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Plant vs. Animal Omega-3

Plant vs. Animal Omega-3

Have you seen on packages of flax seed, chia seed, or hemp seeds about these seeds being a good source of omega-3? You might be thinking “Oh this is great! I need my omegas because I know I don’t eat enough seafood (or any type of animal source omega).” Don’t get too excited – these omega’s aren’t the same.

Plant Omega-3 Vs Animal Omega-3

The plant omega-3 is from ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and the animal omega-3 is DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) & EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Fancy words, I know. Omega-3s are known to be anti-inflammatory, essential nutrient for brain, fetal, and eye development. It’s been studied (ALA) and studied (DHA/EPA) to help prevent cardiovascular/arthritis/neurological issues. The DHA/EPA Institute states here,

“Higher dietary intakes of ALA (increasing intakes by 1,200 mg/day) have been associated with an approximate 20% lower risk of fatal heart disease whereas higher fish intakes (up to and including 5 servings/week providing approximately 650 mg DHA/EPA combined/day) have been associated with an approximate 40% lowering of CHD mortality based on epidemiological studies.”

In this study, it showed that the intake of both kinds of omega-3’s was beneficial for heart disease (Side note: I don’t agree with the use of soybean oil though as it’s VERY highly processed. Stick to whole food sources.)

Obviously, our bodies need all these types of omega-3s for our health, but each kind of omega-3 has it’s place. It’s recommended that we need more DHA/EPA vs ALA. Studies show that in the human body, we only convert ALA less than 1% to the more needed DHA/EPA. So if you are eating mostly these plant omega-3 and not animal omega-3, your aim for optimal health will be misfired.

Liz Wolfe, author of Eat The Yolks, also says,

“The conversion of ALA to EPA/DHA requires enzymes that depend on animal-derived nutrients, such as saturated fat, biotin, and vitamin B6.

This is why eating real whole food sources is SO important. Everything works so synergistically to optimize absorption & usage.

In my experience & education, for optimal health, you need them all. You can’t just intake ALA & you can’t just intake DHA/EPA. It’s all about a real whole foods balance approach. One omega-3 will not sub for the other omega-3. If you aren’t a seafood person, you can try some good quality cod liver or krill oil. I love Rosita’s cod liver oil because she is so open about the testing and quality of her product. Coming from wild caught fish, with gentle extraction to preserve all the nutrients, I love telling people about Rosita. It’s a mild fish taste, but you can always hide the flavor by taking it with fresh elderberry syrup. We have also taken Metagenics EPA/DHA supplement that is sourced from wild caught fish as well.

Weston A Price Foundation also recommends taking cod liver oil with like a  Green Pasture’s high vitamin butter oil. This can synergistically help the absorption of the vitamin D & vitamin A that’s in the cod liver oil. You can get ALA from chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc. Relying on just ALA can get cause a deficiency with DHA/EPA, remember it doesn’t convert well to DHA/EPA in your body. You need those animal sources too of omega-3.


Lahana Vigliano

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Lahana Vigliano

Lahana Vigliano is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and CEO of Nuvitru Wellness. She has her Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition Science and Masters Degree in Nutrition Science and Functional Medicine. She is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in Clinical Nutrition. Lahana and her team help support women who struggle with weight loss, hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, chronic fatigue, and many other lingering issues that leaves women not feeling their best. She uses food as medicine, as well as herbs and supplements when needed, to support her clients. She looks at the whole body holistically making sure women are understanding how nutrition, sleep, stress, and their environment impact their health. Connect with her on Facebook + Instagram (@nuvitruwellness).