Here’s my first of many blogs on the complex subject of fats….
Omega 3 is a bit of a buzz word these days. It’s marketing gold right now as the public awareness of this essential fatty acid has increased massively in recent years. Many processed foods are now advertised as containing omega 3 and manufactures are adding it to products like spreads and yogurts with “Contains Omega 3” emblazoned across the packaging to promote the product’s healthy status.
But what is omega 3 and does it really make these products better for us? Well, this is a controversial subject with masses of research being carried out on this very special type of fat. What is not in dispute is how extremely important these fats are. They are vital for all sorts of health reasons and here are few of them: omega 3 fatty acids promote healthy brain function, including memory and recall; these fats are required by every cell in the body; they help regulate hormones; support metabolism – i.e. help PROMOTE weight loss; they keep skin & hair healthy, are extremely anti-inflammatory and help reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
The controversy lies in which foods we should be getting these fats from. As omega 3 is an essential fatty acid, it has to be supplied through our food as our bodies cannot make it. But it’s not simply a case of eating foods that contain omega 3 as there are different forms and it is now generally accepted that plant sources of omega 3 are not very useful after all. Plant sources are cheap and are therefore put in to the types of products I mentioned above. But plant sources need to go through a conversion process before they can be used by the body and increasingly it is being found that human beings, unlike other mammals, are not very good at making this conversion happen. In order to get a good dose of omega 3 in a form our bodies can use, we have to get it from animal sources, namely oily fish. Salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines, herring, anchovies are all great sources. Ideally we should be eating at least 3 portions of oily fish a week to get enough omega 3. I have yet to meet anyone who is doing this, and by the way, tinned tuna does not count as the healthy fats are removed.
So, I strongly recommend a really good quality fish oil, not cod liver oil, to all of my clients. Everyone, from children to OAPs will benefit hugely from a fish oil supplement. Look out for the levels of EPA and DHA in supplements of fish oils. These are the 2 active ingredients that provide all the good stuff. So it’s not about how many milligrams of fish oil per capsule, it’s about how much EPA and DHA they contain and you generally get what you pay for. Also, don’t be tempted by omega supplements that contain omega 6 & 9 as well as 3, simply go for the omega 3 only – I’ll explain why in a later blog.
If you would like more advice on what to buy and where to get a good quality fish oils, let me know by filling in the comment box below.