By TRAVIS WADE
What Are Omega 3s?
Omega 3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Polyunsaturated means there are at least 2 spots where the molecule isn’t saturated with hydrogen. Omega 3 means the first hydrogen atom that is “missing” is between the third and fourth carbon atom at the end of the carbon tail of the molecule.
The three omega 3 fatty acids that humans use are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found mainly in plant oils such as flaxseed and chia seeds. DHA and EPA are found mostly in seafood.
The single easiest and most effective thing I can get my clients to do for any health or fitness goal is to take a high quality multivitamin and get omega 3 fatty acids. I ask clients to look up the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids for motivation to eat them and they usually come back with a huge list of diseases that are prevented by omega 3 fats. They definitely prevent diseases but here are some other really important reasons to get them in your diet.
Top 5 Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
1. Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory. This is important because so is cortisol which is the stress hormone and cortisol retains fat around the belly. When we take omega 3s it reduces our cortisol. The number one thing I do as a personal trainer is I reduce stress and cortisol.
Stress is now the number one cause of health issues in our society and the number one obstacle people deal with in their fitness goals. There are many ways to reduce cortisol or stress and they should be implemented, but consuming omega 3s is the easiest and one of the most effective ways.
2. Omega 3 fatty acids are building blocks of the body and enable our bodies to use fats as energy. Omega 3s are in the membrane of our cells and are most abundant in cells of the retina, sperm, and brain. Also, without omega 3s our bodies will just store fat or excrete it (if we’re lucky) instead of using it for energy.
3. Omega 3s are the third highest-ranking legal ergogenic aid (performance enhancer). In other words, we perform terribly without them. The number one legal ergogenic aid is water, the number two is carbohydrates. Just like water, our bodies need omega 3s. Without any water, our bodies will go on a fast and steady decline and same with omega 3s. The term “essential” means they are necessary to ingest because our bodies will not produce them.
4. Omega 3 fatty acids are a natural anti-inflammatory. The reason this is so important is due to the high amounts of inflammation our food and water typically causes along with all the toxins in the environment. Anybody want to reduce pain in their joints, muscles, or back? Eat omega 3s.
5. If you need another reason to take omega 3s, then yes, they help prevent pretty much every disease there is known to man and help with whatever ails us. Here is a list of diseases prevented by omega-3s put together for you by Sayer Gi and the last time I checked the list was at 322 diseases. In conclusion, asking for the benefits of omega 3s is similar to asking what the benefits of water are. It’s a tragedy that omega 3 fatty acids are the second leading nutrient deficiency in North America, the first is vitamin D.
There is no upper limit of omega 3s. That’s like saying there’s an upper limit of how much saturated fat (meat fat) you can eat. You can eat as much as you want; you’ll never overdose. You might gain weight and be unhealthy, but you won’t overdose. With omega 3s you want a healthy balance of omega 3s and omega 6s. We already get way too much omega 6s in our diet which makes omega 3s even more important. I have seen doctors recommend 2000-3000 mg per day, however, the lowest recommended dose is 1.6 grams per day. You don’t have to eat fish every day, however. Try to get at least 5 grams of omega 3s in every 3 day period.
The best way to get omega 3s is in food, however, the problem is all the toxins found in fish these days and the shadiness in the seafood industry. According to Dr. Mercola as much as 80% of fish that says “Wild” is actually farmed. Farmed fish when tested was significantly higher in toxins than wild so we want the wild but it’s hard to get. Even if we are actually getting wild fish it can still be high in toxins. The exception is small fish like mackerel, herring, sardines or oyster.
When it comes to salmon, I avoid it completely because of the shadiness of the salmon industry. I was told the brand name would be wild salmon but it would still be farmed fish. I thought there was a law against this shady behaviour so I didn’t believe it, until… I went to Superstore and found frozen salmon in a bag and it said “Wild” on the front of the bag. When I flipped the bag over to see where it was from, in very small print it said “Farmed in China”. I was shocked but look for yourself.
The Best Omega 3s Supplements
The only supplement I will use is a fermented cod liver oil. If you buy an omega 3 supplement off the shelf you are buying rotten fish oil. Rancid fish oil is a toxin that causes all the issues you are trying to prevent by taking fish oil. If its kept in the fridge it will take longer to go rancid but we don’t know how long it will be ok for.
If you take fermented cod liver oil the fermentation prevents it from going rancid. It’s a whole food so we don’t know how much omega 3s you are getting but I can assure you it won’t be enough. There was a time in my life when I was taking four krill oil capsules a day thinking I was getting plenty. I found out I would need around sixteen pills a day due to the lack of bioavailability from supplements. I can’t afford that.
The bonus with fermented cod liver oil is vitamin A, vitamin D, an awesome probiotic, and vitamin K2 which is the third leading deficiency in North America and almost nobody has even heard of it. Vitamin D is the first leading deficiency in North America and it allows calcium into the body. Vitamin K2 directs calcium to where it is needed. Fermented cod liver oil helps in a huge way to prevent a heart attack and other deadly diseases.
Omega 3s is the second leading deficiency. With this supplement you will be getting the top 3 nutrient deficiencies and arguable the top 4 with the probiotic which is so beneficial. Including vitamin A, all 5 of these nutrients are in the top 10 deficiencies in North America. The problem is we don’t know how much of each is in the supplement because it is a whole food. It’s just cod liver oil in a gel cap.
Some people are vegan and rely on chia seeds and flax seeds for their omega 3s but plant foods only have ALA in them. Unfortunately, our bodies will only convert very small amounts of ALA into EPA and then to DHA. Getting EPA and DHA straight from foods is the only way to get enough omega 3 fatty acids.
Alternatively, an option for vegans would be the supplement that comes from algae. I have personally not gone this route but omega 3s from algae do have EPA and DHA making it the best supplement for vegans. However, omega 3s are a poly-unsaturated fat making it easily oxidized. In other words it goes rancid very quickly and becomes toxic!
On a side note, algae is actually where omega 3s originate and the small animals eat the algae and the bigger animals eat the smaller ones, then we eat those animals.
How To Get Omega 3s
I used to take 4 krill oil pills a day thinking I was getting plenty of omega 3s in my diet. When I found out that I wasn’t getting anywhere near what I needed I didn’t bother. Then I found out that they go rancid so quickly and cause all the problems we are trying to prevent by taking omega 3s. My clients always complained about burping up what smelled like rotten fish. I now make sure I get these five foods in my diet on a regular basis; mackerel, herring, sardines, cod, and oysters.
If some of these 5 foods are not in your diet you will have an extremely hard time getting the omega 3s your mind and body need to function well. You don’t need to eat these kinds of seafood every day. Try to get at least 5 grams of omega 3s in every 3 day period. The only supplement I take with omega 3 fatty acids is the fermented cod liver oil but I take that for the many reasons listed above.