Before omega-3 became well-known and a popular supplement, I was still in college (2003/4ish).
Based on the knowledge I had at the time, I predicted omega-3 was going to become a lot more popular and was going to be added to a lot of different products.
Soon after, things like bread, peanut butter, cereal, and even sweets with added omega-3's hit the shelves.
My ego used my successful predictions as an excuse to inflate itself. After all, not everybody possesses Nostradamus-like skills.
"How did they add those omega-3's to those products?" you might wonder.
I once bought an overpriced jar of peanut butter, because it had insane amounts of omega-3. Later I realized they just added flaxseeds, which are, ironically, a lot cheaper than peanut butter.
In other words, the company earned a lot more profit and less knowledgeable people, like myself, spent a lot more money than necessary...
This all happened after my predictions.
...Okay, perhaps Einstein was right. Let's move on, shall we?
That's one way how they did it:
Adding flaxseeds to products. It's also genius if you ask me.
Flaxseeds are the RICHEST source of omega-3.
Flaxseeds are the RICHEST source of lignans (a powerful antioxidant).
Flaxseeds are a great source of fiber and help against constipation (do drink enough water, though).
Flaxseeds are incredibly CHEAP.
They almost possess magical powers...
The omega-3's we talked about in "Why you shouldn't consume fish oil," DHA and EPA, can be found directly in marine life and in algae.
The problem is:
Marine life is often contaminated with all sorts of pollutants. Algae oil, although a clean and safe source of DHA and EPA, can be a pricey supplement over the long-term.
Flaxseeds are chockfull of omega-3, but there's a catch:
They don't contain the important DHA and EPA.
So, what is the solution here?
Thankfully, the omega-3 acid, ALA, which flaxseeds contain, can be converted to DHA and EPA. If you search on the internet, you probably find people saying the conversion rate isn't great and it's better to get DHA and EPA directly. But this is only partly true.
That's because it's fairly simple to improve the conversion rate without having to eat tons of flaxseeds every day.
If we don't get DHA and EPA, or in very low amounts, our body is much more efficient in converting ALA. However, probably the most important factor that inhibits conversion is the generally excessive consumption of omega-6, found in, mostly, vegetable oils, such as peanut oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil.
To get enough of DHA and EPA, it is advised to consume 1.5 to 3 tablespoons of flaxseeds. If you consume little to no fish and only small amounts of oil, then you likely find yourself at the lower end of the recommendation. (4)
Regardless, pay attention to the following:
If you're just starting out – start with one tablespoon daily for the first week before you increase the amount to let your digestive system adjust.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to ensure your nr. 2 slides out as smoothly as your number 1.
Use broken or ground flaxseeds to increase the bioavailability of flaxseeds' nutrients, incl. omega-3.
1. How to use flaxseeds?
Add it to your oats or other cereals
Add it to your baking
Add it to pancakes
Add it to your soups
Add it to your smoothies
Do you know of more ways? Let me know and I will add them!
2. How about flaxseed oil?
A spoon of flaxseed oil will surely do the trick to get those precious omega-3's, but they lack all the other benefits flaxseeds have to offer. And they have another downside as well:
You can't use it for cooking and you shouldn't heat it in any way. Heat negatively affects the quality of the fat through something called (per)oxidation. Flaxseeds in their whole form don't have this issue.
3. How about chia seeds?
Chia seeds are an excellent alternative regarding the omega-3 content. And their jelly-like characteristics can be great for certain recipes. I just prefer flaxseeds because they have more nutritional benefits.
4. I don't like flax and chia seeds. Do I have other options?
A handful of walnuts supplies a decent amount of omega-3. If you also eat a few servings of green leafy vegetables a day and consume only small amounts of omega-6 rich oils, you should be fine. Hemp seeds, although having less omega-3 than walnuts, are a great source as well.
Liked this article?