Omega-3 fatty acids have a reputation for their astounding health benefits. From supporting your cardiovascular system to improving your brain and eye health, this substance plays an essential role in a range of bodily functions. For that reason, many people take omega-3 supplements or consume foods packed with the nutrient to improve their general well-being.
Although oily fish, such as salmon, and krill oil are two of the most common and well-known sources of omega-3, the fatty acids do exist in other edibles. Vegans and vegetarians in particular may turn to plant-based omega-3 options, including certain nuts, seeds and oils.
The multiple kinds of omega-3
However, it’s important to note that getting the health benefits associated with these fatty acids isn’t a matter of simply choosing a particular food source that contains omega-3. There are actually multiple varieties of omega-3 fatty acids, and they’re not all created equal.
As Dr. Rob Winwood explains in the YouTube video below, omega-3 is a classification of several kinds of fatty acids. The most common are DHA, EPA and ALA, and they each play a different role in human health.
Which kind do you need?
Dr. Winwood went on to describe the distinct health benefits each type of omega-3 fatty acid provides. He noted that DHA supports brain, eye and heart health, EPA is good for your heart as well, and ALA helps nails and hair.
Similarly, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) referred to clinical evidence that DHA and EPA lower risk factors to cardiovascular health, blood pressure, cholesterol and stroke. These varieties of omega-3 fatty acids are also associated with a long list of additional benefits, from alleviating arthritis to reducing symptoms of lupus.
Therefore, the types of omega-3 with the greatest benefit on health are DHA and EPA. While having healthy nails and hair can also be a motivating factor for consuming omega-3, most people are concerned with the more serious effects for health. The UMMC did note that ALA can be turned into the other types of omega-3, but the human body is not very proficient at making these changes, so the outcome is likely to be limited.
What’s the best source?
DHA and EPA come from marine sources, whereas ALA is derived from land-based edibles.
DHA and EPA fatty acids come from marine sources, whereas nuts, grains and other land-based edibles provide the less beneficial ALA form. Fish and krill oil, as well as oily fish itself, are some of the best sources of the nutrient, though this option doesn’t provide much help for vegans, vegetarians or those concerned about mercury and the marine eco-system.
Fortunately, there is another excellent source of DHA and EPA: The algae that fish consume – which is where they get the fatty acids in the first place. By developing an efficient, sustainable way to create nutritional supplements from microalgae sources, Uira is creating a better option for vegans, vegetarians and others to get the kind of omega-3 that best supports their health and well-being.