I want to start this article a full disclaimer. I’m not Dr. Kathlena The Allergy Chef yet. Also, you should work with your health care provider before starting new supplements.
I’m a firm believer that what we consume has a direct impact on our health. When you’re living with food allergies, special diets, autoimmune disorders, and other health conditions, a mindfully planned varied diet is critical. After raising four kids and having to do SO much of this planning, trust me when I say, it’s necessary AND you won’t regret it.
You can hear more about how food has directly impacted our lives by reading our story, watching the Kid Four video, and watching the Kid Three video. As a result of all of our experience, we’ve put together quite the resource library for people with food allergies (RAISE), have written 6 cookbooks, started a bakery, offer 1-on-1 Consulting, and much more.
What Is Omega (Omega-3 Fatty Acid)
In addition to being a Greek letter and watch brand, omega refers to fatty acids found in cold water fish, shellfish, some nuts & seeds, and algae oils.
The consistent recommendation is to eat two servings of omega rich fish twice per week. Interestingly, Americans have been encouraged to supplement omega, as most are not eating enough omega-rich foods each week. If you’re struggling with meals, a RAISE Membership may be the right fit for you.
Hard truth: animal sources are generally higher in omega and easier to absorb, but as we all know, not everything is for everyone. To learn more about this, research how the body converts ALA to DHA and EPA. Those with restricted diets should work with a professional to make sure all nutritional needs are being met.
There’s a lot of great information that you can read on nutrition websites and nutrition books that will help you understand the important role omega plays in the body (anti-depressant, brain health, anti-inflammation, and more). There are great links at the end of this article for further reading.
Omega 3, 6, 9: Know The Difference
Rather than write an additional 10,000 words, I’ll leave this link here for you. Food Insight does a great job breaking down the difference between the omega numbers (which indicate number of carbons).
Omega 3 is the heart healthy anti-inflammatory we’ve all heard about. Omega 6 can compete with omega 3, and promotes inflammation in large amounts. Omega 9 is considered a nonessential, however, it still provides health benefits.
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ALA, EPA, DHA
Omega EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is a long chain fatty acid and is primarily found in certain fish.
Omega DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a long chain fatty acid and also primarily found in certain fish. Algae usually provides DHA only.
Omega ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is a short chain fatty acid found in plant sources including nuts and seeds. Good sources of ALA are:
- Chia Seeds
- Flax Feeds
For those who can have animal sources of omega, it’s suggested that you go with those first. ALA is awesome, but remember, it has less potent benefits. You will need to mindfully eat quite a bit throughout each week to receive the same benefits as fish. I’d also like to add this;: both flax seeds and chia seeds are nutritional powerhouses. POWER HOUSES.
Related recipe: Super Tasty Chia Pudding Cups Recipe
Benefits of Omega
First, it’s very important to know that you NEED omega fatty acids to function. Omegas may help with:
- Autoimmune Disease
- Improved Memory & Focus
- Reducing ADHD Symptoms
- Reducing Blood Triglycerides
- Reducing Inflammation (which helps with LOTS of ailments)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Stiffness & Joint Pan
It’s important to remember the word “may” in the above statement. There have been a lot of studies about omega and its health benefits. However, no two people are the same.
Also, the real power of omega is the anti-inflammatory benefit. That’s the main reason it can help with a wide range of ailments, many of which have deep roots in inflammation.
You’ll find when researching omega that the ratio of 3 to 6 important when choosing sources. You’ll also notice there’s a HUGE variation in the amount of omega in different foods. Seafood can be as high as 4,000+ mg and some vegetable sources (touted as a “good” source) as low as 100mg.
A great ratio of Omega 6:Omega 3 is 4:1 or less. In our ultra modern world, it’s not uncommon to see this ratio skyrocket to 15:1 or as high as 50:1.
With all of this in mind, it’s critical that you plan meals wisely, especially if you’re feeding kids with food allergies. While I’m not Dr. Kathlena The Allergy Chef yet, nutrition, health, and well-being has always been a quiet passion of mine.
If you’re able to consume a wide variety of options, there’s a good chance your omega ratios are in balance. However, the more limited/restricted your food options, the more vigilant you’ll need to be in regards to meal planning and source selecting.
My guess is you’re reading this article because fish is not an option for you. With that in mind, first, know what your RDA is for omega. This will vary by age, gender, and individual metabolic needs.
The absolute easiest way to incorporate vegan sources of omega: smoothies. The nice thing about smoothies is you can change up the main ingredients often, and continue to add your omega boosts daily.
A few easy smoothie ideas:
This article only scratches the surface on all things omega. I encourage you all to do more research and find foods that are a good fit for you. Remember, not all sources of omega are created equally. Be sure to read labels carefully, and call companies to ask questions if you’re living with severe food allergies.
Also know that the numbers your read online are going to vary quite a bit. Some articles say hemp seeds have 2,500 mg/ounce of omega. Other websites list it as high as 5,000 mg/ounce. What that really means is: check to see what the manufacturer has listed on their label. The label will tell you the serving size and the amount of omegas you’ll be consuming.