Flaxseed oil is being heavily promoted as an alternative to fish oil. The health benefits of fish oil such as heart health, anti-inflammatory properties and helping prevent mood disorders such as depression, are believed to derive principally from two omega-3 fats, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel, fish oil supplements, and some fortified foods.Flaxseed oil contains a third, plant-based omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and is the richest source of this important oil, although foods (especially walnuts) and oils (canola and soybean) also contain ALA.
For many years nutrition experts warned that a major problem with ALA is that to have the good effects attributed to omega-3s, it must be converted into EPA and DHA, and this conversion is very low in humans. As a result, only a small fraction of omega-3’s effects are provided. However, recent research has shown that vegans (who consume no fish at all) actually have substantial amounts of DHA and EPA is their bloodstream and various tissues (e.g. the brain). So there has been a paradigm shift in our dietary recommendations when it comes to omega-3 sources.
We may have underestimated the power of “plant”omega-3’s, and this is good news for vegans, those who don’t like fish or those who are concerned with the depletion of threatened fish species from our oceans.
So if you want to gain some of the health benefits of omega-3’s you can absolutely maintain your regular fish intake, but adding a rich plant source such as flaxseeds is another healthy alternative that not only provides healthy fats, but some bonus nutrients.
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