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Does it matter whether I get omega-3 fatty acids from plants or seafood?

Posted Oct 01 2008 8:12pm

By now, most people know that omega-3 fatty acids help to prevent heart attacks, and that they can get lots of omega-3 fatty acids from fish. But most people do not know that the omega-3 fatty acids in seeds such as whole grains may be even more important in maintaining your health than the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Virtually every plant source of omega-3's also contains vitamin E, while fish oils are low in vitamin E. All omega-3's break down very quickly when exposed to oxygen in your body, and vitamin E stabilizes them so they are more effective.

Omega-3s found in fish oils are mostly long chain fatty acids. Omega-3s in plants, particularly seeds, contain much shorter chains and are weaker than the omega-3s found in fish. However, the shorter chain omega-3s, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in leafy greens and seeds are converted to the long chain fatty acids in the human body. To meet your needs for short chain omega-3 fatty acids found in plants, eat lots of green leafy vegetables, and seeds such as flaxseed, whole grains, beans and nuts.

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