British people today are finding it more and more difficult to follow a healthy diet. This is no wonder if we consider the many obstacles in the way of proper nutrition. For starters, junk food is a much easier and cheaper alternative to cooking with fresh, organic produce. Added to the fact that there is increasingly less time for cooking and meal prep, and all this without even mentioning pollution and toxic food sources.
A common deficiency in the western lifestyle and diet is omega-3 essential fatty acids. These fatty acids are important components of the proper functioning of various systems in our bodies. If consumed daily and in adequate amounts, they can help preserve our overall health and well being. If you want to know more, keep reading! In this guide, we go over all the information you’ll need to balance your omega-3 levels and lead a healthy lifestyle.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Key Facts
- 3 Our Selection of the Best Omega-3 Supplements on the UK Market
- 4 Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Omega-3 Supplements
- 5 Shopping Criteria
- 6 Summary
- Omega-3s are a group of essential fatty acids including docosahexaenoic (DHA), eicosapentaenoic (EPA), and alpha-linolenic (ALA) fatty acids.
- These healthy fats are part of the cell membranes in the body, and they help maintain proper functioning of the brain, heart, bones and muscles.
- Supplements are used to correct a deficiency or maintain adequate omega-3 levels. If supplementing, consider the potential allergens in the formula, its safety warnings, the type of fatty acids it contains, its expiry date, price and quality.
- Today, there are many products which are vegan and vegetarian friendly.
Our Selection of the Best Omega-3 Supplements on the UK Market
Food safety agencies have found a large number of omega-3 supplements that contain a lower amount of nutrients than they advertise, or with deteriorating ingredients. To give you peace of mind, we’ve created this ranking with the best products available to you today.
Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Omega-3 Supplements
What are omega-3s exactly?
In these molecules, the denominator omega-3 refers to the position of the first double bond between carbon atoms. Thus, we can find other families of fatty acids, such as omega-6 and omega-9. Currently, nine different types of omega-3 fatty acids are known. The table ahead includes their names and main characteristics.
|Omega-3 fatty acid||Present in||Function|
|Tetracosapentaenoic acid||Fish oils.|| Metabolism of other fatty acids (alpha-linolenic).
|Tetracosahexaenoic acid||Animal products.|| Metabolism of other fatty acids (linolenic).
Cell membrane stabiliser.
|Hexadecatrienic acid||Plant products (spinach), algae.|| Cell signalling.
Cell membrane stabiliser.
|Stearidonic acid||Vegetable oils (flax seeds, hemp oil).|| Precursor of other essential fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic and alpha-linolenic).
|Eicosatetraenoic acid||Shellfish.|| Metabolism of other fatty acids.
|Eicosapentaenoic acid||Breast milk, fish oil.|| Reduction of triglycerides.
Increased oxidation of other fatty acids.
|Docosapentaenoic acid||Mother's milk, fish oil and meat (preferably veal).||Regulation of inflammatory mechanisms (under study).|
|Docosahexaenoic acid||Fish and veal viscera. Some species of seaweed (under study).|| Protection of neurons and retina cells.
Transport of other molecules (choline, glycine, and taurine).
Control and regulation of cell destruction and aging mechanisms.
|Alpha-linolenic acid||Vegetable oils (chia seeds and linseed) and nuts.|| Coagulation control.
Blood pressure regulation.
Currently, most studies have focused on docosahexaenoic (DHA), eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and alpha-linolenic (ALA) fatty acids. Although some experts have raised reasonable doubts about the efficacy of ALA, trials with DHA and EPA appear to indicate that these compounds have protective and anti-inflammatory functions such as:
- Coagulation control: Inhibiting cells from forming clots, thus decreasing cardiovascular risk.
- Lipid profile control (fat balance): Omega-3s may reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as preventing or hindering the formation of cholesterol plaques in arteries.
- Lowered inflamation: Studies show correlation between elevated levels of omega-3s and a reduction in inflammatory processes.
- Composition of cell membranes: It has been shown that the retina and neurons depend on omega-3s for proper functioning.
- Brain growth and development: Omega-3 fatty acids are indispensable for the correct development of neuronal tissue in infants, children and adolescents.
- Positive influence on blood pressure: Omega-3s have effects on blood vessel walls (preventing their uncontrolled contraction), on clotting cells (platelets) and on heart cells (improving their dilatation capacity).
What are the symptoms of an omega-3 deficiency?
Health experts recommend ingesting between 1-3 grams of omega-3 essential fatty acids daily to maintain cardiovascular health. It is also important to take into account the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 our diet. It is essential that these healthy fats be taken in a balanced way (one omega-3 fat for each omega-6 fat).
