Marine omega-3 vs plant omega-3 – what’s the difference?

As you probably know, there are 101 reasons you should include omega-3 fats in your diet. Omega-3s are essential for heart and brain health and for reducing inflammation, which is a cause of many health problems related to the aging process. But omega-3 fatty acids are not created equal. It’s important to know which forms of omega-3 are the most beneficial. Omega-3s come from two main sources – plants and marine animals. There is an important difference between the two and they actually provide two different types of omega-3.

In fact, there are three types of omega-3 fatty acids. The two ‘long-chain’ omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are derived from marine animals. The shorter-chain alpha-linolenic acids (ALA) come from plants. However, ALA must be converted by the body into EPA, and this process is very inefficient. According to Norwegian scientist Nils Hoem, only about 1% of short-chain (ALA) is converted into a useable form. What’s more, Hoem’s research indicates that after a meal of salmon, levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood are increased for several days afterward. In contrast, ALA passes through the body in less than a day.

Found in foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, soy (including tofu), seaweeds, and flax seed, ALA is obviously a preferred option for vegetarians and vegans, but you need to be aware that these foods are not as rich a source of omega-3s as those derived from oily fish.

Another point to note is that not all fish contain high levels of omega-3s. Those that do are herring, mackerel, trout, salmon, sardines, anchovies, kippers, ocean tuna, eel and mullet.

It’s not that ALA isn’t required, it too plays an important role, but it cannot replace DHA and EPA. Also, omega-3s in general are not something our bodies can produce naturally – we need to have them in our diet either by eating certain types of oily fish, or fish oil supplements, such as About Health’s omega-3 formula, Lester’s Oil. Lester’s Oil contains fish oil that is guaranteed to be fresh. One of the problems with fish oil supplements is that they age quickly, so you need to be sure they haven’t been sitting on a shelf for too long.

Lester’s Oil comes with a freshness guarantee backed by a study from a major NZ university, and is carefully formulated to combine omega-3 with other powerful antioxidants using the best quality ingredients available.

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