If you’re of a certain age — actually, anywhere north of 20 years old — you probably don’t have childhood memories of being told to eat your omega 3’s. Roughage, sure. Vitamin C and D, naturally. But essential fatty acids? Not so much.
Contrast that with today, and the benefits of omega 3’s are talked about almost everywhere. There is increasing evidence that omega 3’s really do deliver health benefits — and not just for one particular part of the body, or one segment of the population. In study after study, they’ve been proven to improve heart health, support brain and eye development in children, and reduce the risk of breast cancer, hip fractures and even dementia in women.
In fact, the more critical question is not whether omega 3’s help, but rather, what’s the best source of omega 3’s?
Know your omega 3’s
As we’ve explained in another blog <link to “What are the best types of omega 3’s?” blog>, not all omega 3’s have the same level of health benefits. Let’s start by noting that omega 3’s are all types of essential fatty acids that the human body needs in order to maintain health.
There are three main types of naturally-occurring omega 3’s that are most talked about — and they fall into two buckets:
- The first bucket includes omega 3’s DHA and EPA, which naturally appear in salmon, halibut, sardines, and other fish whose food chain begin with much smaller fish that consume certain types of ocean algae. These are the most beneficial types of omega 3’s for humans. In fact, a recent study by a researcher at Harvard found that people who consume a daily average of 400 mg of EPA and DHA from fish increased their life expectancy by 2.2 years.
- The second bucket includes omega 3 ALA, which is found in plants such as flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans or canola seeds. ALA cannot be used in its original form by the human body, and must be converted first to omega 3 DHA and EPA.
But here’s the catch: of the all the ALA one consumes (whether from the original sources or the animals that have eaten them) only a fraction (6%) is converted into the omega 3’s DHA and EPA. That means it’s almost impossible to eat enough ALA to get the DHA and EPA health benefits — even if you eat meat or eggs that are high in ALA, which have generally been produced by feeding the animals flax seed or flax oil.
Trying to derive all of the omega 3’s your body needs from eating fish is certainly doable; consider the diets of the Japanese and Norwegians, for example (check out our interesting graphic, World-wide Omega 3 Consumption). But the typical American cuisine, such as it is, is more diverse.
An interest in new sources
There are various products on the market competing to be the best source of omega 3’s — from margarine-like table spreads, to breakfast cereals, eggs and more. But a closer reading of the ingredients and nutrition labels on these foods can be revealing. Most of them either contain flax seed or flax seed oil or animals that were fed such substances, and therefore feature only omega 3 ALA.
Some enterprising businesses have even begun raising cattle and chicken on diets that include flax or certain types of grasses and grains that are high in omega 3’s. The good news is, their meat contains omega 3’s — but the not-so-good news is that it’s only of the ALA variety.
That makes the approach taken by Omega3Beef all the more unique and beneficial. After years of research, the company has developed and patented a cattle feed supplement that contains the same sea-based algae that form the basis of the food chain of halibut and salmon, but grown on land in pure, saltwater tanks. As a result, the cattle raised on the supplement produce beef with omega 3 DHA and EPA levels similar to mahi mahi. In fact, we think our innovative approach will soon make Omega3Beef the best source of omega 3’s on the market.