As you read this, a fatty acid called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is helping regulate your blood pressure, immune system, heart health plus various organ functions throughout your body. A related substance, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), is an important building block in your brain and eye and is essential in helping you think and see. For you men, DHA is also a component of sperm.
EPA and DHA are members of the omega-3 family of fats that is commonly found in seafood. Yet, many people are finding plenty of sound reasons to forgo fish nowadays.
Seafood is known to be a concentrated source of two types of contaminants: heavy metals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium, and industrial pollutants, such as PCBs, DDT, dioxin, flame-retardants and many more. Fish is also a primary source of food-borne illness.
There are also some compelling ecological and ethical arguments for avoiding fish. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that about 70 percent of the world’s fish populations are now fully-fished, overexploited, depleted or only very slowly recovering. Furthermore, commercial fishing operations generally have huge by-catches and the fish, turtles and sea mammals that are unintentionally caught generally do not survive.
Fortunately, including seafood in our diet is not essential to our health. Apart from eating fish, there are two ways to obtain the two long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that do such important jobs for us. Our bodies can build EPA and DHA from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), another member of the omega-3 family, which is found in flaxseed, hempseed, walnuts, canola oil and soy. A good choice is to include one of the following in your daily diet: two teaspoons of flaxseed oil, two tablespoons of ground flaxseed, or a handful of walnuts (1-2 ounces).
In theory, we should all be able to convert the omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed to EPA and DHA. Yet, it seems that some of us are less efficient at converting ALA to EPA and DHA. The following people may benefit from consuming direct sources of EPA and DHA:
·Pregnant women, due to the requirements for EPA and DHA for the fetus
·People with depression, schizophrenia or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), have conditions linked to low levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
·People with diabetes, who have a limited capacity to convert ALA to EPA and DHA.
·People with a high intake of fats, such as omega-6 fatty acids, trans fats and saturated fats, which inhibit the conversion process.
Thus, for some people, direct sources of EPA and DHA may be beneficial. Recent research has shown EPA to lessen the symptoms of schizophrenia for some people. Low levels of DHA have been associated with depression, Alzheimer’s disease and ADHD and may impair brain and eye development in infants.
Fortunately, EPA and DHA are also available in sea plants, such as seaweed and cold-water microalgae. In fact, this is where fish get their EPA and DHA. (Here, we refer to DHA-rich microalgae, not blue-green algae.) Recent scientific breakthroughs allow us to get these omega-3s in a vegetarian form derived directly from the microalgae. Visit www.veganessentials.com for information about omega-3 DHA and Omega-Zen-3, both of which are sources of vegan DHA. A very new organic, vegan British product, V-Pure at www.water4.net combines both EPA and DHA.
For people in good health, flaxseed provides a daily requirement for ALA, which our bodies convert to EPA and DHA. Two tablespoons of Liquid Gold Dressing (above) provides the daily requirement of omega-3 fatty acids, and is delicious on salad, baked potatoes, rice and steamed broccoli.
Vesanto Melina is co-author of seven food and nutrition classics. For more information about omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients, read Becoming Vegetarian, Raising Vegetarian Children and Becoming Vegan. For information about omega-3s and various health conditions, read The Food Allergy Survival Guide. www.nutrispeak.com/ email@example.com/ 604-882-6782. Vesanto Melina, Common Ground Publishing Corp.