Let’s dive right in: this week we’re talking about omega 3s and your health. In case you missed it, catch the live version here.
What exactly is an omega-3, you may ask? It’s a type of unsaturated fatty acid the body can’t make, which is why we need to understand how to get them into a daily diet. They come from both plant and animal sources, and there are eleven types. If you take a look at a fish oil supplement label, you’ll likely see two of the eleven, DHA and EPA.
The plant sources require conversion in the body. However, their rate of conversion, absorption and use by the body depends on three things – 1) other nutrients such as vitamin C and other plant foods, 2) your gender (males tend to have a hormone-related disadvantage and 3) where you are in your life stage; younger folks frequently handle this conversion better.
The goal here is to get all or close to the eleven omega 3s in the correct balance and consistently. Today’s snapshot of your omega 3 status is a marker for your inflammatory response. When you hear of foods that claim to be anti-inflammatory, those foods aren’t going around knocking out inflammation fires in your body. Instead, these same foods work to better your overall inflammatory response.
There’s no need to panic if you’re not getting them every day. Start right now by adding another source regularly to your diet. If that translates into you getting sources daily, that’s great, but if you’re hardly getting any omega 3s, it’s time to start.
It’s possible to get your omega 3s from diet alone, and it’s also possible to enhance the benefits with the right, comprehensive supplement.
Good sources of omega 3s include walnuts, hemp, flax and chia seeds, salmon, anchovies, sardines (choose wild-caught fish), soybeans, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Some can be found in beef and full-fat dairy. When choosing food sources, especially plants, consume them with vitamin C and other plant foods. If you’re taking supplements, look for the USP Verified Mark. This means the supplement has passed a quality inspection through the FDA and consumer concerns.
In mentioning good quality, you can find DHA or EPA added foods. But they can be found in poor quality dairy foods (think preservative-laden ice cream) or in protein bars that are nothing more than glorified candy bars with a smidge of omega 3 oil added to make a health claim. Those aren’t the types we want to choose as often.
Storage is important, especially for supplements. They should be kept in colder places like the refrigerator and be in dark or opaque bottles to limit light and oxygen exposure. Leaving them exposed to heat and light causes them to spoil or become rancid. Then, these same supplements become pro-inflammatory, which defeats your purpose.
When we get it right with good quality omega 3 sources, in the right balance, combined with other good quality nutrients and stored properly, it’s foundational to promoting a healthy inflammatory response.
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