It is not secret that omega-3 is a necessary nutrient often found in great quantity and better quality in only certain foods, the best of which are fish and flax seeds.
However, there is a lot of “fish flax” confusion as many people question the benefits of flaxseed oil vs fish oil. The body cannot synthesize omega-3 hence we get this nutrient from our diets. However, this polyunsaturated fat exists in different types, and that of fish differs from that of flaxseed. By identifying the various elements and benefits of the omega-3 found in the two, it is easier to conclude which is superior.
Types of Omega-3
The market have both fish oil and flaxseed oil capsules that are highly considered to be a healthy supply of omega-3. The only issue is that they two offer different types of omega-3 fatty acids. In reference to the “fish flax” confusion, it is important to identify the types of omega-3 fats that each provides. Fish oil contains EPA fats (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA fats (docosahexaenoic acid). On the other hand, flax oil contains ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). The battle for supremacy emanates from these types of fats. Of the three, EPA and DHA are the most important, but then comes in ALA when the other two are not easy to come by in our diets. Since EPA and DHA are found in fish, which is hard to come by for most people, the alternative – flaxseed – is the only source. However, the body will get the EPA and DHA from the ALA but the conversion is often not that efficient.
So, is the plant better than the animal or is it the other way around! The score will depend on how the body responds to either of the two. Nevertheless, one of the primary roles that omega-3 plays in the body is reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, but the benefits extend beyond having a healthy heart neurological development of a fetus, better visual capacity, reducing impacts of inflammatory conditions, reducing risk of Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel diseases are just a few of the other health benefits.
Pros and Cons of Either
Given all these, the factor of directly supply of the necessary fatty acids, or conversion of the same from another source will help give the right score. As such it put the fish oil at the top position. However, our eating habits may be the deciding factor. For the ardent vegan, the answer is as clear as day: flaxseed oil. For the others that love meat and enjoy both; either goes. This brings us to the other issues the pros and cons of flaxseed oil vs fish oil. To better address this, we will look at the benefits and risks of eating each type.
Benefits: Eating fish is touted to have numerous health advantages and the best of it being a rich supply of omega-3 fatty acids, best found in the fatty species. As mentioned above, a diet that consists of enough fatty species of fish will provide the body with all the necessary fatty acids it needs to deal with various issues such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart diseases among other health complications. Omega-3 is considered an essential element in the growth and development of babies, right from conception. It is vital for brain development. Hence, women of childbearing years should consider taking more fish to supplement the low levels of this essential polyunsaturated fat that is cannot make.
Vegetarians will have little qualm with flaxseed, which is their most efficient way of supplying their body with omega-3. At the cellular level, the need for omega-3 is just indispensable. Every cell in the body needs this fatty acid to form and function properly. But as mentioned, flaxseed seed is a rich supply of ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) that the body converts into the EPA and DHA it needs. Bearing in mind that the conversion rate is not that efficient, it is important that vegans or those who cannot find fish to take enough of the seeds. Other food alternatives that can be a source of ALA include hemp seeds and walnuts.
Risks: While generally touted to be a healthy food, there have been several concerns about toxicity in fish. It is no secret that toxic contaminants have found into our rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans making it into the fish that finds its way onto our tables. The question therein is how much fish to eat. The FDA’s stand on this matter is people should consider taking fish at least twice a week and even lower interval for children and expectant mothers.
Conversely, the intake of flaxseed does bear its own risk. The general rule of thumb eating too much of anything, water included, is a health risk. Therefore, nutritionists that have had to answer the flaxseed oil vs fish oil question suggest that those who do not eat meat to regulated their flaxseed intake. Yes, a person will need to eat an adequate amount of the flaxseed to get the right amount of ALA the body need to make enough EPA and DHA. All in all, doctors advise people to take the recommend about of omega-3 fatty acids (around 3 grams).
Which Is Better?
On one hand, the body need EPA and DHA, which can be supplied from fish oil, or converted from ALA in flaxseed oil. Such is the dilemma that many people battle with. To some extent, fish oil may be a definite winner because of the direct supply of the two fatty acids but on the other hand, the body does need ALA too to make other omega -3 fatty acids besides EPA and DHA. For instance, the body will need ALA to help with the production of omega-6 fatty acids, a fact that give flaxseed oil an upper-hand over fish oil.
Both flaxseed oil and fish oil have their unique attributes and roles as pertains to the delivery of omega-3 to our body. While the flaxseed oil vs fish oil battle rages, what counts is not which is superior but how will one find a good supply of the crucial polyunsaturated fats the body needs. For vegan, flaxseeds will take the day while for the others, either will do depending on which is locally available.