Omega-3 Fatty Acids have received a lot of attention in recent years, due to research that indicates it as essential to a healthy diet. Studies show that these Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) work on all sorts of levels in the body to ensure its proper function. They are necessary for cell wall formation, and help cell walls become pliable enough to maximize their efficiency. They also play a key role in healthy nerves and eyesight. In the brain, EFAs help the brain run a smoother operation, improving memory, normalizing moods, assist in general cognitive functions, such as thinking, and are essential to proper brain development in children. There is also evidence that shows EFAs have anti-inflammatory properties, which help the body minimize excessive inflammation in the body. This especially helps in the cardiovascular system, and high levels of anti-inflammatory nutrients in the body have been linked to a marked decrease in heart disease.
So, getting enough EFAs in your diet is important in optimizing your health and feeling great. It’s not just a matter of taking a supplement, though, as it gets a little more complicated than you might expect it to.
Types of Essential Fatty Acids
There are three types of EFAs:
– ALA or Alpha-linolenic acid: This is the most commonly found EFA, and can be found in many types of foods.
– EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid: This is mainly found in fish.
– DHA or docosahexaenoic acid: This is mainly found in fish and seaweed.
All of these EFAs are essential nutrients. ALAs are the most commonly found EFAs in our food and can be readily converted into EPA. Since ALAs and EPAs can be obtained from a vegetarian diet, the question becomes how to obtain DHA, which is mainly found in fish meat. ALAs can also be converted into DHAs in the body, but it is a relatively low conversion rate, and requires high amounts of ALA to get any noticeable result. Excessively high levels of any EFA can also cause damage in the body, so this is not a proper way to get DHA for the body.
This is reflected in a study by the King’s College in London called “DHA Status in Vegetarians,” where they state in their results, “Dietary analyses show that vegan diets are devoid of DHA and vegetarian diets that included dairy food and eggs only provide about 0.02 g DHA/d.” Omnivorous seem to have the upper hand when it comes to DHA, as most have proper levels. Though, the study goes onto say that, “There is no evidence of adverse effects on health or cognitive function with lower DHA intake in vegetarians.” More studies need to be performed on DHA deficiencies and the actual affects on the body.
Vegetarian EFA Recommendations
There are a few options to get the proper amount of EFAs. Dr. Weil MD recommends taking a daily dose of a Neuromins DHA supplement. For the vegans out there, you can crack the gelatin capsule and just take the actual liquid inside, which contains no animal products. For a more organic method of getting DHA, try eating some seaweed, which is one of the few sources of naturally occurring sources for vegetarians.
The best way to get enough ALA (which will also account for the EPA you need) is by simply eating a handful of walnuts everyday, which is full of the ALA your body needs. ALAs can also be found in flax seed, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, soybean oil, canola oil, and olive oil. For female adults, the recommended daily dose is between 1800 – 4400 milligrams a day, where as in males they should get about 2250-5300 per day.
There are plenty of sources of Essential Fatty Acids out there; it’s just a matter of being a little conscious of where they are and how to get them.