Nutrition

Flax Seed & Omega 3 — If Fish Oil Doesn’t Float Your Boat…

Written by Adam

Our recent fish oil post sparked tons of interesting conversations. One reader, Catherine, had a very interesting take on it…

Here’s MY concern with regards to your fish oil thing….I’m allergic to fish. If it has scales & lives in water, then I don’t have it…….unless I’m feeling suicidal. I am allergic to nuts, as well. (pecans, walnut, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts.etc)

And don’t give me that k-rap about a peanut being a “legume”. When I eat a peanut, I break out in hives & my throat closes up. I eat beans, lentils or peas, nothing happens.

So, all these articles go on & on about healthy fats, omega-this, how wonderful it is for you to chow down on almonds & I think “But what if I CAN’T???”

We didn’t want to leave her in the lurches. So we asked our good friend and colleague Dr Kathryn Woodall to address her concerns. Seems flax seeds might be the ticket… Here’s what she had to say:

Flax Seeds Are A Good Source Of Omega 3, If You Can’t Stomach Fish Oil…

By Dr Kathryn Woodall

Food allergies have you feeling like you have to miss out on the superfoods everyone else is raving about?

When it comes to omega-3’s, all the articles talk about fish oil—be it cod, krill, salmon or some other scaly beast.  A few authors will list nuts as a source.  But if the mere thought of either leaves your throat itching, I’ve got good news for you.

Flax seed is an excellent source of essential oils.  It’s about 4:1 omega-3:omega-6.  And because they’re seeds, people are rarely allergic to them.  (Hempseed works too, but it’s closer to 1:2.  That’s fine if you don’t have a lot of other omega-6’s in your diet, but not good enough if you do.)

However, there’s a slight catch.  Omega-3’s go rancid very easily.  That’s the reason the good quality fish oil is processed in a plant that keeps temperatures low and adds stabilizers to keep the oil fresh, and why it’s best to keep any raw nuts/nut oils you’re using for omega-3’s in the fridge.

Along those same lines, you’ll want to keep the flax seed and hempseed in the fridge and only take out the 1-2 tablespoons you’re going to use that day.

You can throw your flax seeds in your smoothie, sprinkle them over a salad, add them to stir-fry (once it’s on your plate), or use a small grinder to turn them into a consistency that lets them be mixed into your oatmeal or spread on veggies, fruit, or toast.

As an added bonus, you’ll get omega-3’s, a little protein, and some additional fiber in your diet compared to swallowing a fish oil capsule with only the oil.  Who said allergy options are never as good as other sources?

If you don’t want the fiber or protein, there’re some companies that sell flaxseed oil, but you’ll want to take great care that they’re processed and stored in a way that keeps the oil fresh.  You’ll also want to make sure they didn’t add soy or some other nut oil if allergies are an issue.

We all want to have a balance of about 1:2 omega-3:omega-6 in our diet to reap the positive benefits of both.  So for a quick reference, here’s a list of a few sources of both for you.

Omega-3 Sources

  • Butternuts
  • Cold water fish/oil
  • Flax seed
  • Hazelnuts
  • Hempseed
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts/walnut oil

There is some debate, but there are those who claim that meat, cheese, and milk from grass-fed beef, as well as eggs from chickens fed greens and insects, have higher levels of omega-3 than their counterparts.  Either way, that doesn’t necessarily make them ideal sources of omega-3.

Omega-6 sources:

  • Avocado
  • Borage oil
  • Corn oil
  • Eggs
  • Hemp oil
  • Many nuts
  • Poultry
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Safflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Most vegetable oils
  • Whole grains

Until next time, may the choices and actions you take today, create a healthier ‘you’ tomorrow. Enjoy your flax seeds.
Kathryn

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Adam

2 Comments

  • Actually, flax seeds are an inappropriate substitute for fish oil (as is krill oil). I did a fair amount of research on this recently, and http://healthyomega3.com/blog/omega-3-and-flax-seed-oil/ is one of the more useful links on the subject:

    > Flax seed oil benefits primarily revolve around the ability of the body to use the ALA from the oil and convert it into DHA and EPA. The body does not use the ALA directly, but it can turn it into those other 2 essential fatty acids.

    http://www.dhaomega3.org/Overview/Conversion-Efficiency-of-ALA-to-DHA-in-Humans notes that the actual conversion rate of AHA to DHA is low to extremely low (it’s variable in individuals):

    > The original study using this technology was reported from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1994 wherein the conversion efficiency of ALA to DHA in young adult male subjects was reported to be at the level of a 4% efficiency, which would predict that 25 parts of dietary ALA would be needed to provide the equivalent rise in circulating levels of DHA which could be delivered by the direct consumption of one part of DHA. The overall conversion efficiency from ALA to EPA plus DHA combined was estimated to be 12%. It is noteworthy that the very limited conversion of ALA to DHA was also highly variable between the individual subjects thereby indicating difficulty in predicting those in the population who may have extremely compromised capacities for the conversion of ALA to DHA. Subsequent studies by Pawlosky et al. (2001) using similar technology and that more recently by Hussein et al. (2005) showed estimated conversions from ALA to DHA of less than 0.1% and a conversion to EPA plus DHA combined of less than 0.4% efficiency overall. The latter study was conducted over a fairly lengthy time period of 12-weeks in duration. Burgee et al. from the U.K. has compared the apparent conversion efficiency of ALA to DHA in young adult men and women. Interestingly, no detectable formation of DHA was found in the men whereas an approximate conversion efficiency from ALA to DHA of 9% was found in women.

    DHA is *why* Omega-3’s a desirable.

    Instead of getting DHA from ALA conversion via flaxseed, you’re better off trying to get it where the fish get it from: algae. You can find supplements which concentrate DHA directly from algae and package them in pill form. Amazon’s DHA bestsellers are mostly vegan products: http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/hpc/3773481/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_hpc_1_6_last

  • If you want a real alternative to fish omega-3, try Opti3: http://www.opti3omega.com. It provides the both with proven levels of Omega-3 EPA and DHA and is vegetarian and vegan suitable.

    I’ve been a vegan for 10 years and have tried everything from Flax to Cranberry Seeds and more! The truth is none of them offer real omega-3. Opti3 uses algaes and is fantastic! Since using it I notice the difference in health and mind!

    Caroline

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