10 Tips to Better Understand Omega-3

Monday, March 5, 2012

This is a guest blog post by Hemi Weingarten of Fooducate.com.

Omega-3 has been a hot buzzword in the food space for the better part of the last decade. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that omega-3 is important for a healthy diet.

But not all omega-3′s are created equal. Which means you may be buying a product fortified with omega-3 that has almost no health benefits for you. Be sure you will be paying more than you would have for the standard, un-enriched version.

In order to better understand what’s going on, here’s a quick primer on omega-3, in 10 bullet points.

What you need to know:

  1. Food can be broken down to three categories – protein, carbohydrate, fat. Our bodies need all three to function.
  2. Fats can be broken down into the “good” and “bad” fats (though this is an over-simplification). The bad fats are “saturated” and “tran-fats” – they increase the risks of heart disease, for example. Again, this is highly simplified, not all saturated fats are bad.
  3. The “good” or “heart healthy” fats are called unsaturated fats. They are further divided into polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats. They can be found in olive oil, walnuts, avocado, and fish.
  4. Fats are actually composed of different types of fatty-acids. It is the fatty acids that are saturated or unsaturated. For example, Canola oil is regarded a relatively healthy oil because it is composed of 90% unsaturated fatty acids – oleic acid, linoleic acid and linolenic acid, and only 10% saturated fats.
  5. Fatty acids are further broken down into groups based on their chemical makeup. The omega-3, omega-6, omega-9 classification of fatty acids is based on position of certain carbon-bonds inside the fatty acid molecule. This is the most difficult part of today’s post, so hang in there. Omega-3 and omega-6 are also called “essential fatty acids”; this means our body does not manufacture them on its own, so we need to get them from food.
  6. If you’re still with us, omega-3 is actually a family of fatty acids which includes alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). All three are polyunsaturated (reminder: that means good).
  7. Studies have proven unequivocally that omega-3 consumption is good for our health, in an all round sort of fashion. From raising the IQ of unborn babies, to better heart health, and even more mental stability.
  8. But not all omega-3 fatty acids yield the same benefit. They are further classified into 2 groups –  “long chain” such as DHA and EPA, and “short chain” such as ALA (alpha linolenic acid). The long chain fatty acids are the ones that are considered most beneficial. They are readily available from oils of cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel.  The short chain ALA is found in flax seeds and chia seeds for example.
  9. The human body does know to turn ALA into the more useful EPA and DHA, but only at a 10-15% efficiency. The omega-3 health claims have  regulatory organizations in a tizzy, because manufacturers are fortifying foods with cheap (read vegetable) sources of omega-3 in order to plaster health claims on them, when in fact they may prove less beneficial than omega-3 sourced from fish oils.
  10. To complicate things even further, it appears that consumption of foods high in omega-3 is not enough. The proportion of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in our bodies also plays a role in improving health outcomes. The modern diet has raised our consumption of omega-6 (through soybean and corn oils) to levels that way too high compared to our omega-3 levels. This imbalance needs to be rectified by either consuming less omega-6, or more much more omega-3.

What to do at the supermarket:
As you can see from the above example, nutrition is quite complex. Scientists are discovering new interactions every day. And while a better understanding of how our body works with nutrients is important, let’s keep in mind that food itself has been, for thousands of years, a pretty straightforward affair: Grow, harvest, prepare. And somehow, humanity survived.

The modern supermarket has changed our relationship to food. Now it’s pretty much just one verb –  “buy”.

While fortification of processed foods with omega-3 won’t cause harm, and in some cases be healthy for you, the naturally good sources of omega-3 are sardines, salmon, flax oil, with other seeds and nuts to some extent.

Hemi Weingarten is a father, husband and foodie. He is the founder and CEO of Fooducate.

