Importance of omega - 3

This is guest post from Josh Wait who owns Box - 2 - Box, a company who provide reviews, advice and tips for any CrossFitter travelling in Columbia (more countries coming soon!).

Josh as written a superb article on the importance of omega 3.

Buying fish straight off the Beach in Taganga, Colombia. Only Wild fish are high in Omega 3

Buying fish straight off the Beach in Taganga, Colombia. Only Wild fish are high in Omega 3

Omega 3. It’s arguably the most important supplement to be taking for anybody living an athletic lifestyle. Our bodies can’t produce this essential fatty acid, so we must get it from our diet. But what should you look for if you’re buying Fish Oil or Omega 3 abroad? And can you change your diet to avoid the need?

Buying fish straight off the Beach in Taganga, Colombia. Only Wild fish are high in Omega 3

The list of benefits is substantial, but the key ones are: Anti-inflammation, joint pain, brain function, vision and eye health, concentration, and prenatal fetus development.

Modern diets are much higher in Omega 6, than in Omega 3. This is partly a result of a lack of wild fish in our diets.

Modern diets are much higher in Omega 6, than in Omega 3. This is partly a result of a lack of wild fish in our diets.

Personally, I stopped taking fish oil when I was living in Taganga, a fishing town on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. My diet was largely based around fresh fish bought directly from the fishermen on the beach (photo). The benefits of fish oils are felt over time, so I’ll never know if this was the right thing to do, but it’s important to note that it’s necessary to keep the dose consistent to get the benefits.

Are all Omega fatty acids good? - Well, yes and no. Our bodies need as close as possible to an equal balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in order to function optimally. We supplement with Omega-3 because today’s modern diets are typically much higher in Omega-6. The aim is to balance the two out, so adding Omega-6 is counterproductive.

Getting an optimal balance of 1:1

To put this into the context of today’s modern society, the average ratio across the general population has been reported to be as high as 16:1 (Omega-6 to Omega-3). This is largely due to the overwhelming presence of processed seed and vegetable oils in our foods. However, even you actively avoid processed oils, foods that we typically see as healthy, such as eggs, chicken, red meat, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and almonds, also contribute to a diet high Omega-6. It’s all about balance, so adding fish into your diet or taking away red meat will help.

Modern diets are much higher in Omega 6, than in Omega 3. This is partly a result of a lack of wild fish in our diets.

However, it’s not that simple. The quality of the fish you eat has a huge impact. Intensively farmed fish doesn’t have the natural diet high in phytoplankton needed, which is what leads to high amounts of Omega-3. Therefore, it pays to make the most of your travels and eat fresh, locally caught wild fish.

Vegan Sources of useful Omega-3

Unfortunately for vegans, while certain seeds contain Omega-3, this is the Omega-3 ALA.

There are three Omega-3’s that we should know about. ALA, which is then broken down into the two useful Omega-3s: EPA and DHA. The bad news is that humans are very inefficient at breaking down ALA into EPA and DHA. Some research shows that women are better at converting ALA than men, with women converting on average 21% of ALA to EPA and 9% to DHA, while men have a conversion rate of 8% to EPA and only 4% to DHA. Regardless, it’s not very high and is probably not be bringing you closer to the ideal 1:1 ratio.

Theoretically Phytoplankton algae is the answer for vegans. There are EPA & DHA supplements that use a potent Phytoplankton source for these two fatty acids. However, I haven't been able to find them in Colombia yet.

Spirulina and Chlorella

These two super greens are capable of a lot, but despite the research that shows them to contain EPA and DHA, the amount is so small that we would need to consume excess amounts of it to be a viable source of supplementation.

Supplementation

There’s probably no getting away from it. Omega-6 fatty acids are everywhere, even in the cleanest healthy diet of nuts and seeds. Unless you are eating a coastal diet high in locally caught wild fish, you will probably benefit from a good quality source of EPA and DHA.

  • When we supplement with fish oil, make sure you look for the EPA and DHA as a proportion of the total oil. 30% EPA & DHA is probably the lowest amount to look for.

  • Look for one with an antioxidant such as Vitamin E. This helps increase absorption.

  • Choose one which is cold pressed so that it is less likely to have been oxidised.

  • Look for at least 3g of EPA+DHA per serving (you’ll want to have more than one a day at this dose)

  • Check the date stamp, but also consider the temperature it might have been kept at. Light will also oxidase fish oil, so look for dark coloured capsules, or ones in opaque packaging.

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Vegan omega 3

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The best omega 3 supplement


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Box - 2 - Box fitness

Box 2 Box was born out of a passion for fitness, but at the same time wanting to continue exploring the world. Parts of the world are going through a fitness revolution, and in many ways fitness and travel can go hand in hand. However, there are also a lot of challenges. Box ii Box has been put together to help you navigate these challenges.

They have put together some great guides to make sure that you get the most from your training and keep you improving day after day.


Sources


Nutrition adviceLiam Holmes