Those Controversial Omega Fats
Have you noticed what sometimes stands in the way of someone adopting a fully plantbased diet? Fish! This was our own experience for a while, and the relative ease with which we bypassed ethical concerns made fish the obvious (and only?) way of obtaining those all important Omega 3 fatty acids, better known by their not-so-catchy labels EPA and DHA.
But the ethical concerns have grown rather than diminished and the realisation that long before we eat fish, human behaviours have fed them a diet of contaminants such as heavy metals and now plastic, prompted the two of us to let go of fish, too. And we haven't looked back, but what about EPA and DHA?
Science has long persuaded us that these essential fatty acids must be obtained directly from the diet because there's no other way of getting them. Interestingly, Omega 6 has never been associated with any such difficulty, ie from the consumption of Omega 6 rich foods through to their conversion into the other Omega 6 fats. In fact we know this is so easy, that the majority of us are experiencing the consequences of excess Omega 6 consumption ... relative to Omega 3: inflammation.
Why can we convert one set of Omega fats, but not the other? Is that even true? Possibly not! The conversion process is shared between the two, and more modern research (conducted on a group with a more natural diet than the mainstream) points to the likelihood that we can indeed make this conversion from say, flaxseeds (high in the Omega 3 fatty acid ALA) to EPA and DHA if we consume Omega 3 and 6 in a more balanced way, or in other words, in the ratios that were seemingly familiar to our ancestors. If we over-emphasize just one of the fats, that one appears to win out and take control of the conversion process leaving little or nothing for the other one.
There is no challenge in obtaining sufficient Omega 6 in western societies, but most of us, vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike, typically consume insufficient Omega 3. Responding to this by eating fish has its drawbacks. So we, Graham and Annette opt for daily intakes of one, two or all three of the seeds known to be particularly rich in Omega 3 fatty acids: flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. The two of us would need to be tested to know if we're making the conversion to EPA and DHA although we've noticed changes that might be indicators of success, however we also still take an Omega 3 supplement formulated using algae .. precisely the omega 3 food that the fish eat.