Omega-3 fatty acids Very important for health.
The best way to get enough omega-3 is to eat raw omega-3 rich foods like fatty fish.
If you don't eat a lot of fatty fish, you may want to consider taking omega-3 supplements.
However, there are hundreds of different omega-3 functional foods. Not all of them provide the same health benefits.
This detailed guide explains everything you need to know about omega-3 functional foods.
Omega-3 exists in many forms
Fish oil has both natural and processed forms.
Processing can affect the type of fatty acid. This is very important, because some forms are better absorbed than others.
- Fish: In fresh fish, omega-3 fatty acids are found in free fatty acids, phospholipids and triglycerides.
- Fish oil: In common fish oils, omega-3 fatty acids are mainly found in .
- Processed fish oil: When fish oil is processed, refined or concentrated, they become substances not found in nature.
- Recombinant triglyceride: Ethyl esters in processed fish oil can be converted into triglycerides, then called "recombinant triglycerides."
All of these forms have health benefits, but studies show that absorption of omega-3 from ethyl esters is not as good as other forms .
As a general rule, absorption of omega-3 in the form of free fatty acids (mainly in food) is 50% larger than triglycerides, and absorption of triglycerides is 50% higher than ethyl esters .
Conclude: Omega-3 exists in many forms, usually triglycerides. Some well-processed fish oils may contain ethyl omega-3 esters, the body does not absorb them.
Natural fish oil
This is an oil derived from oily fish tissue, mostly in the form of triglycerides.
Natural fish oil contains some important nutrients.
About 30% of the oil is omega-3 (EPA and DHA), while the remaining 70% are other fatty acids that can help absorb .
Salmon , sardines and cod liver are one of the most popular sources of natural fish oil. These oils often exist in liquid form, and are more resistant to oxidation than processed oils .
Conclude: Natural fish oil contains EPA and DHA. It also contains vitamins A and D, as well as other fats that help absorb.
Processed fish oil
Processed fish oils are often refined and / or concentrated, converting fats into ethyl esters.
The refining process separates oil from contaminants, such as mercury and . Concentration of oil may also increase levels and . In fact, these oils may contain pure EPA and / or DHA at a rate of 50-90%.
Processed fish oil accounts for the majority of the fish oil market, because they are cheap and often in capsules, a popular form for consumers.
The body does not absorb processed fish oil as well as natural fish oil because it is in the form of ethyl esters. However, some manufacturers even process oil to turn it back into an easily absorbed synthetic fat .
These oils are called recombinant triglycerides (or re-esterification). They are the most expensive fish oil supplements and make up only a small part of the market.
Conclude: Processed fish oil is refined and / or concentrated. They are easily oxidized and difficult to absorb by the body, unless they are converted to triglycerides through the synthesis process.
Krill oil is extracted from Antarctic krill, a small animal that looks like shrimp.
Krill oil contains omega-3 in both triglyceride and .
Many studies have shown that omega-3 is absorbed from phospholipid in krill oil as well as absorbed from triglycerides in fish oil, even better .
Krill oil has a high antioxidant capacity, as it contains an antioxidant called .
In addition, molluscs are very small and have a short lifespan so they do not accumulate many pollutants throughout their lives. Therefore, their oils do not need to be refined and rarely exist in the form of ethyl esters.
Conclude: Natural krill contains less pollutants and contains a powerful antioxidant. It provides EPA and DHA in both triglyceride and phospholipid forms, which are well absorbed by the body.
Green mussel oil
The green mussel is native to New Zealand, its oil is usually in the form of triglycerides and free fatty acids.
In addition to EPA and DHA, it also contains (ETA).
This rare omega-3 fatty acid may be more effective at reducing inflammation than other omega-3 fatty acids .
Consumption of green mussel oil is considered environmentally friendly
Conclude: Another source of omega-3 is green mussel oil. Shellfish contains many types of omega-3, and is considered an environmentally friendly choice.
Omega-3 mammal oil is made from seal fat, and comes in natural triglyceride form.
In addition to EPA and DHA, it also contains (DPA). DPA is a rare omega-3 fatty acid with some health benefits .
Omega-3 mammal oils also have particularly low levels of omega-6.
Conclude: In addition to EPA and DHA in the form of triglycerides, mammal oil also contains a rare omega-3 fat called DPA.
ALA stands for alpha-linolenic acid. This is the "plant form" of omega-3.
Unfortunately, ALA does not work in the human body.
