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What are omega-3 fats?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fats that are essential for human health. The best-used forms of omega-3 come from fatty cold-water fish like salmon, herring, and sardines. You can also find them in plant sources, including chia seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds.
Why are they good for runners?
Omega-3 fats are made up of EPA and DHA. They are needed for the maintenance of normal brain function, heart function and eyesight. DHA is vital to a baby’s brain development during pregnancy and early life. These fatty acids are particularly beneficial for runners because of their anti-inflammatory effects, they help reduce DOMS and increase blood flow to the muscles during our runs.
Reasons We Are Not Getting Enough Omega 3s
Many of us do not consume enough omega-3 fatty acids because there are few high quality sources in our diet. The best source is oily fish, but many of us don’t eat enough and the quality of the fish we consume is not as good as it used to be.
One theory is that our very distant ancestors consumed far more omega-3s than we do today because of the cooler conditions; Animals had to protect themselves more from the climate, so fish retained higher fat content and provided larger quantities when our ancestors ate them.
Today the earth is warmer and fish do not tend to store their body fat in such amounts. In addition, much of the fish in our supermarkets is not wild, but farmed. The quality and quantity of the fats are influenced by the diet the fish eat. As a result, quality affects whether a farmed fish was fed good, nutritious food or cheaper alternatives.
As mentioned earlier, there are readily available non-fish sources of omega-3, but these do not provide the active forms of EPA and DHA. This means that it is our body’s job to convert omega-3s into its active form, and how effectively this is done varies from person to person.
Omega-3 and omega-6
Not only do we eat too little omega-3, but in the west we also eat too much omega-6 fat. Omega-6 is an essential fat, but the main source in our diet is vegetable oils, which are found in many processed foods. These low-quality omega-6 fats mean that our omega 3: 6 ratio is not cheap when it comes to supporting our health.
How to optimize your level
If possible, eat three servings of fatty fish a week. Good choices include salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, freshwater trout, and Pacific mackerel. Some whitefish (like sea bass) and shellfish (like clams) contain omega-3 fatty acids, but not as much as oily varieties. Alternatively, you can add a tablespoon of flaxseed to your smoothie or top your salad with a few pieces of walnut.
Is it worth supplementing with omega-3?
The short answer is yes. Although I eat omega-3s regularly, I take a fish oil supplement to make sure I’m getting enough. I recommend avoiding cod liver oil in any form. After all, the liver is the organ of filtration and detoxification, while fish oils are made from the meat of fish.
Choose a good quality omega-3 supplement. Look for a five-star rating from International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS). This is one of the best ways to know that your fish oil is high in fats and low in impurities.
Omega-3 fish oil
To attempt: Omega 3 Zooki, £ 34.99 for 45 servings.
Kim Pearson is a nutritionist with over 10 years of experience. Internet: kim-pearson.com. You can also find them on Twitter and Instagram.
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