Are you fat deficient?- A questionnaire by Patrick Holford in his book "Optimum Nutrition For The Mind
Do you have difficulty learning?
Do you have a poor memory or difficulty concentrating?
Do you have poor coordination or impaired vision?
Do you have dry, unmanageable hair or dandruff?
Do you have dry or rough skin or a tendency to eczema?
Do you have brittle, easily frayed or soft nails?
Do you have excessive thirst and/or frequent urination?
Do you suffer from PMS or breast tenderness? (women)
Do you suffer from dry, watery or itchy eyes?
Do you have inflammatory health problems such as arthritis?
Do you have high blood pressure or high blood lipids?
Do you have slow/poor wound healing?
Do you have obsessive or compulsive behaviour?
Do you have phobias, extreme fears or night terrors?
Do you suffer from anxiety or depression?
Do you suffer from travel or motion sickness?
If you answered yes to more than four questions, you are very likely deficient in essential fats.
Even if you answered no to all of these questions, you are very likely deficient in essential fats.
Most of us, if not all of us in Canada do not consume enough Omega 3 fatty acids in our diet. These fats come from cold water fish like herring, mackerel, salmon and tuna. You would need to eat 3 servings of these 3 times a week at minimum, and even then most of the Omega 3 gets lost due to cooking, heating, and processing, not to mention how hard it is to find safe, clean sources of fish without heavy metal toxicity like mercury.
If you are eating the proper amount of fish and properly preparing the meat, you run the risk of depleting the oils internally due to common "fat anti-nutrients". These include:
Consuming fried foods, red meats, sugar and alcohol
Stress, smoking, obesity, lack of antioxidants
These "fat anti-nutrients" affect the body's ability to convert and use Omega 3 fats.
A lot of us have become scared of fats due to "anti-fat" diets, but in reality we should LOVE fat!
Omega 3 fatty acids contain two essential fatty acids (EFA's) called EPA and DHA. We need both of these EFA's for a ton of different processes inside and outside the body.
Some vital jobs EPA and DHA includes:
Prevents and/or decreases symptoms of diseases including depression, dyslexia, ADHD, fatigue, memory problems, alzheimers, schizophrenia, heart disease, allergies, arthritis, eczema, infections
Helps individuals with mental connections (intellectual health)
Assists body in appropriate emotional responses
Optimizes brain-body connection
Relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood pressure
Helps body retain water
Decreases inflammation and inflammatory issues
Helps balance blood sugar
Regulates and releases neurotransmitters
Helps brain function properly
Vital for eye health
Keeps skin plump and moisturized
Benefits digestive tract and helps transit time
Assists in fetal development, especially the brain (pregnancy)
And so much more!
To break everything down:
1. We need Omega 3's (EPA and DHA) for many processes in the body
2. We need to get Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's) through diet, but it is very hard to get enough with diet alone
3. EPA is essential for heart health, immune system and inflammation
4. DHA is essential for brain health, eyes, and central nervous system
5. Everyone should be on a Fish Oil supplement since it is so vital to our health and very hard to achieve from our diets alone.
Okay so now that we established the basics.. I know I have some vegetarians thinking "But why would I have to take a fish oil supplement when there are vegetarian-friendly sources of Omega 3's?"
Vegetarian-friendly Omega 3's include flaxseed, marine algae, hempseed, pumpkinseed, and walnut. The main guys being flaxseed and marine algae. The problem?
Flaxseed oil is an oil called Alpha-linolenic-acid (ALA). The body needs to convert ALA into EPA and then into DHA (see below)
This is hard for the body to do. Only 10-15% of the ALA from flaxseed is converted to EPA and DHA, and the majority of the conversion is only converted to EPA, not DHA.
Then there is marine algae. This is a great source of DHA, but not a reliable source of EPA. It is also rather expensive since it is much harder to source.
With Fish oil, you get a direct source of EPA and DHA, so you skip the conversion needed when consuming ALA.
You should aim to get 1000mg of EPA and DHA combined per day (500mg EPA, and 500mg DHA). If you are suffering with specific problems or dificiency, you may even need twice to three times that amount!
With typical, high quality, ethically sourced fish oils you can obtain your daily amount of fish oil with 1 tbsp liquid oil (strongly recommended) or 2-4 capsules.
Fish flax oil, you are looking at 2 tbsp flaxseed oil (without guarantee to convert to DHA) and/or 2-4 capsules of marine algae (without guarantee of EPA).
I recommend everyone who is comfortable doing so, to consume 1 tbsp of a liquid fish oil supplement every day in the morning. These oils are always naturally flavoured so you are not tasting fish! If liquid oil is not up your ally, fish oil capsules are your next best bet.
If you are vegetarian, and fish oils are not within your comfort zone, I recommend consuming proper amount of flaxseed oil, combined with a marine algae supplement.
Another way to improve conversion of flaxseed ALA to EPA and DHA is to ensure you have optimum levels of magnesium, zinc, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, biotin, and Vitamin C in your diet.
My Supplement Recommendations
If you are interested in more information about Omega 3 fats, let me know and I will write a more detailed blog post about how it works in the body and why it's so important.
If you are struggling with the above problems, please feel free to contact me about a consultation.