Author of "The Ultimate Omega 3 Diet," Evelyn Tribole says these fabulous fats help your heart fight disease, boost mood and brain function, even reduce inflammation of arthritis. Yet not all omega-3 fats do the trick.
"When you read about all the benefits of omega-3s, it's usually from the fish type of omega-3s, and those are DHA and EPA," says Tribole.
This is the most important distinction. The omega-3s coming from flax called ALA are only minutely effective.
"You cannot rely on plant source omega-3s like ALA to get the DHA and the EPA, that's the most important thing to know," says Tribole. "It's like relying on pennies for your budget rather than dollar bills -- huge difference."
Then there is the question of dose.
"We need a combination of 650 milligrams a day of EPA plus DHA," says Tribole. "The average American is deficient. They only get 85 milligrams."
With an upper limit of 3,000 milligrams, keep in mind two servings of fish like salmon can easily satisfy a weekly dose for most. Or you can supplement.
"If you're just going to get a fish-oil capsule, make sure when you read the label that it spells out how much EPA and DHA is in it," says dietitian Elizabeth Somer. "If it just says a gram of fish oils, there's no guarantee you're getting the fats that you want."
Somer says it's crucial you see DHA and EPA on the label.
For those who are vegetarian, they should look for a supplement that says "vegan" DHA. This type of omega-3 comes from algae, not fish.
When it comes to contaminants, note that mercury and others are found in fish protein, so they're not an issue as fish oil pills come from fat.
Not only that but most manufacturers are looking to produce a pure product since this market is so competitive.
Whether you buy cod-liver oil, fish oil in liquid or pill form, make sure you check what the dose is per serving, which can be anywhere from one to five pills. If you find burping or a repeating effect is an issue there's this advice.
"Don't drink it with coffee, don't have it with soda, keep them in the refrigerator, and take them before bedtime if it is a big issue," says Tribole.
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