Filed under Heart Health, Nutrition Basics  |  Comments: more


14 Comments on “10 Tips to Better Understand Omega-3



Atherogenesis | African Mango Diets Says:

[…] = ''; } Food cultureAnxiety and Omega-3 Fatty Acids10 Tips to Better Understand Omega-3 – Toby Amidor Nutrition .spacer { […]



Your Questions About Omega 3 Fatty Acids - Omega Fish Oil · Omega Fish Oil Says:

[…] For MeBlog : Lindas Diet Delites, Low Carb, Low Calorie, and Gluten Free Food – Low Carb Bread10 Tips to Better Understand Omega-3 – Toby Amidor Nutritionvar base_url_sociable = […]



Pedro Alves Says:

So olive oil is rubbish?!
Most of it is Oleic Acid (mono) which is OMEGA-9!
But whoever reads your chart won’t know it, because according to it only poli have omega-9!!
Wrong!
Why are you promoting poli base oils when mono (olive oil) are far better?



Toby Amidor Says:

Hi Pedro,
Thanks for your comment. The point of the article is not to compare olive/mono with poly’s but rather to breakdown the various types of omega-3’s (DHA, EPA, ALA). Monounsaturated fats like olive oil are definitely beneficial and is a great future topic for my blog.
Cheers,
Toby



MarcieMom Says:

Your explanation is so clear! Fish is supposedly good for skin?

I’ve a baby with eczema and a blog for parents with eczema children. There’s a post on pregnancy diet and appreciate if you can add some advice for moms!
http://eczemablues.com/2011/06/is-it-what-you-ate-how-pregnancy-diet-affect-eczema-in-baby



The best source of omega 3 – Increase your diet with healthy and nutritious fish oil supplements | Fish Oil Truth Says:

[…] 10 Tips to Better Understand Omega-3 – Toby Amidor Nutrition .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding:0 !important;margin:0 !important;} […]



The Wonders of Sesame Butter - Toby Amidor Nutrition Says:

[…] cholesterol and sugar-free. The majority of the fat comes from healthy unsaturated fats including omega-3’s which help lower inflammation and help lower the risk of a heart attack.  Sesame butter is also […]



My Homepage Says:

… [Trackback]…

[…] There you will find 65249 more Infos: tobyamidornutrition.com/2012/03/10-tips-to-better-understand-omega-3/ […]…



Separating The Good Fish Oils From The Bad Ones | Fish Oil Truth Says:

[…] and Omega-3 Fatty AcidsOmega 6 Rich Foods,10 Tips to Better Understand Omega-3 – Toby Amidor Nutrition .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding:0 !important;margin:0 […]



How To Lower My Ldl - Simple Site About Tips On Lower Cholesterol Diet - Lower Cholesterol Diet Says:

[…] The Finest Blood Pressure Cuff On-lineHow To Discover The Finest Blood Pressure Cuff On the web10 Tips to Better Understand Omega-3 – Toby Amidor Nutrition // IE Evitar seleccion de texto document.onselectstart=function(){ if […]



Benefits of Fish Oil Supplements – Untold Facts Revealed! | Fish Oil Truth Says:

[…] Blog9 Tips to Increase Life Expectancy : Energize.comA Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down10 Tips to Better Understand Omega-3 – Toby Amidor Nutrition .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding:0 !important;margin:0 […]



How Do I know if I Need More Omega 3? | What Is Omega 3 Says:

[…] Calcium and Hair Losskthrnm4Omega 6 Fish Oil CapsulesQuestions And Answers On Extreme Fat Loss Diet10 Tips to Better Understand Omega-3 – Toby Amidor Nutrition […]



Anety Says:

Superb website…

[…]always a big fan of linking to bloggers that I love but don’t get a lot of link love from[…]……



Best Foods For Weight Loss | Why Can I Not Lose Weight Says:

[…] after pregnancyNewmans Own Organic Chicken Dry Dog Food 12.5lb10 Main Dishes Made With Whole Grains10 Tips to Better Understand Omega-3 – Toby Amidor NutritionOmega 3 Side Effects /**/ .broken_link, a.broken_link { text-decoration: line-through; } […]




Leave a Comment





*

Home