The term omega-3 pops up in a lot of topics around nutrition. Although it’s always held in high regard, it’s hard to uncover why exactly it’s meant to be such a great addition to your diet. So what better way to explore this wonder ingredient than in the company of our nutritionist Lucy-Ann! Over to her…
So, what is Omega-3?
Omega-3 is an ‘essential fat’. The role of certain “essential fats” in human nutrition has long been recognised. That’s where omega-3 and omega-6 fats shine, they help regulate several aspects of metabolism… from important inflammatory processes, blood fat and cholesterol levels, to fluid balance and weight regulation too. In other words, they’re incredibly good for you!
The body makes all the fatty acids it needs, except for two “essential” fats that can only be acquired through your diet. These two fats are known as alpha linolenic acid or ALA (or as we know it, omega-3) and linoleic acid or LA (omega-6). These are called ‘parent’ fatty acids as it produces further healthy fats upon consumption; these all enhance your health.
How Much Omega 3 Do We Need?
Regarding how much Omega-3 we need, there are different recommendations across the globe, although none are actually “official”. The UK’s FSA (Food Standards Agency) suggest a rather meagre 3000mg, or 3 grams per week, whereas other authorities suggest 2-4 grams per day! Many nutritional experts err more towards this 2-4 grams per day recommendation.
To put things into perspective, 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds would provide 3.5 grams of Omega-3. A small handful of walnuts would also provide excellent amounts, providing around 2 grams – so both are very worthwhile, and simple dietary additions, and excellent ways to get your Omega-3 daily quota.
TOP OMEGA-3 FOODS…
Flax Seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, seaweeds, mustard oil, winter squash,
leafy Greens (such as lamb’s lettuce and purslane), cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, blueberries, wild rice, variants of herbs and spices (marjoram, cloves, mustard and tarragon), soya beans, mangoes, honeydew and melon.
Some delicious meals and snacks loaded with Omega-3s…
- A breakfast bowl of sliced mango, honeydew melon, blueberries and raspberries, with coconut yogurt and a tablespoon of shelled hempseeds
- A salad of spinach and kale with grated butternut squash, shredded cabbage, and dressed with a blend of mustard oil, ginger and cider vinegar
- A lentil and bean curry with wild rice, drizzled with a little flax oil
- Seaweed salad with thinly sliced carrot, cucumber and tomato, with steamed broccoli and cauliflower florets.
- A handful of walnut halves
Let’s take a closer look at the role of Omega-3’s…
Here’s a quick bio of the fats and acids involved in Omega-3’s – it’s comprised of three main components.
ALA, or alpha linolenic acid. You will find ALA in a variety of delicious plant-based foods, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds and hempseeds (in ground form or as an oil), nuts such as walnuts, other seeds such as pumpkin seeds and salba seeds, and certain other oils such as rapeseed oil. This ‘parent’ fatty acid helps the body manufacture two key Omega-3 fatty acids, called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid):
EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid. EPA is best sought from sea vegetables, seaweed and algae. Have a further look into the role of sea vegetables and seaweeds here. This acid produces important tissue chemicals which can reduce blood clotting, inflammation, blood pressure, and cholesterol, it also benefits brain function, concentration, and vision.
DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid. DHA can also be obtained through seaweeds and sea vegetables, or alternatively algae supplement or a vegan omega-3 supplement. DHA is a major component of the brain, and also found in the retina, testis, sperm, and cell membranes. DHA is a building fat, needed particularly for brain structure, but is also needed for the normal development of the eyes and nerves. It becomes especially important during pregnancy for the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system.