Many of the patients I see have started taking Omega 3’s, Omega 3-6-9 or fish oil because they heard or read that it was good for them. These oils can be a healthy addition to your regimen or they may actually be detracting from your health. Here’s how to choose a good, healthy EFA (essential fatty acid) supplement:
- Choose Omega 3’s, rather than Omega 6’s or Omega 3-6-9’s. Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils are both “essential fatty acids”, meaning they are essential for us to obtain through out diet, our bodies can’t manufacture them. Omega 3 oils tend to be lacking in our diets more so than Omega 6’s, so I tend to have people supplement then Omega 3’s, not the Omega 6’s
- Choose Pure Fish Oil. Omega 3 EFA’s usually come from fish oil, or seed oils like flaxseed oil. Fish live in a polluted environment, so you want fish oil that has been properly purified. North American standards are not as high as Norwegian standards for purity, so look for fish oil that was sourced from Norway.
- Choose Fresh Fish Oil. Most manufacturers don’t adequately measure their product for freshness. There are two levels that should be checked to ensure fresh oil, peroxide level and anisidine level, most manufacturers only measure peroxide. The problem with that is peroxide levels will be low when the oil is fresh, but also once the oil has gotten beyond rancid.
- Choose a Natural Triglyceride form. The natural triglyceride form is 30% better absorbed, so you get more out of it and less burping up the fishy taste.
(Nordic Naturals fish oil products meet all of the above criteria which is why we recommend them at Forces of Nature)
What about Flaxseed Oil?
Flaxseed oil and most other forms of plant based omega 3’s require significant conversion in the body to get where fish oil is already at. Which means if you don’t convert it well, you get no benefit of taking omega 3’s from flaxseed oil. Stress, lack of zinc and B vitamins and other nutrients mean you can’t process plant based oils into EPA and DHA, the components of omega 3’s that your body needs. My other issue with flaxseed oil is rancidity. Freshly ground flaxseeds have a pleasant nutty taste. Flaxseed oil (in my opinion), tastes terrible which would be one reflection of rancid oil. Plant oils go rancid very quickly once extracted from the seed, most flaxseed oil (again, in my opinion) is already rancid when you buy it.
What about using freshly ground flaxseeds?
Ground flaxseeds are wonderful for providing fiber, phytoestrogens and preventing breast cancer. However, 1-2 tablespoons per day doesn’t provide a significant amount of omega 3’s.