Caution to non-fish eaters, you’re probably missing out on an essential nutrient: Omega-3 fatty acids. The roles of omega-3 fatty acids in health are numerous. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids play a role in growth and development, preventing cardiovascular disease, reducing inflammation and chronic disease to name a few. For athletes, while omega-3 fatty acids won’t directly increase performance, they may help indirectly improve performance by supporting recovery and reducing the risk of injury. Need even more reasons to consume omega-3 fatty acids? Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to lower your risk of heart disease, cancer and dementia. I think it’s safe to say that omega-3 fatty acids are important.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid. This means that they must be consumed through food because our body can’t make them. Omega-3 fatty acids can be further broken down into three types:
- Alpha-linolenic acid: ALA
- Docosahexaenoic acid: DHA
- Eicosapentaenoic acid: EPA
Men need about 1.6 grams of ALA each day. Women need about 1.1 grams of ALA each day. For non-fish eaters, ALA can be easily consumed through plant sources. For instance, 1 tbsp. of ground flaxseed provides about 2.4 grams of ALA and 14 walnuts about 2.5 grams. However, most people need to be mindful about including these foods in their daily diet.
The other two omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are found in fish. This is where the issue comes in for non-fish eaters. While ALA can be converted to EPA and DHA, the body doesn’t do this very well. As a result, we should aim to consume 2 servings (1 serving= 75 grams) of fish each week to meet our EPA and DHA requirements. Some of the best sources of EPA and DHA include: Atlantic salmon, anchovies, Arctic char, Pacific cod, Herring, halibut, mackerel, mussels, oysters and tuna.
So how about if you don’t eat fish, such as those who are vegetarians or allergic to fish? If you’re not consuming the recommended two servings of fish each week, then you should consider taking a supplement containing 300-450 mg of EPA and DHA each day. If you’re not a vegan or vegetarian, then some reputable omega-3 supplements include:
- Jameison Omega-3 select: containing 200 mg of DHA and 300 mg of EPA
- Klean: containing 200 mg of DHA and 400 mg of EPA
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, then you should take a microalgae-oil supplement, since they are not made from fish. Some good brands for this include Nordic Naturals Algae Omega, Weber Naturals Omega-3 100% Vegetarian, and NutraVege Omega-3 plan.
Aim to make fish a part of your weekly diet. As promised, here is the link to one of my favourite fish recipes: one-pot tuna & broccoli pasta. Not only is it delicious, and easy to make, but the leftovers are great to bring for lunch. If you don’t eat fish, then consider taking a supplement as an alternative. The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids can’t be overstated.