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Plant-Based Omegas Explained

Omega Fatty Acids

Nowadays it’s common knowledge that we need Omega 3 in our diets. Most people know this but get confused when they try to buy supplements or learn more about the subject. What is the difference between fish based omegas and plant based oils? Are there differences between plant oils? We are going to answer some of these questions today to help you understand as much as you can about Omega 3.

There are different forms of Omega 3: ALA, EPA, DHA. Most plants contain ALA with a few exceptions. Marine animal sources contain EPA. DHA is from marine sources as well as other animal products like eggs. EPA/DHA are long chain fatty acids and ALA is shorter. Omega 3 in ALA form is an essential fatty acid. Essential means that the body cannot make the fatty acid on its own and must get it through diet. EPA and DHA synthesizes in the body with ALA. That means they are not technically ‘essential’ but are still crucial to health.

Our bodies convert ALA to EPA and DHA. That means that ALA is a precursor to EPA and DHA. Many factors dictate how much your body will convert ALA to EPA or DHA. The body only converts ALA to EPA/DHA in small amounts. Food sources for EPA and DHA include fish, dairy, algae or flax. For people who don’t get EPA and DHA from food sources, it’s important that they use supplements.

Plant Based Omegas

Why Bother Taking Plant Based Omegas?

Should you take a plant based ALA if there’s no guarantee that it will convert enough EPA or DHA in your diet? People on strict vegan diets should supplement with EPA/DHA or make sure that they eat enough algae or flax. Those who still eat fish and dairy weekly should be able to meet their EPA/DHA needs. However, it’s still very important to talk to your doctor about supplementation. Even if your body doesn’t convert enough ALA to EPA/DHA, there are still many health benefits to be had. Here are a few of the many benefits of ALA:

Decreases Inflammation

Acts as antioxidant

May combat Metabolic Syndrome

Decreases bad Cholesterol

Supports brain function

Eye Health

Digestive support

Health support for expectant mothers

Great for Skin

Beneficial to cuts and wounds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although a plant based omega 3 may not fulfill your dietary requirements for EPA/DHA, it’s still worth it to take one. There is no harm in taking an ALA supplement with an EPA/DHA supplement, if you feel that you aren’t getting enough in your diet. Plant oils usually have a complex network of nutrients. Sea buckthorn oils are a great example of this. They contain Omegas 3, 7, 6 & 9 plus natural vitamin E. There are many benefits from nutritious plants like sea buckthorn oil. Therefore, using both ALA and EPA/DHA supplements could be the perfect solution. That depends on what your health needs are.

Get the Best of Both Worlds

Plant based omega sources have so many benefits, it would be silly to pass them up! It’s safe to take EPA/DHA supplements alongside ALA, so why not reap the benefits of both? Make sure that you are eating enough EPA/DHA rich foods and supplements in your diet. Don’t shy away from plant based omega sources- they have so many health and wellness benefits.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27840374
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15950945
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14616378
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26026207
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26439038
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28089463
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8604540
https://nccih.nih.gov/health/omega3/introduction.htm
http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/essential-fatty-acids#introduction
https://www.researchgate.net/figure/230763789_fig1_Structure-of-the-main-n-3-EPA-DHA-and-ALA-n-6-AA-and-LA-monounsaturated-OA
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/