Consuming more natural omega-3 sources is arguably one of the best things you can do for your health, particularly if you live in the Western world where, because of diet, the vast majority of people are deficient.
There are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids in plant based foods, nuts, and meats – but with some important caveats.
To understand natural sources of omega-3, we must first understand the modern Western diet and why there is such rampant deficiency.
First, let's address meats. Meats, like chicken, beef, and fish used to all be very good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. But that is no longer the case.
What went wrong?
The main culprit is the way livestock is raised now.
Cows, chicken, fish, you name it, they are raised for profit first and foremost. And to generate the largest amount of profit the animals need to be fattened up as fast as possible and then bought to market.
Livestock like chicken and cows are fed grains to be quickly fattened up. Grain, however, is not their natural diet.
Such animals used to be free range and eat grass (among other things). Their natural diet is what caused these animals to be very high natural omega-3 sources.
This is why such things as grassfed beef is making a comeback – not only among the health-conscious, but also among people who want to improve the environment.
Out of all of the natural sources of omega-3, fish used to be the best choice possible. However, like grain fed beef, that is no longer the case anymore for two reasons.
1) If you go to your local market, exchanges are that piece of fish you buy, say the salmon, is farm raised. Farm raised fish are not fed their natural diets. They are fed little food pellets. The naturally pink flesh of a salmon is duplicated on the farm raised variety by having dyes injected into the flesh! It's hard to believe but it's true.
Fish were good sources of omega-3 fatty acids because of their natural diet used to be – for example, the consumption of algae, which no longer happens in farm raised fish.
2) Even if you purchase and consume Ocean living fish with high omega 3 content, the problem you face is one of contamination. Most of the world's Oceans are polluted and once healthy fish now harbor toxins like mercury, lead, and PCB's. This is why the FDA advocates a limited consumption of fish, especially for pregnant women, who can pass along these toxins to the developing fetus.
Now, having said all of this, fish still is the best of the natural omega-3 sources as long as you take it in the form of purified fish oil supplements.
A process called molecular distillation is used in quality supplements to separate the impurities from the health enhancing omega 3 oils. The oils are then encapsulated and taken as dietary supplements without the risk of any toxins.
What about plant and nut based natural sources of omega-3?
These should definitely be included in your diet. A couple of good sources of omega-3 fatty acids in this regard are flaxseed, walnuts, and almonds.
However, plant based sources are not as beneficial as fish and beef sources for a simple reason.
Here's why: there are three types of omega 3 fatty acids, abbreviated as ALA, DHA, and EPA.
DHA and EPA is the form they come in when you consume natural grassfed beef or natural fish.
ALA is the form they come in, for example, in flaxeed. The human body must convert the ALA into DHA and EPA before it can be used.
This conversion may not happen efficiently for a variety of reasons. Some older people, or folks who are in less than perfect health may not be able to convert the ALA to DHA and EPA as needed.
Now, if you're a vegetarian, then of course you really do not have a choice, so in your case, start adding walnuts, almonds, and flaxseed to your diet.
If you are not a vegetarian, start buying grassfed beef, free range chicken, eggs, and fish more. Grassfed beef is going to be more expensive, of course. And if you buy the omega-3 eggs that they now offer at supermarkets, you'll pay more. But it's well worth it.
When it comes to fish, choose to take fish oil supplements that have been purified. And make sure the supplements are produced with a species of fish that is very naturally high in DHA and EPA. These tend to be the fish that thrive in the cold, deep waters of the Ocean.
In short, there are many natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids, but purified fish oil supplements are hand down the best choice …. and also the most cost effective way to take in these vital health promoting substances. A month's supply of a top notch quality fish oil supplement will generally cost you less than one grassfed beef steak.