What Are Omega-3’s?
Omega-3’s are called “essential fatty acids” because the body isn’t capable of producing them on its own. We must rely on omega-3 foods in our diet to supply these beneficial compounds. There are three types of omega-3’s: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). The preferred sources are DHA and EPA, which are readily found in seafood. Marine foods are high in DHA and EPA, due to the fact that they consume microalgae–the source of these two essential fatty acids. EPA is largely known to aide issues such as depression, ADHD, brain trauma, etc. ALA, on the other hand, is found in some plant foods, including certain nuts and seeds and offers neuro-protection, is anti-inflammatory and prevents autoimmune issues. The body does convert small amounts of ALA to EPA. Combined, omega-3’s are the primary makeup of the human brain, the cerebral cortex, our skin and retina.
Omega-3 Rich Foods
The following foods are rich in Omega-3’s:
- Green Blue Algae (Spirulina, Chlorella)
- Chia Seeds
- Leafy Greens (Purslane is very high)
- Wild Fish
- Organic Grass-Fed Meat & Dairy (almost none found in conventional meal & dairy)
Omega-3’s For Skin, Hair & Scalp
Consuming foods rich in omega-3 acids may actually lead to smoother, younger looking skin with a visible reduction in inflammatory skin conditions like acne and psoriasis. These fats are especially abundant in cold-water fatty fish. However, as you can see above, there are some wonderful plant sources of omega-3’s that can be beneficial for healthy, radiant skin as well. It is important to note, having a deficiency of EPA and DHA in the diet contributes to skin conditions such as dandruff, thinning hair, eczema and psoriasis, as well as age spots and sunspots. Without essential fatty acids, too much moisture leaves the skin.
The ultimate goal of using omega-3 fatty acids is the reduction of cellular inflammation. – Barry Sears, Ph.d
The truth is, your internal health can appear on your skin and eating omega-3 rich foods or supplementing with DHA + EPA may be as good as or better than applying conventional moisturizers. For vegan or vegetarians, the ONLY plant-based source of DHA–an omega 3 that reduces inflammation–is algae.
Hemp Seed Oil + Scalp = <3
Before I found out I was intolerant to wheat, soy and gluten, I was having a horrible time with dandruff and an itchy scalp. After a bit of research and food journaling, I soon realized this issue was occurring after consuming these three inflammatory foods; my body was actually having an inflammatory response. Even after completely eliminating wheat, gluten and soy from my diet, my scalp still needed to improve. Lucky for me, I stumbled upon research that highlighted the importance of Omega-3’s (and zinc) for skin. Knowing that hemp seed oil is very high in Omega-3 fatty acids, I decided to try it out on my scalp. I was astonished at how well it worked to not only improve the health of my scalp, but it also eliminated my dry scalp completely. After regularly performing scalp treatments with warm hemp seed oil 1-2x per week, my dandruff disappeared.
The Take Away
Omega-3 rich foods are a very important aspect of our diet. They thwart inflammation and improve the health of our skin, eyes, brain and cognitive development. However, it is important to note that all vitamins and minerals are essential to the body. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that all of our nutrients are balanced and in the optimal ranges. Testing for omega’s is not usually performed in standard blood testing and you may have to pay through an independent lab to have this done. However, it is much easier to simply start incorporating the above foods and/or a daily supplement into your daily routine for disease prevention.
Fish oil is not the cleanest source of omega’s, due to the fact that fish oil supplements tend to have a higher concentration of heavy metals like mercury. It is best to eat the whole food sources of omega-3’s and/or supplement with a plant source of omega-3 like algae. The brand I like for a vegan friendly, plant-based source of DHA and EPA can be found here.
<3 Eat Your Greens Out
Kresser, C. (2012). Nutrition for Healthy Skin: Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Biotin, and Sulfur. Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/nutrition-for-healthy-skin-part-2/