Omega 3 fatty acids are an important EFA or essential fatty acid that the body is unable to make and must be obtained from a diet rich in foods that contain these compounds.
Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) is the most important member of the omega 3 family and more specifically can be used by our bodies to make other omega 3 fats namely, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
EPA \ DHA are vital for your brain function and development along with reducing blood pressure, triglyceride levels ( the fats and oils in your body) and maintaining heart health.
Studies have established that EPA and DHA also aid in the health of your eyes by playing a protective role in the retina and protecting against eye diseases such as macular degeneration.
Couple this with the known anti-inflammatory effects of a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, and you have benefits not only to your eye health, but for many other vital functions in our bodies.
Other benefits of EPA \ DHAs.
- improving your skin and hair;
- aiding relief of arthritis symptoms and other joint problems;
- cell renewal. Every living cell requires EFAs;
- aiding depression, memory and cognitive thought;
- reducing chronic inflammation
How to get more Omega 3 in your diet?
EPA and DHA are mainly found in oily fish and fish oil, along with canola, walnut and flaxseed oils. Larger fish such as salmon, herring, tuna and trout are all good sources of omega 3.
ALA ,of which EPA\DHA are made from, is also found in nuts, seeds, green leafy veges and soy beans.
Fish Oil Benefits
As mentioned, fish oils are a great source of omega 3 for improving heart health, lowering cholesterol and fighting inflammation. The fattier the fish the better.
Finding Quality Fish Oil?
Oils ain’t Oils…
There is a booming market for fish oil supplements so it pays to do your research and shop around.
A 2015 review in the Journal of Nutritional Science suggested that almost one third of over-the-counter fish oil supplements in the US were found to have twice the recommended level of lipid peroxides (oxidised oils).
The number one rule is to buy high-quality oil that has not been processed or refined at high temperatures, as heat destroys EFAs and can contaminate the oil through oxidation damage.
Check with the manufacturer about their refining and distillation processes for production.
Generally speaking, molecular distillation, which uses minimal heat and carefully removes many contaminates, including mercury, is the best process for producing high-grade fish oil. The disadvantage here is that it makes the supplement more costly but you get what you pay for.
Why not just eat more fish?
To save yourself the cost of expensive supplements why not just eat more fresh fish!
4 ounces of Salmon contains approximately 1000- 4600mg of omega 3 fatty acids. Conversely, other types of less fatty fish such as cod contain 300mg or less. Contary to popular myth, the body really does need plentiful sources of ‘good fats’, the mono and polyunsaturated kinds.
Much anecdotal evidence points to fish oils and omega 3s as being very beneficial for dry eye symptoms if eaten regularly. Just be certain that, if boosting your diet with supplements, that the product is of good quality, otherwise it can simply be money wasted.
I like to buy a nice fresh piece (or two) of fish every week so that I don’t need to buy omega 3 supplements at all. Sometimes, however, a supplement is best when your time-pressed or maybe watching the budget!
For vegetarians, simply include a high quality oil such as flaxseed or canola in a salad.
Retina and Omega 3 – Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism Volume 2011 (2011) Giuseppe Querques, Raimondo Forte, and Eric H. Souied. Créteil University Eye Clinic.
Fishing for answers: is oxidation of fish oil supplements a problem? – Journal of Nutr Sci (2015)
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 5th Edition 2010 – Phyllis A Balch, CNC.