Have you ever wondered whether you should be using fish oil or flax oil? Are they interchangeable? If not, which one is better? We break down what to use and why.
Fish oil has certainly been more heavily marketed and is well-known as a source of Omega-3’s, but then you may have heard more recently about the vastly different qualities of fish oil depending on the source and also how it is impacting on the fish population.
Confused? With the launch of our new Soothe & Heal Product Range, which contains flaxseed oil, we thought we would take a closer look at this topic.
SO WHAT DO ‘OMEGA-3’S’ ACTUALLY DO?
They are good fats with health benefits including healthier brains and hearts, improved mood, lowered inflammation, fewer cardiac arrhythmias, reduced joint pain, lowered triglycerides (triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood.), and healthier skin and hair.
Omega-3’s can come in 3 forms – EPA, DHA and ALA, fish oil contains DHA and EPA and flaxseed oil ALA. EPA and DHA have been largely researched, the lesser researched ALA can also be converted by the body to DHA and EPA – and then delivered to the site where the body needs it.
That much is known but the ‘grey area’ has been how much ALA is converted and is that enough to give your body what it needs?
Luckily, there is more recent research available now and this is telling us that the conversion of ALA to EPA, as measured in the blood, is between 8 - 20% and the conversion to DHA is 0.5% - 9%. Based on the suggested serving size of 15ml (1TBsp) a day of flax seed oil, this would provide 8600mg of ALA, which your body could potentially convert to 688 – 1720mg of EPA and 43 – 774mg of DHA per day.
GREAT YOU MAY BE THINKING BUT IS THAT ENOUGH?
The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and New Zealand (NHMRC) suggest that we need an absolute minimum EPA + DHA of 90mg/day for Women (145mg/day if breastfeeding) and 160mg/day for men. So yes, it is possible to get enough EPA and DHA through the ALA conversion! And not only are you exceeding the minimum (which is always a plus) you have plenty of ALA left over which has the added benefits of increasing energy, reducing allergies and healthier skin. (For the full Ministry of Health guide read more here.)
Flaxseed oil production is a sustainable practice and directly contributes to our economy.
Fish oil production has been under the microscope lately as in the Northern hemisphere, fish stocks are seriously contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals and radioactivity. The demand for fish oil will potentially cause huge problems for aquaculture with a 2011 report predicting by 2020 fish oil supply will be short by 744,000 metric tonnes!
If fish oil is the right oil for you then it would pay to ensure the brand you buy is sustainably sourced from non-polluted waters.
Obviously, we are in the ‘flaxseed oil’ camp. Having experienced and seen the benefits of not only the oil but our products containing this amazing oil, it is hard not to be!
By Sarah Cowan (Managing Director, The Herb Farm) with information and research by Waihi Bush Organic Farm.
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