Friday, 9 January 2009

Bring Omega 3s back into your diet

Whilst our government loiters over this issue, I thought it best to take matters into my own hands and offer some straightforward guidelines.

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. As I've previously blogged here, green plants (vegetables) are full of Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), the parent Omega 3 fatty acid. All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants which protect fats against oxidation. So to bulk up on ALA by eating lots of vegetables – and enjoy them. There are several species of seaweeds that also have the ability to produce DHA and EPA which can serve as an excellent addition.


Consume oils with a healthy balance of Omega 3 & Omega 6. Always avoid oils in which Linoleic acid vastly overshadows Alpha-Linolenic Acid. These include sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, corn and peanut oils. Consume more linseed, canola and walnut oils. Even a little butter, which contains huge quantities of saturated fats and small quantities of polyunsaturated fats, is fine. This is simply because the ratio of omega 6 to Omega 3 is wholesome. Olive oil is another fantastic alternative, though it too has only small amounts of ALA. But its amounts of Linoleic acid are also small, and it's packed with antioxidants.


Eat a variety of fish. Include fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel as well as lean fish such as cod, trout and halibut in your diet. Because they live in water and require more flexibility in their cell membranes than do land animals, they are rich sources of Omega 3s. A point to note is that keeping your choice of fish diverse will help prevent over fishing and protect against toxins that tend to accumulate in certain types e.g. Mercury in tuna.


Eat Omega 3 enriched eggs. Most supermarkets carry these - Look for the words Omega 3 or DHA on the carton. These types of eggs are laid by hens fed a diet rich in linseed, fish/algae meal and other greens. Omega 3 eggs are one of the easiest ways to add Omega 3s to our Western diet. They are easy to produce by poultry farms thus cheaper than most other high Omega 3 foods. If the hens are fed something other than fish meal, they are likely to be free of the contaminants I mentioned earlier too. The Omega 3 is beneficial to them as they suffer fewer illnesses and have far better immune systems. Basically a healthy hen gives you a healthy egg.

Unfortunately eggs are an icon of the anti-cholesterol brigade and I'm liable to have one thrown at me by an advocate. But before you do please have a quick read of Nigel Kinbrum's article here. Eggs are the first food given up by people worried about serum cholesterol and thus have taken the greatest beating of any food in regard to cholesterol. A point to note here is that the Omega 3 is concentrated in the yolks of eggs. This is for the same reason they are concentrated in breast milk and placental blood – to support the development (especially brain development) of the next generation. In this case it's obviously a chicken and not a human.


Try to include Omega 3s in every meal. Doing so will allow Alpha-Linolenic acid to exert its natural competitive edge over Linolenic acid. The Omega 3s can come from fish, Omega 3 enriched eggs, greens and of course linseeds. Other convenient sources are from nuts e.g. walnuts, chestnuts. Add your Omega 3 rich foods to salads, sauces, yoghurts, cheeses and so on. The nuts can be eaten as snacks with dried fruit and dark chocolate.


Use supplements cautiously. If you do decide to take Omega 3 supplementation, avoid those that contain all the essential fatty acids. Omega 6 fatty acids are essential of course but chances are you are getting far more than you need anyway so why add more? Supplements (and foods for that matter) that contain phrases like complete omegas, total EFAs, omega balance, ultimate omegas should be avoided as they will certainly contain Omega 6s. If you take fish oils, it's important to look for those that are molecularly distilled as these will be free of metals and other toxins that can accumulate in fish as I mentioned earlier. Also take fish oil over cod liver oil as that contains Vitamin A which can be harmful in large quantities.

Keep linseed and fish oils in a cool dark place. Throw out any that smells bad. Taking rancid (oxidised) oil is worse than taking no oil at all. Those taking large amounts of linseed or linseed oils should further supplement with vitamin B6 since linseed is known to interfere with this vitamin in the body.


Choose free range meat. Because these animals have had to wander around in search of food, they have naturally high muscle and less fat than confined, grain fed animals. And what fat they do have is much lower in saturated fat and richer in polyunsaturated fat – especially Omega 3s. They will have fed on a diet that nature intended them to feed on.


Avoid hydrogenated oils. Trans fats compete with normal cis fats for positions in cell membranes and enzymes. Avoiding these foods is really easy to do, simply look on the ingredients list. The same can't be said for foods consumed in restaurants. Choose foods that are freshly prepared and give those that are fried or packaged a miss.

18 comments:

Son of Grok said...

Great article Ross! We used to get so many omega-3's naturally but now it is a conscious effort to get enough. Very important ot our health.

The SoG

Bridget said...

I've never seen Omega 3 eggs before? Are they widely available from supermarkets??

Rosso said...

