Essentials for Natural Wellbeing: Tip #3

Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on January 13, 2011 by Paulina Nelega, RH

Flax Oil or Fish? Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) – Which is Best?

EFAs are considered “essential” because they cannot be produced in the human body, and therefore must be provided through the diet. They play a vital role in many body functions.

Omega-3 fatty acids are especially desirable because they promote anti-inflammatory compounds within our body. They can be extremely beneficial for managing conditions of chronic inflammation such as arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and a host of other conditions.

There is often confusion as to what the best source of omega-3s are, though: fish oil or flax? The best source of omega-3s is cold water fish. This includes cod liver oil, sardines, mackerel, or anchovies (a type of cold water marine life form), as they are a direct source of DHA and EPA. DHA and EPA are the omega-3 fatty acid metabolites that our body requires in order to produce anti-inflammatory compounds. These two fatty acids are also incorporated into all of our cell membranes and make up much of the fatty tissue of our brain and nervous system.

Though flax oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, it’s in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), not DHA/EPA. Unfortunately, our body is unable to convert ALA to DHA & EPA very efficiently: only approximately 15% can become EPA, and 5% or less, may become DHA.

For optimal health benefits, it’s best to get your omega-3s from fish oil. Aim for a couple of servings a week of cold water fish, and supplement daily with a high-quality fish oil supplement (look for one that’s molecularly distilled to remove contaminants, heavy metals, etc., and in its natural triglyceride form).

OK, gone fishin’!

Read also: How To Choose an Holistic Practitioner

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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