The answer is plenty. Flax seeds and flax oil are often put forth as sources of health-giving omega 3s. However, to clear up any fish flax confusion surrounding the benefits of flaxseed oil vs fish oil, the omega 3 found in flax seeds and flax oil are not and cannot be considered substitutes for the omegas 3s to be gotten in fish.
The Omega 3s found in flaxseed oil vs fish oil are not the same and they impact our bodies differently when we consume them. The Omega 3 in flax is called Alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, and it is a very good thing to be eating—much better than pro-inflammatory long-chain omega-6s. However, most humans cannot efficiently convert ALA, a short-chain omega 3 found in plants to the potent longer-chain omega 3 bioactives, EPA and DHA, found in fish oil. The reason is simple. Humans, cows, and pigs are limited in a specific enzyme called delta-6 desaturase, which aids in that conversion. Without the enzyme, we just don’t do it very well. We hope this explanation clears up any fish flax confusion once and for all and provides an understanding of the difference between omega 3 from fish oil vs flax oil.
That's right, don’t throw out your flax seeds just yet. While it is not a substitute for omega 3 from fish, flax seeds can play a role in the Gene Smart Program, and it has to do with a critical bioactive. It’s just not an omega 3. Rather, it’s fiber. Flax seeds are very rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, and so they fit beautifully into the Gene Smart Anti Inflammatory Diet & Exercise Program. Nutritionists generally suggest that you buy them whole and crush or grind them yourself in order to get the maximal benefits. Sprinkle them on cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt, or bake them into whole-grain quick-breads or muffins, and enjoy! So, while it is good to get your omega 3 from fish, flax seed provides other health benefits.
To meet growing mainstream consumer interest in consuming more omega 3 in their diets, food companies are increasingly fortifying their food and beverage products with omega 3. Some use omega 3 from fish oil or algae oil, which contain the beneficial long chain omega 3s EPA &/or DHA. However, some food companies feed the fish flax confusion by fortifying their products with ALA from flax oil in order to claim "Omega 3" on the package. Why? Typically, it is more expensive to fortify products with fish oil vs flax oil, and making great tasting foods with fish oil can have its challenges, too. Many times the front of the package will only say "contains omega 3" and it may not be obvious whether the source is oil from fish, flax or algae. Be sure to read the label of fortified foods to know the source of the omega-3. HINT: look for flax or flaxseed in the ingredient statement and you'll know the product contains the omega-3 ALA, and may be contributing to our fish flax confusion.
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