Natural omega 3 sources are abundant in a healthy diet. You'll find these fatty acids in whole grains, seeds, nuts, eggs and fish.
But what's all the fatty acid fuss about anyway?
The nutrients from omega 3 sources are vital for better brain function, reducing inflammation, pain and depression, healthy reproduction, pregnancy and babies, as well as preventing heart disease, cancer diabetes and more.
They're so important that long-chain omega 3s, like DHA, are what separates us from our knuckle-walking, vine swinging ancestors. Researchers point out that without DHA our brains would never have developed higher capacity intelligence.
Early forms of man, living on savannas, had no long-chain fatty acids available in their diets. This resulted in decreased brain capacity.
However, once they moved to the shore and began eating oily fish from the ocean, there was a great leap in brain capacity. (Lipids, Vol. 34:s39-s47)
This is what gave Homo Sapiens – that's us – a greater ability to learn, reason, think, plan, organize and manipulate the world around us. But here's what's particularly interesting about all this.
Our ancestors had access to foods that provided the omega 3 fatty acid ALA, which is found in whole grains, nuts and seeds and is an essential part of a good diet. But for optimum health and development we also need a source that provides the other fatty acids, like EPA, DPA and DHA.
ALA is called an essential fatty acid because your body can't produce it on it's own. The only way you can get it is from food. In theory, ALA can convert to the long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, but in reality this is very difficult for your body to do. It's actually impossible to produce enough for optimum health.
The whole conversion process is negatively influence by diet, digestion, age, gender and lifestyle. On average only about 2% of the ALA consumed ever gets converted to EPA and almost none to DHA. This is a problem since DHA is vital for so many health benefits.
The only way for you to fill this gap is to make sure you're getting sources that contain pre-formed long-chain omega 3s. This is easily accomplished by eating more fish and getting more fish oil.
You should still eat the nuts, eggs, whole grains and seeds that contain ALA, but your best, most complete omega 3 source is oily fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel.
Studies show that 5 or more servings a week (650mg to 800mg daily) will reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses.
But if you're really serious about your health, you should follow the example of the Japanese. It's estimated that the average person in Japan consumes 1500 mg to 2000 mg of fish oil daily and they have a much lower incidence of depression and heart disease than anywhere else in the world. But that's a lot of fish.
Fortunately it's been proven that you can get the same great results from supplementing your diet with good quality fish oil capsules. Just make sure you find a pure, naturally balanced fish oil that contains all 8 omega 3 fatty acids and has no "hidden oils."