Many people are trying to get more omega-3 in their diets, and rightfully so, since it offers so many potential benefits. However, many people may not know that not all sources of omega-3 are the same.
When you mention flax oil or fish oil, they are easily recognized as excellent sources of omega-3. Meanwhile, you may not hear as much about algae as a form of omega-3, but the reality is that it is a better source than the other two, and there are several reasons why.
What Is Omega-3?
Before diving into these common sources of omega-3 fatty acids, it is important to understand what this important nutrient is. Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fatty acids that serve as a foundational part of cell membranes in the body and help influence interactions between cells.
There are three main types of omega-3s that the body uses, which are:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a short-chain omega-3 precursor
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
All three of these fatty acids are used by the body, but DHA and EPA are responsible for many potential health benefits. However, these two fatty acids are also harder to obtain. ALA is abundant in a standard diet, as it can be found in nuts, seeds, plant oils, and more. Therefore, it is very easy to consume in foods, and very few people have to worry about obtaining enough ALA.
Meanwhile, DHA and EPA are only found in a few foods, so you need to be a bit more thoughtful about how to get them. The body can use ALA to convert both DHA and EPA, but only in very small amounts, meaning that you should not rely on your body alone. Altogether, it is necessary to be mindful of how to include them in your diet, whether through foods or supplements.
What Are the Benefits of Omega-3s?
Because of their role in the body as a building block for cell membranes, omega-3 fatty acids can provide many potential health benefits. Omega-3s often do one of two things in the body — create strong and healthy cells to form strong organs or support healthy bodily function with molecules called eicosanoids.
Through these functions, omega-3s can lead to some of the following potential benefits:
- Supporting overall heart health
- Supporting a healthy blood pressure
- Supporting healthy joints
- Supporting emotional wellness and a positive mood
- Helping to maintain cholesterol levels already within the healthy range
- Helping to maintain healthy cognitive function
- Supporting healthy eyesight
These benefits result from DHA and EPA omega-3s, as they have a stronger role in the body. For example, DHA is found in many cells in the brain, while EPA produces eicosanoids that help support bodily functions like heart rate and blood pressure. Since these two forms of omega-3 are the most valuable, it is vital that you make them a consistent part of your daily diet.
However, the benefits you receive from consuming omega-3s depend largely on your chosen source. The most important part when considering the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids is determining how you will obtain them — where you get your omega-3 matters.
What Is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is one of the most popular and common sources of omega-3. As you might guess, fish oil is made from oily, fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Fish oil supplements are often found in the form of a gel capsule or in the form of the oil itself, providing an easy alternative to cooking and eating fish. This supplement has become one of the most well-known and widely used sources of omega-3 as it provides both DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids.
As a strong source of omega-3s, fish oil provides the above benefits, like supporting healthy memory, promoting healthy joints, and helping to maintain a healthy heart. Fish oil can also help support healthy triglyceride levels in the blood, as well as increase good HDL cholesterol. However, fish oil has also shown an increase in bad LDL cholesterol levels, meaning it may not be as beneficial as other options.
Despite its high omega-3 content, there are several reasons people may avoid fish oil. For example, there are questions about potential mercury contamination, while others avoid fish oil due to seafood allergies or because they follow a plant-based diet.
Some people simply choose to avoid fish oil because of its potent taste and smell that can leave you with unpleasant fishy breath. Fish oil can also leave you with heartburn or nausea.
What Is Flax Oil?
Flax oil is made from nutrient-packed seeds called flaxseeds. The seeds are ground up and then pressed to extract the natural oil, which can then be used for many purposes, like cooking, drizzling on top of a salad, or even for skin care. Flax oil may also be known as linseed oil.
Many people know of flaxseeds because they are touted as a strong source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, they have many other benefits as well since they are high in protein and fiber. Although, flax oil loses the fiber during the extraction process.
Flax oil offers something that fish oil cannot — it is entirely plant-based. For vegans and people on a plant-based diet, flax oil sounds like the perfect solution, as it is well-known as a source of omega-3. In fact, flax oil is the richest source of ALA omega-3, containing about seven grams in just one tablespoon.
Unfortunately, though, flax oil is also fundamentally different from other forms of these essential fats as it only contains ALA omega-3s and neither of the other two forms. Since the body only converts a small amount of ALA into necessary EPA and DHA, as mentioned earlier, you will likely need more than flaxseed oil to give your body all of the omega-3s that it may need.
Still, flax oil may provide some potential benefits, as some studies have shown a potential to help support overall healthy cholesterol levels. Flax oil also contains compounds called lignans, which can soothe tension in the body and promote your overall health.
Ultimately, it is not a bad idea to include flax oil in your diet if you are looking to support your overall health and wellness — but the catch is you shouldn’t rely on it for the bulk of your omega-3 intake.
Why Is Algae the Best Source of Omega-3?
Although algae is less talked about than flax and fish oil, it is increasing in popularity due to its many benefits. Algae is an aquatic plant rich in protein, vitamins, and antioxidants. Primarily though, algae is rich in both DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids. Not only does it contain high amounts of both, but it is also the only plant-based form of these essential fats, meaning that it is the perfect choice for anyone on a plant-based lifestyle.
Algae supplements aren’t just great for people who follow a plant-based lifestyle — they are an excellent choice for anyone. Although you can get DHA and EPA omega-3s from fish, omega-3s from Nannochloropsis algae are better absorbed by the body. This higher absorption rate means that your body can use more of the nutrients that you consume and that it can put these nutrients to use more quickly.
Since algae contains both EPA and DHA, it provides the same potential health benefits as fish oil. Algae may even provide more health benefits. For example, algae can help support an overall healthy balance of bad LDL cholesterol and good HDL cholesterol when levels are already within a healthy range. Conversely, studies surrounding fish oil have shown that it can increase good cholesterol but also increase LDL cholesterol. With algae, you don’t have to worry about such a tradeoff, instead enjoying the best of both.
The best part about consuming algae to obtain your necessary omega-3s is that it is just as easy to get as other supplements. For example, iwi life provides a once-daily omega-3 supplement that gives you 250mg of combined DHA and EPA. On top of all the great benefits, these supplements will leave you without any unpleasant fishy aftertaste.
Add Algae to Your Diet
Omega-3 is a valuable addition to your diet, helping to support several important bodily systems. However, where you get your omega-3 matters, both for its effectiveness and its overall benefits. For the most benefits and the fewest drawbacks, look no further than algae, which is excellent for any lifestyle.
To include omega-3-rich algae in your daily nutrition, you can rely on iwi life for an easy daily softgel. iwi life also offers a whole family of products formulated to provide a variety of potential health benefits, from supporting your joints to promoting healthy cholesterol levels. Explore all of the options for yourself to see how you can benefit from including the best source of omega-3.
Flaxseed oil Information | Mount Sinai - New York
The Benefits of Flaxseed Oil | Cleveland Clinic
Harvard meta-analysis supports benefits of algal DHA omega-3 | Nutra