SOG,
Thanks for stopping by. Interesting how Omega 3 foodstuff costs a lot more than processed junk. That is a big shame as in the current economic climate families will no doubt buy cheaper items no matter how vocal internet groups are. A good example is my old man - he bought some some Heinz vegetable soup sachets. I was horrified at the nasties on the ingredients list.

Bridget,
I have just checked with Tescos and can confirm they do stock free range Omega 3 eggs. Don't worry about the cholesterol because the Omega 3 takes care of it. As Nigel Kinbrum says in his blog, just try and avoid the processed food isles. Please start checking on labels before you buy your food. Get into the habit of doing that.

Tara said...

This was a really good post. There is one thing I want to point out, though. Seaweed is not fit for food, regardless of whether it may have good oils. Our Creator gave us the most awesome laws, including dietary ones. We should only eat green herbs (produce chlorophyll), which most seaweeds do not, AND we are not to eat ANY living thing in the waters--plants included--that do not have BOTH fins and scales (note 3 of the 4 most dangerous mercury-containing fish are "unclean," not fit for food, b/c they have no fins and scales). Seaweeds filter pollution out of the water. They are the plant scavengers of the waters, like mushrooms are some of the unclean plant (non-green plant=fungus) scavengers on land.

But, yeah, besides, that, GREAT post!

Dr. Art Ayers said...

Great post. I wish there were more omega-3s in chocolate, so that you could talk about it more.
You mentioned that eggs from chickens fed on omega-6-rich diets, i.e. corn, have omega-6-rich eggs. Same is true of farmed fish and beef for that matter. Wild is best.

darwinstable said...

Nice to see you concerned about overfishing!!!! Well done. Also bone marrow has lots of omega 3. I think.

Bridget said...

I haven't seen the eggs yet, but I did buy Omega 3 Flora as a start! I'm not bothered about the cholesterol in eggs too much, I love them.

Bren said...

I love your healthy entries. Today's entry was one of my favorites. THANK YOU for sharing this information.
My health blog is private put please visit my garden at : http://momingarden.blogspot.com/

Lady G said...

Ground flax seeds are great - there is really no end to the number of dishes you can add them to, either sprinkled on top or mixed in (so you don't notice them). I always buy the whole seeds which are cheaper and fresher, and you can just grind them in your blender! Easy as.

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys!

The amount of omega 3 in fortified eggs, beans, marge etc is so little it's pointless. (which report this week)

Eggs are no longer considered an influence on cholesterol, so eat em for the pleasure :) (Govt report recently)

http://wunderflax.wordpress.com/2008/03/03/whats-the-ratio-of-omega-6-to-omega-3-in-the-food-i-eat/

Gives a list of popular oils and their ratios of omega 3:6. Makes interesting reading as walnut, sunflower, hemp and almond, are not as good as we are led to believe, unfortunately.

darwinstable said...

GREAT post. I really liked it. I also really liked the fact that you said to not pound the fisheries!!!! Well done.
I also like the idea that I took from this post that as long as we are eating good food the supplements are probably not necessary.
I would also like to add organs to that list such as marrow.

Riz said...

Nice post Rosso. It's a very good point about getting omega 3 in isolation and not getting loads of extra vitamin A etc unwittingly. Lord knows enough of our food is fortified with additional 'nutrients' already.

Re Omega 3 eggs, milk etc, I wonder how much of it a person would have to eat to get as much as omega 3 as you find in a tin of sardines. I think it's just a way for the companies to charge an extra mark-up!

Anonymous said...

Nice fill someone in on and this mail helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you for your information.

George D. Henderson said...

I agree that we need about a gram each of DHA and EPA daily, but I wonder where you get the idea that saturated fat is something to avoid, or the idea that the vitamin A in cod liver oil could be harmful?
Humans evolved to consume a diet that was often high in saturated fats and supplied relatively large amounts of retinol (as palmitate).
In a large prosective population study of people with Hepatitis B, those people with the highest intake of retinol had the lowest incidence of liver cancer - the people with the lowest intake of retinol had 70x as much liver cancer, regardless of their intake of carotenoids. Also, the notion that retinol causes birth defects has been roundly debunked in a number of recent studies.
Saturated fats have health benefits, while PUFAs other than DHA and EPA (which is most of them) can be pro-inflammatory if the intake is too high. These fats are like vitamins, they are probably not meant to be used as a major calorie source as well, especially independently of the natural foods that contain them.
BTW, Canned sardine is an extremely cheap and very good source of EPA, DHA, iodine, selenium and vitamin K2, all of which we want. It is low in the food chain (= low pollutants) and not over-fished compared to other species.
Check out the Weston A. Price website for detailed discussions of the science around saturated fats and cod liver oil.
Tara, I'm sure seaweeds contain chlorophyll, because sunlight and photosynthesis are very important to them. In fact, deep water weeds like kelp probably contain more chlorophyll because less sunlight reaches them, so they have to make better use of it.
The Old Testament Hebrews ate lots of lamb, goat etc, and were not afraid of saturated fats. I think we could learn from that.

