The scientific evidence is in — all humans need Omega-3s. But should they use flax oil or fish oil to get what they need? For vegetarians and vegans, the answer is easy—flax oil is pressed from flaxseeds and it is chock full of the parent Omega-3 called ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid). It’s the perfect choice for a vegetarian Omega-3. But what about everyone else—what should they use? Flax or fish? The answer is easy, but the question is wrong. It’s not whether or not people get Omega-3s from fish or flax, but HOW MUCH Omega-3s do they need? The answer: MORE!
Studies have shown that most North Americans are very deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, one study says that Omega-3 deficiency is the 8th leading cause of preventable death in the US1. Now that is serious news! So how do we boost our Omega-3 intake to turn the tide away from deficiency?
Just like any team of champions, we need important Omega-3 team members to make the cut. We enlist EPA and DHA forms of Omega-3 by choosing a reputable, potent fish oil and begin using it daily as directed. We also choose to eat fresh, cold-water fish like Pacific Salmon and Sardines (yes, sardines are super-rich in EPA Omega-3) whenever we get the opportunity. Then, most importantly, we round out our team with a host of plant-based, parent Omega-3 from flax and chia! Flax oil can be used in salad dressings, over steamed veggies and added into sauces, soups and smoothies. Both flax and chia seeds can be used in baking, to add a crunch-factor to salads and, of course, mixed into a daily smoothie. In addition to packing a lot of Omega-3, these super seeds provide great fiber for better digestion. So you see, it's not one or the other, or one vs. the other; it’s both. Fish and flax oil work together as a team to get the job done.
For those who wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to Omega-3s, understanding the basics is essential. It’s been estimated that the average American consumes 20 times more Omega-6 than they do Omega-3. Omega-6 is a crucial member of the essential fatty acid family, but high levels and an unbalanced Omega-6 : Omega-3 ratio can negatively impact your health. Here are three easy ways that will get you on the right track to winning the REAL battle of Too Much Omega-6 vs. Too Little Omega-3s!
Read Labels: Omega-6s are abundant in packaged foods by way of Omega-6 dominant vegetable oils like corn, soybean or sunflower oil.
Be Aware of Fast Food: Fast food is often deep-fried in these Omega-6 dominant oils, which significantly increases your Omega-6 load!
Increase Omega-3s: Consciously look for places to add Omega-3 rich flax oil into your diet. Add some fish-focused meals when you can, and take your fish oil supplement faithfully.
At the end of the day, we need to transform the conversation about Omega-3s. It’s not about the source; it’s about getting enough. So, let’s lift a spoonful and toast to both fish and flax oil working together as team!
1. The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors. PLoS Med Jnl 6(4): e1000058. July 2009.