By Dr. Josh Axe
When it comes to America’s dietary downfall, what’s really to blame?
It’s clear, the United States is in the midst of a nutritional crisis. The typical American consumes more than 500 calories of refined sugars a day, with more than 150 of those calories coming from sugar-sweetened drinks like soda and juice, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the story of America’s dietary downfall isn’t just about what people are eating. In fact, something that’s often missing from the headlines is what we’re not eating.
The Omega-3 Shortfall Crisis
An estimated 90 percent of Americans aren’t getting enough omega-3s. That’s right, 9-in-10 people living in the U.S. are low in omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Are you one of them?
Skipping out on taking a fish oil supplement or avoiding high-omega-3 foods may not seem like a big deal, but low omega-3 levels can have gnarly consequences.
In fact, omega-3s are vital in:
- Supporting cardiovascular health
- Promoting healthy cognitive function
- Supporting joint health
Meanwhile, most of us have an improper balance of omega fatty acids, as the standard American diet includes way too many omega-6s and omega-9s. Ideally, you should be getting about a 1:1 ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. But the “normal” ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s for most people in the U.S.? 20:1 omega-6s to omega-3s.
Maintaining proper omega-3 levels is vital for normal brain function and supporting a healthy response to inflammation.
Typically, when a person is coming up short on omega-3s, it can affect the:
How to Get More Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are known as "essential fatty acids.” This means your body doesn't produce them naturally, but they are required for overall function.
The American Heart Association advises all American adults to eat at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish per week.
But in today’s modern world, it can be tough to get that amount week in and week out. For starters, Americans are cooking less than they ever have in the past. And when they do seek out fish at the grocery store, they’re plagued with seafood fraud — mislabeling cheap, often farm-raised species to appear as healthier, pricier options.
Due to the modern-day time crunch and the fact that most people aren’t getting nearly enough omega-3s in the U.S., supplements offer a convenient option to fill the omega-3 gap. They are one of the most commonly recommended supplements by doctors, but don’t be deceived into thinking all omega-3 supplements are created equal.
Just Don’t Fall for Omega-3 Rip-Offs
Low-quality omega-3 supplements saturate the market. When searching for a high-quality supplement, follow these rules:
- Seek out wild fish ingredients only. Avoid any supplements containing farmed fish ingredients. Researchers have routinely discovered antibiotic and pesticide residue in farmed fish samples. Fake coloring chemicals, plastics and even cancer causers may also hide out in farmed fish.
In fact, University of New York at Albany scientists found dioxin levels in farm-raised salmon are 11 times higher than those in wild salmon. Dioxins are linked to cancer and endocrine disorders and remain stored in your fat cells for years after eating them.
- Look for full-spectrum omega support. There are several omega-3s touted for their health-supporting properties. Let’s take a look … ideally, your omega-3 supplement would include all four of these vital omega-3 fatty acids sourced from fish and plants, including the lesser-known ETA:
Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA)
This plant-based omega-3 is found in green, leafy vegetables, flax seeds, walnuts and chia seeds. ALA is known as a short-chain omega-3, meaning your body has to convert it into longer-chained EPA and DHA to synthesize it.
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
EPA is a 20-carbon fatty acid found in oily fish, algae oil and krill oil. Your body is able to synthesize this molecule in its original form. Generally, this, along with DHA, are the omega-3s your body needs in high quantities to achieve the benefits they offer.
Eicosatetraenoic Acid (ETA)
ETA is a lesser-known omega-3 fatty acid that also contains 20 carbons like EPA, but only four bonds instead of five. It’s found richly in roe oil and green-lipped mussels and, overall, is only recently being recognized for its health benefits. While more studies need to be done, it is indicated that ETA can also limit your body’s production of the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid (ARA). In fact, some studies indicate that ETA redirects the enzyme that normally creates ARA to convert it to EPA instead.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
This 22-carbon molecule is also found in oily fish, krill oil and algae oil. Your body will convert some DHA molecules back to EPAs in order to keep them at fairly equal levels if you consume more DHA.
- Look for all-star antioxidant support. Most fish oils are highly processed and can oxidize easily because omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated, have a low heat threshold and can easily go rancid. For that reason, you want to buy a fish oil in triglyceride form that also contains antioxidants to preserve them like astaxanthin or essential oils.
- Read the label for other supporting, plant-based ingredients. High-quality omega supplements will be free of artificial dyes and flavors while featuring wild-caught fish in addition to organic, plant-based sources of omega-3s, like chia seeds, for instance. Chia seeds are so important, they were once used as currency in Mexico. In fact, according to folklore, Aztec warriors ate chia seeds for energy and endurance during battle. Just one spoonful was said to sustain them for 24 hours.
Are you ready to start filling the Omega-3 gap in your own body? If so, look no further than Ancient Nutrition’s Ancient Omegas line. These Omegas check all the boxes outlined here and more.