diet to get your Omega-6 and Omega-3 in BALANCE to get the major benefits to your wellness. Read more in "signs-omega-3-deficiency" blog.
The secondary Omega-3's are obtained from plant oils like blackcurrant and from fish oils. Read "fish-v-flax" blog.
Tip of the day: ADD free range or organic eggs to your diet- they too will give you useful amounts of Omega-3.