Gut health is a hot topic, and probiotics are getting all the glory. But did you know, Omega 3 fatty acids play an equally important role in a happy, healthy gut? At GEM, we are big supporters of this important fat.
The human body is an impressive organism made up of tissues, organs and systems. It can take the raw materials we feed it to produce most fats needed to survive. Omega-3 fatty acids are the exception. These fats have a special title—they are classified as essential (1). What this really means is that they are 1) critical to our body’s ability to function and 2) our body cannot produce them from scratch.
There are many different types of Omega-3 fatty acids, but only three major players get the MVP award: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
These three types of Omega-3s are vital to humans, and more specifically, gut health. The gut is having a moment, and gut health expert, Ana M. Valdes, agrees: “The human gut is receiving a lot of attention in medical research as it is increasingly linked to a wide variety of health issues" (2). These issues span from bloating and gas to cancer and heart disease. Omega-3s help maintain optimal gut health by increasing microbial diversity, encouraging healthy gut bacteria, and maintaining intestinal wall integrity (3).
How can I get my Omega-3s?
As with most nutrients in modern day, you can get Omega-3 directly from food or in pill form. But, not all Omega-3 forms are created equal. The most common Omega-3 supplementation is through fish oil pills. Not only do these pills give you fishy burps, but the body doesn’t absorb them as effectively as real food. Research shows that consuming the same dose of Omega-3 through food or liquid has a greater impact on gut microbiota than ingesting via capsule. In fact, one study investigated supplementing with 4000mg of Omega-3 through a capsule vs. a functional food drink (4). The researchers discovered that “the functional food drink had a greater impact on the gut microbes and increased the amount of two important, health-promoting bacterial strains.”
Now that we’ve got your attention, let’s take a look at the best methods to get your daily dose of Omega-3s.
Food Sources – Smells Fishy
Getting Omega-3s directly from food is easier than you might think. Fish and seafood provide EPA / DHA, while nuts give the body ALA. Below are a few common foods that are Omega-3 powerhouses...
- Fish: The most common source is salmon, but there are countless options. Omega-3 is found in mackerel, herring, oysters, sardines, anchovies, cod liver oil and caviar
- Microalgae: Have you ever wondered why seafood is high in omega-3? I’ll give you a clue, it’s thanks to GEM’s favorite plant: algae! Essentially, algae synthesizes omega-3 fatty acids, phytoplankton eat algae, and then fish eat phytoplankton (5). Cut out the middleman, and get your Omega-3 straight from the source (AKA algae)!
- Nuts and Seeds: We’re nuts about nuts! Walnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds are just a few of GEM’s favorites.