What Is Best for You, Fish or Flax Seeds?
The omega-3 fats have been associated with the prevention of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and renal disease. They have anti-inflammatory properties and they reduce the severity of mental function. So, are you getting your daily doses? And if so, in what form, fish or flax seeds?
Omega-3 fatty acids from fish
The omega-3 fats or fatty acids EPA and DHA, abbreviations for Eicosopentaenoic acid and Docosahexaenoic, are found in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines, and herring.
About 1 gram of EPA/DHA can be obtained from 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of oily fish. However, the quantity of EPA/DHA can vary depending on the type of fish. Here are some examples:
Omega-3 in fish for 100 grams (3.5 ounces)
2.5 grams (2,500milligrams)
1.2 grams (1,200 milligrams)
0.5 grams (500 milligrams)
0.2 grams (200 milligrams)
The average intake of omega-3 fatty acids in the United States is approximately 1.6 grams per day (1,600 milligrams) with only 0.1 to 0.2 grams per day (100 to 200 milligrams) coming from EPA/DHA (fish). The rest comes from ALA, alpha-linolenic acid (vegetable sources). Total intake of DHA + EPA recommended per day is about 650 milligrams.
Not all omega 3s are alike
ALA from plant sources can convert in the human body into EPA and DHA. Sources of ALA include oils from flax seed, canola (rapeseed), soybean, walnut, and wheat germ, with flaxseed being the most abundant source.
However, many things can interfere with this conversation such as a high intake of trans fatty acids, or a high intake of omega-6s found in vegetables oils such as sunflower, corn oil, safflower, cottonseed, soybean oil, meat and poultry.
Omega 3 family
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) can convert, under ideal circumstances, to EPA and DHA. It doesn’t always happen. Sources of this omega-3 are flax oil, canola oil, hemp, green leafy vegetables, and walnuts.
- EPA and DHA acids. They can be found in fatty fish and their oils, some seaweed, and enriched foods.
Fish vs. flax
Omega-3s coming from flax seed, as well as canola oil, soybean, walnut and wheat germ oil do not have the biological effects in our bodies as the omega 3s coming from fish do. In addition, although our body is supposed to convert the omega 3s (ALA) coming from foods like flaxseed into EPA and DHA, the conversion does not always happen.
Thus, although flaxseed has many health benefits and therefore I encourage you to include it in your diet, you still need to make sure your diet is rich is omega 3s coming from fish.
Health benefits of omega 3s
Some of the health benefits associated with omega 3s are:
- Inflammation: improves rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, asthma, and some skin conditions.
- Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease: reduces the severity of symptoms.
- Cardiovascular disease: lowers triglycerides and raises HDL cholesterol, the good type. Improves blood circulation, reduces clotting, improves vascular function, and lowers blood pressure.
- Type 2 diabetes: reduces high blood sugar and insulin resistance.
- Renal disease: preserves renal function.
- Mental function: reduces severity of several mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and bipolar disorder; improvement in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
To your health!