Nutrient Spotlight: Omega 3s

What are Omega 3s?

Omega 3s are a class of fatty acids that are the byproduct of dietary fat metabolism. When we consume a fat, pancreatic lipase and bile acids work to break down the fat molecule into glycerol and fatty acids. There are several types of Omega 3 fatty acids: alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

What are some benefits of Omega 3s?

Omega 3s have shown to be beneficial for calming chronic inflammation through their down regulation of many inflammatory molecules and enzymes. These fatty acids are protective against neurodegenerative disease like Dementia and Alzheimer’s as well as cancer formation, and they help to prevent blood clots (they have been shown to have a synergistic effect with aspirin). Omega 3s improve insulin sensitivity and promote lipid management (LDL cholesterol and Triglycerides), as well as helping to control blood pressure and lower levels of our main stress hormone cortisol when chronically elevated. DHA in particular plays a vital role in brain development and is an important nutrient for expectant mothers.  Omega 3s may be helpful in managing diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, other autoimmune diseases like Inflammatory Bowel Disease, dyslipidemia, hypertension and dementia.

Can you be deficient in Omega 3s?

Yes! You might be deficient in Omega 3s (especially EPA and DHA) if you don’t consume fish several times weekly. Other risk factors include being on a low fat diet or having fat malabsorption (not digesting fats well).  Some common signs of deficiency include: bumps on the back of the arms, depression, eczema or psoriasis, dry/itchy skin, dry hair or dandruff, and brittle nails.

What are some good dietary sources of Omega 3s?

ALA is a class of Omega 3 found in plant foods like walnuts, flaxseed, hemp seed, pumpkin seed and dark leafy greens. EPA and DHA are found in oily fish like herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon and krill. Small amounts of ALA are converted to EPA and DHA, but the bulk of our EPA and DHA must be obtained through the diet.

Should you supplement with Omega 3s?

Supplementation with Omega 3s may be helpful if you have any of the conditions mentioned above, if you are pregnant, vegan or if you don’t consume several servings of fish weekly. Additionally, if you suffer from chronic GI issues like diarrhea or have trouble digesting fats (green or yellow stools or stools that float are often signs of this), a supplement might be right for you. We recommend working with a nutritionist or other practitioner to identify underlying root causes of chronic illness. They can help tailor diet and supplement therapies to suit your individual needs. If you do decide to supplement, make sure your product has been purified of heavy metals like mercury and other toxins and has been third party tested for quality. The most common Omega 3 supplements are fish oil based and contain EPA and DHA. Fish oil can easily become rancid, so throw away expired products and keep fish oil fresh by keeping refrigerated or away from sources of heat and light.

Easy ways to incorporate more Omega 3s:
  • Sprinkle flax and hemp seeds on yogurt or oatmeal
  • Make granola with walnuts and pumpkin seeds
  • Include salmon in your weekly dinner menu
  • Make a big lunch salad with leafy greens canned sardines or salmon, walnuts, hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds
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