"Like plants, kelp uses chlorophyll a in photosynthesis. However, it also uses chlorophyll c, only found to chromists. Chlorophyll c is based on fucoxanthin, a pigment that is most efficient at utilizing the blue green light that penetrates the ocean. This gives kelp its brown coloration. Fucoxanthin is medically interesting and is under investigation for anticancer and antiinflammatory properties."

George D. Henderson said...

I agree that we need about a gram each of DHA and EPA daily, but I wonder where you get the idea that saturated fat is something to avoid, or the idea that the vitamin A in cod liver oil could be harmful?
Humans evolved to consume a diet that was often high in saturated fats and supplied relatively large amounts of retinol (as palmitate).
In a large prosective population study of people with Hepatitis B, those people with the highest intake of retinol had the lowest incidence of liver cancer - the people with the lowest intake of retinol had 70x as much liver cancer, regardless of their intake of carotenoids. Also, the notion that retinol causes birth defects has been roundly debunked in a number of recent studies.
Saturated fats have health benefits, while PUFAs other than DHA and EPA (which is most of them) can be pro-inflammatory if the intake is too high. These fats are like vitamins, they are probably not meant to be used as a major calorie source as well, especially independently of the natural foods that contain them.
BTW, Canned sardine is an extremely cheap and very good source of EPA, DHA, iodine, selenium and vitamin K2, all of which we want. It is low in the food chain (= low pollutants) and not over-fished compared to other species.
Check out the Weston A. Price website for detailed discussions of the science around saturated fats and cod liver oil.
Tara, I'm sure seaweeds contain chlorophyll, because sunlight and photosynthesis are very important to them. In fact, deep water weeds like kelp probably contain more chlorophyll because less sunlight reaches them, so they have to make better use of it.
The Old Testament Hebrews ate lots of lamb, goat etc, and were not afraid of saturated fats. I think we could learn from that.

"Like plants, kelp uses chlorophyll a in photosynthesis. However, it also uses chlorophyll c, only found to chromists. Chlorophyll c is based on fucoxanthin, a pigment that is most efficient at utilizing the blue green light that penetrates the ocean. This gives kelp its brown coloration. Fucoxanthin is medically interesting and is under investigation for anticancer and antiinflammatory properties."

George D. Henderson said...

I agree that we need about a gram each of DHA and EPA daily, but I wonder where you get the idea that saturated fat is something to avoid, or the idea that the vitamin A in cod liver oil could be harmful?
Humans evolved to consume a diet that was often high in saturated fats and supplied relatively large amounts of retinol (as palmitate).
In a large prosective population study of people with Hepatitis B, those people with the highest intake of retinol had the lowest incidence of liver cancer - the people with the lowest intake of retinol had 70x as much liver cancer, regardless of their intake of carotenoids. Also, the notion that retinol causes birth defects has been roundly debunked in a number of recent studies.
Saturated fats have health benefits, while PUFAs other than DHA and EPA (which is most of them) can be pro-inflammatory if the intake is too high. These fats are like vitamins, they are probably not meant to be used as a major calorie source as well, especially independently of the natural foods that contain them.
BTW, Canned sardine is an extremely cheap and very good source of EPA, DHA, iodine, selenium and vitamin K2, all of which we want. It is low in the food chain (= low pollutants) and not over-fished compared to other species.
Check out the Weston A. Price website for detailed discussions of the science around saturated fats and cod liver oil.
Tara, I'm sure seaweeds contain chlorophyll, because sunlight and photosynthesis are very important to them. In fact, deep water weeds like kelp probably contain more chlorophyll because less sunlight reaches them, so they have to make better use of it.
The Old Testament Hebrews ate lots of lamb, goat etc, and were not afraid of saturated fats. I think we could learn from that.

"Like plants, kelp uses chlorophyll a in photosynthesis. However, it also uses chlorophyll c, only found to chromists. Chlorophyll c is based on fucoxanthin, a pigment that is most efficient at utilizing the blue green light that penetrates the ocean. This gives kelp its brown coloration. Fucoxanthin is medically interesting and is under investigation for anticancer and antiinflammatory properties."

Aaron Grey said...

Hi, can I contact you through your email? I've something to share that might interest you.

Aaron
aarongrey112 gmail.com

hailey said...

Hi, Great information! Would you please consider sharing my link to your readers? Please email me back at haileyxhailey gmail.com.

Thanks!
Hailey