I really love Hippocrates’ quote, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.
Everyone who works with me knows that I take a “Food First” approach. In other words, if you are low, missing, or need more of a certain nutrient, I’ll suggest foods that are high in that nutrient, instead of a supplement. It makes sense – especially since you only absorb about 75% of a supplement vs about 100% of nutrients from eating whole foods. Plus food offers added benefits like proteins, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
So, depending on the nutrient(s) in need, my clients get a broad range of foods to choose from to meet their nutrition needs. Nonetheless, there are those couple of instances when none of the selections seem appealing, or they just don’t agree with them. That’s when I hear myself saying, “You may want to take a supplement.” Omega-3 is a prime example.
Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fats, like those found in soy, corn, and fatty fish, are healthy for you. Depending on the food source, animal vs plant, there are different kinds of Omega-3 fats. The two most studied Omega-3s (EPA and DHA) are found in fatty fish, such as anchovies, salmon, oysters, halibut, striped sea bass. The other type of Omega-3 fat (ALA) can be found in plant foods, such as canola and soybean oil, plus walnuts, flax and chia seeds. There are also some green vegetable sources too: broccoli, brussels sprouts, and spinach. Some speculate but we really don’t know if animal sources of Omega-3s are better than plant sources. What we do know is that the body needs to convert the Omega-3 ALA to the Omega-3 EPA and DHA.
Once we’ve consumed our Omega-3s, they help our body control blood clotting and build cell membranes. Omega-3s can also protect us against certain diseases and conditions, such as:
- Heart Disease (can lower triglyceride levels, improve hearts electrical activity, blood pressure and stabilizes plaque)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Research has shown that Omega-3 is important for infant brain development, and has shown to be beneficial when used by children diagnosed with ADHD. The newest studies show that Omega-3 fats can help people with cancer, irritable bowel disease, and lupus.
Since the human body cannot make Omega-3 fats, we really do need to get these fats from our diet. Even with all the recent research showing how important and protective Omega-3s are, there are no established USDA Recommended Daily Amount. Guidelines from the USDA and American Heart Association simply recommend eating fatty fish at least twice per week. If you don’t enjoy eating fatty fish, of course you can get your Omega-3 (ALA) fats from plant oils, nuts, and seeds (see above). Recently, other foods sources have been “engineered” to contain Omega-3 fats. For example, meat, dairy and eggs produced from grass fed cows or grain fed chickens whose feed is high in Omega-3s, will supply a small amount of Omega-3 when consumed.
For those who do not enjoy eating the food listed here that are high in Omega-3’s, there are supplements. Some supplements contain EPA, while others contain DHA, and/or ALA. Unfortunately, the USDA does not recommend an specific amount for those needing to take Omega-3 supplements. That amount seems to depend on your goals and your state of health. If you are in good health and are taking an Omega-3 supplement because you simply do not consume any of the Omega-3 foods listed above, then studies show that you may benefit from taking 500 milligrams per day. If you have suffered from a heart attack, or suffer from an inflammatory conditions (diabetes , irritable bowel disease, Lupus), studies show that you may benefit from taking 1000 milligrams per day. More information on supplements can be found at ConsumerLab.Com website.
Since Omega-3 fats interfere with blood clotting, Omega-3 supplements should be avoided if you are taking blood thinning medications (Coumadin, Heparin). Also, taking 3,000 mg or more Omega-3 fat supplements per day may lead to the potential for a hemorrhagic stroke.
Like I said, I really like the “Food First” approach!
If you are running low on energy, always hungry, or stuck eating the same foods, contact me today to discuss your which nutrient(s) you may be lacking.
What are you waiting for?