(NaturalHealth365) Omega-3 rich foods are good for the brain, heart and staying youthful. While most health experts agree omega-3 fatty acids are essential to life – a nutritional debate continues to confuse many people. Which source of omega-3 fatty acids is best – vegetarian or animal?
Why should we consume omega-3’s?
Before we identify the best sources of omega-3, we have to address the profound effect it has on the body. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looked at patient’s telomeres who were followed for over five years. Telomeres have been described as the plastic tips on shoelaces which prevent chromosome ends from fraying and sticking together. As a result, healthy telomeres slow down the aging process and help us prevent chronic diseases, such as cancer.
Those with the lowest levels of omega-3 fatty acids had the fastest telomere shortening and those with the highest omega-3 levels had the slowest telomere shorting.
Here’s how it works. A telomere is the end of a chromosome made up of DNA sequences that regulate chromosomal replication at each cell division. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres become shorter and when the telomere is gone – so is the cell.
Telomere death is associated with aging and chronic disease
Telomeres have been compared to a bomb fuse, the shorter it becomes the nearer it gets to the end of life.
Other researchers looked at almost 15,000 initially healthy men and followed them for 4 years. Then, they looked at the telomeres of 337 people who had a heart attack and compared them with 337 matched people who did not, the heart attack group had significantly shorter telomeres than those who had no heart incidents.
In a study published in the journal The Lancet, researchers found an association between short telomeres and atherosclerosis. In other words, people with short telomeres showed signs of accelerated aging within their blood vessels and a buildup of plaque – which correlated with someone about 9 years older.
Overall, for those who have shorter telomeres, the risk of heart attack went up by 62 percent!
The best sources of life-protective, omega-3’s
Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats – which the human body can not make on its own. We must get them from food. There are both plant and animal sources of omega-3, and each one gives you a different kind of omega-3. Let’s take a closer look.
Plant sources are mainly alpha linoleic acid (ALA), which your body breaks down into types of omega-3 which keep the telomeres longer, EPA and DHA. There is scientific data which shows the conversion rate of ALA to DHA is in the region of 1-15 percent and it varies from person to person. This is due in part to enzyme deficiency and poor quality plant fats.
The best sources of plant omega 3’s are flax seeds; hemp seeds; pumpkin seeds; chia seeds; walnuts, brazil nuts, and almonds. You may also want to include olive oil; green leafy vegetables like kale; kidney beans; pinto beans; and sea vegetables like dulse or kelp into your diet.
One of the richest (plant-based) sources of omega-3 is Sacha Inchi oil. Available online, this oil supplies 5.15 grams of linoleic acid in each tablespoon full.
The richest source of omega-3’s in the vegetable world, according to Tufts University researchers, are kale, mustard greens, and spinach and next in line are red-tipped lettuce and arugula.
According to Australian nutritionists C. Pereira and A.J. Sinclair, mint and watercress are good herb choices according to the “International Journal of Vitamin Nutritional Research.”
What are the best sources of omega-3 in animal food?
Animal sources provide the highest and healthiest forms of omega-3s, DHA and EPA. The best sources of these include wild caught salmon; anchovies and sardines. But, naturally, any animal that eats grass will supply omega 3’s.
Fish get their omega-3’s from sea grass, algae, plankton and other sea vegetables. Green lipped mussels and krill can also be considered a healthy source – providing the waters are relatively clean.
Keep in mind, the best sources of omega 3 come from a whole food diet devoid of processed foods. Plants grown in organic conditions processed without heat or chemicals with their life force intact or animal sources such as cod liver oil, fish and grass fed beef will undoubtedly support your desire for a long, healthy life.
About the author: Blanche Levine has been a student of natural healing modalities for the last 25 years. She has the privilege of working with some of the greatest minds in natural healing including Naturopaths, scientist and energy healers. Having seen people miraculously heal from all kinds of dis-ease through non-invasive methods, her passion now is to help people become aware of what it takes to be healthy.
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