It needs to be converted into EPA or DHA that can be used, but this transition is very limited in humans .
Most vegetable oils also have higher levels of omega-6 than omega-3.
Conclude: ALA oil is made from plant sources, including both omega-3 and omega-6. They do not contain EPA or DHA, omega-3s that work in the human body.
Seaweed, especially microalgae, is another source of triglycerides that provides EPA and DHA.
In fact, EPA and DHA in fish are derived from algae, and algae are eaten by small fish and move up the food chain.
Studies show that algae oil is even more concentrated in omega-3, especially DHA, than fish oil.
It may also contain important minerals like iodine.
Algae oil is a very good source of omega-3, especially for vegetarians and vegans .
Moreover, algae are environmentally friendly and sustainable. It can meet the growing needs of the world's people about omega-3 fatty acids.
In addition, algae oil does not contain any contaminants, such as heavy metals. This makes it a particularly good option.
Conclude: Microalgae are sources of EPA and DHA plants in the form of triglycerides. It is environmentally friendly and is considered a great source of omega-3 for vegetarians and vegans.
Omega-3 oils are usually contained in soft capsules or gels.
These are popular products for consumers, because they are tasteless and easy to swallow.
The capsules are usually made from a soft gelatin layer, and many manufacturers also wrap capsules with one .
This shell keeps the capsule from dissolving until it reaches the small intestine. This is very common in fish oil capsules, as it prevents burping of fish.
However, it can also hide the bad smell of oily fish oil.
If you use omega-3 capsules, you should open it every time you use it and smell it to make sure it doesn't rancid.
Conclude: Capsules are a popular way to supplement omega-3. However, the capsule may hide the smell, so it's best to open it occasionally to check it out.
What to pay attention to when buying omega-3 supplements
When buying any omega-3 functional foods, you should read the labels carefully.
Also check the following:
- Omega-3 type: Many omega-3 functional foods often contain very little, if any, the most important types of omega-3s are EPA and DHA. Make sure your functional foods contain these substances.
- Amount of omega-3: The functional food can be written on the front that contains 1000 mg of fish oil per tablet. However, on the back you will read that EPA and DHA only have 320 mg.
- Omega-3 form: For better absorption, look for FFA (free fatty acids), TG, rTG (recombinant triglycerides and recombinant triglycerides), and PL (phospholipid), not EE (ethyl ester).
- Purity and authenticity: Try to buy products there or "third party checked" on it. That shows that the product is safe and actually contains what they write on the label.
- Freshness: Omega-3 is prone to rancidity. Once rancid they will have a bad smell and are less effective or even harmful. Always check the expiry date, smell the product and see if it contains antioxidants like vitamin E.
- Sustainability: Try to buy certified fish oil by or a similar organization. Small fish with a short life cycle tend to be more sustainable.
Conclude: Check the type and content of omega-3 in your product. It should contain EPA and DHA in large amounts, and should have antioxidants to keep them from rancidity.
Which Omega-3 functional foods are the best?
Regular addition of fish oil is probably the best choice for most people who just want to improve their condition.
However, just remember that natural fish oil usually contains no more than 30% EPA and DHA, meaning that 70% is another fat.
If you want to drink lots of EPA and DHA, you will need to consume a large amount calories and vitamin A to get the amount of omega-3 you're aiming for.
In that case, taking a supplement containing concentrated omega-3 is obviously a better option, because the ratio of EPA and DHA can be up to 90%. Look for brands that contain omega-3 in the form of free fatty acids (best), triglycerides or phospholipids.
Here are a few good omega-3 supplements that you can try: Nordic Naturals, Green Pasture, Bio-Marine Plus, Omegavia and Ovega-3.
Conclude: Drinking fish oil supplements regularly is probably enough for most people who only seek to optimize their health. If you need larger doses of omega-3, supplement with concentrated omega-3.
Messages to note
For most people, taking fish oil supplements regularly is enough.
However, to make sure the supplementary pill actually contains what it says, and pay special attention to EPA and DHA content.
EPA and DHA are best in animal-derived omega-3 products. Vegetarian options are also available, but usually only contain ALA oil. An exception is algae oil, which is an excellent, quality and suitable source of omega-3 for everyone, including vegan people.
It is best to take these supplements with a meal that contains fat, because fats increase the absorption of omega-3 .
Finally, keep in mind that omega-3 is perishable, like fish, so buying them in bulk is a bad idea.
Finally, omega-3 may be one of the most beneficial functional foods you can take. Just make sure you choose it wisely.