Fish oil supplements are consumed predominantly for their content of Omega-3 essential fatty acids which must be consumed from our diets.
When on the subject of Omega-3 oils the first thing to come to mind is likely to be fish/marine oils. For years it has been recommended that we consume oily fish 2-3 times a week as they are high in Omega-3s but it is interesting to know that fish do not produce Omega-3 naturally. Fish get their content of Omega-3s from the algae which is their food source and it is subsequently passed up the food chain to us.
Cut out the middle man/fish
Knowing that marine life must get their Omega-3s from their diet brings about the questions can we cut out the fish oils and get straight the the source ourselves? The answer is yes we can.
Any responsible retailer of fish oils, Cod Liver Oil and Krill Oil will ensure that their supplements are responsibly sourced from managed fish stocks which do not impact negatively on natural resources. Managed fisheries have to feed their fish stocks with food pellets which will almost always be supplemented with Omega-3 sources, this ensures the supplements and fish we subsequently purchase contain a nutritional benefit as close to a wild source as possible.
Simply put we grow plant based food stocks to supplement the food managed fish stocks, which in turn are harvested to supplement our dietary needs. We wrote an article in January about scientists producing a synthetic fish oil from plant sources as it is considered to be a sustainable and viable alternative.
Flaxseed is a viable alternative that can be produced in the UK
Flax is a food crop which is grown in cooler climates in the world - it's cultivation is particularly prevalent in the UK at the moment. Flaxseed Oil and Linseed Oil are the same thing and come from the same plant, flax oil is commonly associated with the food side and linseed as a wood finishing oil. You can use Flaxseed Oil to stain your wood but please note it is not advisable to consume hardware bought linseed oil as it commonly contains other ingredients which can be harmful!
Flaxseed Oil is one of natures richest non-fish sources of Omega-3s and provides an excellent taste-free alternative source of Omega-3s for those that find fish oils unpalatable.
High in alpha-linolenic acid for blood cholesterol
Flaxseed Oil is also known to be a source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is a beneficial polyunsaturated fatty acid. ALA is known to contribute towards the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations. A tablespoon of flax oil typically contains 7 grams of ALA which is over half of its total fat content.
It is a common misconception that Flaxseed doesn't contain the fatty acids DHA and EPA but this is not exactly true. The body converts ALA into DHA and EPA which help support normal heart function, whilst DHA also contributes to the maintenance of normal vision. The amount of DHA and EPA obtained varies from person to person therefore fish oils are generally considered to be a superior source.
Ensure you source a Flaxseed supplement which ensures quality
The Omega-3s in Flaxseed Oil can be easily oxidised and is susceptible to damage by heat and light. We recommend that you be selective about the quality of Flaxseed Oil you purchase by ensuring it is specifically cold pressed as it is often extracted by solvents and heat. This ensures that it is a high quality oil that has been extracted at temperatures no greater than 49C.
A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.