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DHA and EPA are not “essential” in our diets, yet we must get enough either through conversion from ALA or from direct sources of EPA and DHA. If sufficient ALA is consumed, healthy people appear to be able to convert ALA to EPA and DHA. Yet it can be a challenge for many of us to produce adequate amounts of EPA and DHA. Thus, many may enjoy benefits from direct sources, and preformed EPA and DHA may improve our health.
|1. Include good dietary sources of ALA. These are flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, hempseeds, hempseed oil, canola oil, walnuts and green leafy vegetables. Adults aim for 3 to 6 grams per day.|
|2. Consider including a direct source of EPA and DHA
In theory we should be able to convert the omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed to both EPA and DHA. Yet even the Flax Council of Canada concedes that there is little consistent and clear evidence that most of us can efficiently accomplish this conversion. Though our diets may be rich in ALA from flax, EPA and DHA prove to be more effective than ALA in raising EPA and DHA levels. Those who do not eat fish, vegetarians, vegans, women who are pregnant or lactating women, people with conditions linked with poor omega-3 fatty acid status, diabetics, and the elderly may benefit significantly from direct sources of EPA and DHA. High intakes of omega-6 fatty acids, trans fats, or saturated fats inhibit conversion; thus people with diets high in these fats also may need supplemental EPA and DHA.
|3. Decrease your intake of omega-6 fatty acids. Diets that are relatively high in omega-6 fatty acids can cut our efficiency of omega-3 conversion in half. Eliminate oils that are omega-6-rich and omega-3-poor: sunflower, safflower, corn, grapeseed, soybean and cottonseed oils. Avoid processed foods containing these oils. Whole foods such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame tahini, tofu, and wheat germ also are sources of omega-6’s; however these are nutrition powerhouses and need not be reduced.|
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