What is Omega-3?
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of your diet and have many important health benefits. Omega 3s are a group of polyunsaturated fats that cannot be made by the human body and must be obtained solely from the diet or supplementation. Polyunsaturated fats are considered the ‘healthy’ type of fats found in foods like olive oil & salmon as opposed to ‘unhealthy’ saturated fats found in foods like bacon & biscuits.
There are three main types of omega-3; ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Out of these, DHA is the most important.
Sources of Omega-3
Common sources of omega-3 include fish like salmon & sardines, cod liver oil, chia seeds, flax seeds, flaxseed oil, almonds, walnuts, marine algae & algal oil.
- ALA is mainly used for energy production in the body. It can also be converted by the body into EPA & DHA which have a more direct impact on health. ALA is mostly found in plant sources for example flaxseeds. The process of converting ALA into EPA and DHA is less efficient when compared to eating foods that directly provide sources of EPA and DHA.
- EPA is associated with aiding good heart health. EPA is found mainly in oily fish but can also be found in marine algae.
- DHA – DHA is integral to the human body’s make-up and plays a key part in the structure of your brain & eyes. DHA is mainly found in animal products like oily fish, fish oils, and cod liver oil. For this reason, it can be especially difficult for vegans and vegetarians to achieve adequate levels of DHA through diet alone and supplementation with a vegan omega 3 like marine algae should be considered. DHA is also very important during pregnancy and when breastfeeding as it supports foetal brain and eye development. We have developed both APOKRA Vegan Omega 3 DHA Drops for kids & APOKRA Vegan Omega 3 DHA Liquid for adults.
Health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega 3 has many health benefits and plays an essential role in our diet. Omega 3 plays an important role in heart health, brain health and eye health. It is important for all to obtain sufficient levels of Omega 3, as it is an essential nutrient in our diets; however, it is of particular importance to maintain sufficient levels in children, during pregnancy & when breastfeeding, vegans & vegetarians.
There are different guidelines during pregnancy and breastfeeding with regards to omega-3 DHA intake; too much oily fish can be harmful due to heavy metals that may build up - guidance should be sought from your healthcare professional. An alternative to fish-based products are plant-based products like marine algae which are free from heavy metals and safer when compared to fish/fish oil consumption. Studies have shown that prenatal DHA has a positive impact on children’s development including better social and verbal intelligence and also reduces the risk of giving birth prematurely. It is also very important for pregnant women to ensure that they are getting sufficient levels of omega-3 in their diets, as DHA contributes to normal foetal brain and eye development. It has been shown that pregnant and breastfeeding women with bolstered levels of omega 3 DHA in their diet have children with higher intelligence and visual acuity.
Adult and children
DHA plays a vital role in the maintenance of brain function and vision in adults & children. Interestingly, it has also been shown to be important in helping to control ADHD & has shown positive benefits in autism. Adequate dietary intake of Omega-3 DHA has also been shown to help mental health.
Vegetarian/Vegan Omega-3 Options
Annually, an estimated 450-1,000 billion wild fish are killed globally for fish oil and fishmeal production. Switching to a plant-based source like marine algae offers a much more sustainable and ethical approach to obtaining omega-3 within our diets bypassing the need to use fish-based products. One major benefit of marine algae is that it grows rapidly and can be sustainably farmed on a mass scale, this has the potential to help reduce overfishing of our oceans and ultimately contribute to a healthier planet.
Interestingly fish obtain their DHA & EPA content from the marine algae that they eat. Utilising marine algae as a direct source of omega-3 means that the process of culling fish can be bypassed. This method of obtaining omega-3 in our diets is a much more sustainable and ethical alternative. Fish products and fish oils also carry the risk of containing heavy metal content like mercury making marine algae a safer option.
Although a lot of omega-3 enriched foods which contain the higher levels of DHA and EPA are animal-based like oily fish, there are several plant-based vegan & vegetarian dietary options that are high in omega-3. Examples include chia seeds, walnuts, Brussels sprouts, hemp & flax seeds, algal oil (or marine algae), spirulina and chlorella.
Marine algae products are a very important source of Omega-3 as they provide a plant-based source of Omega-3 that provides high levels of DHA and EPA directly. This contrasts with some other plant-based options that contain mainly ALA, which then must be converted into DHA and EPA leading to inefficiencies in utilisation. Marine algae products are a great option for vegans & vegetarians as they can help bolster a person’s diet to ensure daily recommended levels are obtained. They also have the added benefit of not having the nasty fishy taste associated with cod liver oil and fish oil-based supplements.
We have developed a convenient, great tasting vegan omega 3 for kids & for adults.