Omega 3. What a gift from nature. It nourishes the whole of your body for the whole of your life. Without it, we just don’t work quite as well. So what exactly is Omega 3, and why do we need it?

The benefits of Omega 3 fish oil

In science-speak, Omega 3 is an essential polyunsaturated long chain fatty acid. It’s called essential because we can’t make it on our own. We can turn sunlight into Vitamin D, for example, but the only way to get Omega 3 is to eat it.

What is Omega 3?

There are many different types of Omega 3 fatty acids that belong to the Omega 3 family, but EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) are the three types that you hear about most often, because they’re the most useful to our bodies.

Foods that contain Omega 3

The Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are found almost exclusively in fish and seafood. The best sources of Omega 3 EPA and DHA are oily fish such as sardines and mackerel. A good quality Omega 3 fish oil supplement will contain high levels of both EPA and DHA.

ALA is the other main type of Omega 3. Sources of Omega 3 ALA include vegetable oils, flaxseed and nuts, but your body must then work to convert ALA to EPA and DHA to make use of it.

Fish take ALA from their food and turn it into EPA and DHA in their bodies. They’re really good at this. But we humans can only convert it in small amounts. In fact, despite it being the most common Omega 3 fat in our diets, only about 5% of the ALA we eat gets converted into EPA, while as little as 0.5% gets converted into DHA. And the rest of it? You’ll either use it for energy or it will be stored as fat.

For this reason the ALA you get from nuts and seeds should never be relied upon as your sole source of Omega 3. If you can eat fish this is by far the best way to get your Omega 3. Read more about Omega 3 rich foods.

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What does Omega 3 fish oil do to the body?

Once you’ve finished your salmon salad, the Omega 3 fatty acids you eat go through a series of chemical reactions as your body converts them into compounds it can use. However both EPA and DHA work in their different ways.

EPA - Used to lessen the effects of a family of compounds known collectively as eicosanoids. The more EPA you have in your diet, the fewer eicosanoids you produce in the first place.

DHA - Used to build cell membranes, in particular the nerve cells in the brain and eyes, DHA is crucial for proper brain development. It’s highly concentrated in the brain, making up about 40% of the organ’s polyunsaturated fats.

 

What are the benefits of Omega 3 fish oil?

There are many, many health benefits of Omega 3. It’s good for our brains, our eyes and our blood pressure and it helps keep our skin healthy. A growing foetus and baby needs a good supply of Omega 3 to form brains and eyes, which can only come from mum and you can read more about this in our Omega 3 guide to pregnancy.

As little as 150 years ago the ratio of Omega 3 to 6 in our diets was 1:1 – now it’s closer to 1:15 and as high as 1:25 in the US. That imbalance really isn’t good for us.

Omega 3 vs Omega 6

The Omega 6 group of fatty acids are vitally important to us and are also used for brain growth and development. The problem is we eat far too many of them. It’s hard not to - they’re in virtually everything we eat, from that healthy-looking granola to the oils we cook with. Even the animals we use for meat are fed on Omega 6-rich grain instead of their normal diet of grass.

The importance of the Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio

As little as 150 years ago the ratio of Omega 3 to 6 in our diets was 1:1 – now it’s closer to 1:15 and as high as 1:25 in the US. That imbalance really isn’t good for us because once you’ve eaten all the Omega 6 you need, the excess can have inflammatory properties. Read more about this delicate balancing act in our Omega 3, 6, 9 guide

How much Omega 3 do you need?

There isn’t a set standard for how much Omega 3 we need for general health. Suggestions range from 200mg to 1,000mg, even up to 13,000mg of total Omega 3, but this really depends on who you ask.

It may also depend on how much Omega 6 you’re getting in your diet. If you know you’re eating too many processed foods and vegetable oils, you may need closer to the upper end of the recommended amounts of Omega 3 to provide you with the correct balance.

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How can you make sure you’re getting enough Omega 3?

In a perfect world your diet would provide you all the Omega 3 fatty acids you need to be healthy. Realistically though, when was the last time you sat down to a nice plate of sardines? And how often do your kids eat oily fish?

To get 500mg of Omega 3 per day, an amount that’s in the middle of the average suggested range for general good health, you’d still have to eat one serving of salmon every day - and that’s if you chose wild salmon, because farmed fish contains only about half the Omega 3 levels (as well as worrying levels of antibiotics).

Even if you do manage to eat a serving of fish every day, there’s also the worry about the amount of environmental toxins this could expose you to, such as mercury and heavy metals.

What is Omega 3 fish oil?

Whether they’re worried about pollution or simply don’t like the taste, many people find it hard to get enough Omega 3 in their diet from eating fish alone. And this is where an Omega 3 fish oil supplement such as Bare Biology’s Lion Heart comes in.

Fish oil that comes from the tissues of oily fish is a highly concentrated source of Omega 3 EPA and DHA. The best sources of fish oil are cold-water, fatty fish.

One of the most important benefits an Omega 3 fish oil has over eating fish every day, is that it’s easy to take, suitable even for those who don’t like mackerel or sardines. Plus choosing a good quality supplement means you won’t have to worry about how many toxins you may be consuming.

What’s the best supplement to take?

Fish oil supplements vary tremendously in quality and strength and it’s important to read the label before you buy to make sure your Omega 3 fish oil is pure.

The best Omega 3 fish oil supplement will have decent amounts of EPA and DHA. Don’t be fooled by any 1,000mg claims, as this usually refers to the weight of the capsule. The amounts of EPA and DHA can often be far lower, meaning you may have to take as many as eight capsules every day to reach anything like the recommended amount.

Our clinical strength fish oil packs a real punch, with 3,500mg of Omega 3 (2,000mg of EPA, 1,000mg of DHA and 500mg of other Omega 3s) in every teaspoon, while a daily dose of four of our tiny capsules contain 1,460mg of Omega 3 (860mg of EPA and 440mg of DHA).

Read more tips on choosing a fish oil supplement

Six great reasons to take Omega 3 fish oil

For brilliant brains

1 For brilliant brains

Did you know around 60% of your brain is fat? A large chunk of which is Omega 3. It's called ‘brain food’ for good reason. It’s essential for healthy brains, especially young developing ones.

For bouncing babies

2 For bouncing babies

Pour goodness into those little growing bodies. Omega 3 has critical nutrients for babies’ developing brains, eyes and nervous systems.

For happy hearts

3 For happy hearts

Keep your ticker pumping like a champion. We called our fish oil Lion Heart for a reason. Omega 3 can lower blood pressure and triglycerides.

For jaunty joints

4 For jaunty joints

Stay nimble and on your toes. High dose Omega 3 can help keep joints lubricated.

For bright eyes

5 For bright eyes

We tend to take our eyes for granted - let's not. DHA forms a big part of the eye tissue and can keep tear ducts working well.

For fabulous skin, darling

6 For fabulous skin, darling

Keep your skin supple, plump and glowing.