Unfortunately, modern diets favors the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids (present in processed foods rich in sunflower and corn oils) as opposed to omega-3. Although omega-6s are also considered essential fatty acids, their excessive intake, coupled with a decreased intake of omega-3s, can cause a variety of health problems:
- Dry and sensitive skin
- Acne-prone skin
- Dry hair with frizz and no shine
- Brittle nails
- Constant thirst
- Difficulty focusing
- Mood fluctuations
- Imbalance of cholesterol levels
- Deterioration of cardiovascular health
What foods are rich in omega-3?
|Food (100 grams)||Omega-3 content||Percentage of RDA|
|Caviar||7 grams||700 %|
|mackerel||5 grams||500 %|
If you’ve eliminated animal products from your diet, it doesn’t mean you’ll have to have to suffer from a deficiency of these healthy fats. In the list below, we include some of the best vegan sources of omega-3s. However, we should point out that these foods contain mostly ALA, a fatty acid that may be less effective than its animal-derived counterpart.
|Food||Omega-3 content||Percentage of RDA|
|Linseed (oil, one tablespoon)||7 grams||700%|
|Chia seeds (one teaspoon)||5 grams||500%|
|Nuts (7 nuts)||2.5 grams||250 %|
|Soybeans (100 grams)||1.5 grams||150%|
|Hemp seeds (1 tablespoon)||0.8 grams||80%|
|Edamame (one cup)||0.3 grams||30%|
|Pinto beans (one cup)||0.1 grams||10%|
Nonetheless, there are vegetable sources rich in omega-3 fatty acids with DHA and EPA. The most popular algae in the field of nutrition (nori, spirulina, and chlorella) contain high amounts of these nutrients (1% of the total content). Unfortunately, these foods are not common in the western diet, and will likely need to be supplemented.
What types of omega-3 supplements are there?
- Supplements made from natural fish oil: This type of supplement contains high amounts of DHA and EPA. Made with natural ingredients that have not been processed. Meaning it also has the typical nutrients of fish (vitamins A, D, and K2).
- Supplements based on processed fish oil: Processing fish oil removes contaminants such as mercury and lead. In addition, the raw material is usually more concentrated, providing an even higher content of DHA and EPA.
- Mussel oil extract: An extract made of New Zealand mussel (also known as green lip mussel). Difficult to find, even though it has been associated with greater inflammation suppression when compared to other omega-3 products with other raw materials.
- Krill oil supplements: Krill is an oceanic crustacean that provides large amounts of omega-3s and antioxidants. The short life expectancy of this animal means a low amount of contaminants is acquired throughout its short existence.
- Seal oil supplements: Based on oil extracted from the fat that covers the seals. Although supplements from this raw material are highly pure, the ethical dilemma of seal hunting overshadows the appeal of this type of supplement.
- Supplements based on seaweed extracts: This supplement would be the only one suitable for vegans and vegetarians. For its creation, the oil is extracted from algae and microalgae rich in DHA and EPA. It is also more environmentally friendly since algae farming is less harmful to ecosystems than fishing or hunting.
Generally, these supplements are packaged in soft gelatin capsules. For vegans, there are alternatives free of animal products (cellulose covered, for example). It is also possible to purchase these supplements in the form of an oil bottle or emulsions. In this case, the product will be dosed using droppers or spoons.
Throughout this article, we've shared with all of the most relevant information concerning omega-3 fatty acids. But how do you choose the best supplement? This section has a few criteria you should evaluate every product you consider. Keeping these things in mind will ensure you purchase the best omega-3 supplement for your needs.
- Allergens and Intolerances
- Vegan and Vegetarian Nutrition
- Combination of Fatty Acids
- Expiration Date
- Price and Quality
Allergens and Intolerances
Most omega-3 manufacturers take into account the most common allergies present in the American population. What's more, these nutritional supplements can even be used by those with fish allergies to balance their omega-3 levels. However, some capsule or oils may cause unpleasant reactions in some people regardless of allergies.
Remember to always check the label of the product you choose before making your purchase. If you are allergic to gluten, soy, lactose or fish, make sure the item you are buying is free of these compounds. If the information is not clear enough, do not hesitate to contact the manufacturer.
Vegan and Vegetarian Nutrition
Although most omega-3 capsules contain animal products, in the UK today you can find seaweed supplements that meet the requirements of vegan and vegetarian diets. Remember to check that the capsule is made of cellulose and not gelatine.
Ocean pollution affects marine life terribly. Today, the toxic content of fish is an issue that creates concern among the most conscientious. A consumer of omega-3 supplements may wonder whether fish or seaweed oil also contain dangerous amounts of lead or mercury.
Fortunately, the refining processes to which these products are subjected to eliminate much of the heavy metals that contaminate marine life. Krill and seaweed supplements are a more natural and toxic-free option. Even natural fish oil contains fewer contaminants than fish meat.
Combination of Fatty Acids
It is recommended to choose a supplement that provides a balanced amount of DHA and EPA, (the most effective omega-3 essential fatty acids). Chia and hemp oils contain ALA, a vegan omega-3 fatty acid but not recommended for supplementation because of its low efficiency.
Beware of the expiration date of your omega-3 supplement. These fatty acids are susceptible to a process of molecular deterioration known as rancidity that reduces their effectiveness. Make sure to choose a product that has a long half-life and store it in a cool, dry place away from light and extreme temperatures.
Price and Quality
The average cost of omega-3 supplements is around 20 - 30 pounds. Products that tend to cost a little more are those made vegan or with krill. In these cases, it is ok to spend a little more on your supplement, since the key ingredients in these products tend to be of great quality and very rich in nutrients.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids, as their name suggests, are invaluable nutrients for the body. The Western lifestyle has caused an imbalance between these healthy fats and other lipids such as omega-6s. If we want to stay healthy for longer, we must strive to maintain an optimum balance between these nutrients.
People with insufficient omega-3s in their diets can preserve their cardiovascular, brain and metabolic health with a supplement made from seaweed, fish or crustacean oils. Use these capsules as a starting point for a new healthy life and you won't regret it.
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