Is Flax Better Source of Omega-3 Than Fish

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We have known for a long time that omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, for example salmon. Many people believe that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish is healthier than that found in plants. This idea is perpetuated by the spotlight of industry, especially since omega-3 fatty acids boost brain development and promote cardiovascular health.  Fish oil capsules are one of the most popular supplements sold all over the world now, and the major reason is the presence of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Fatty acids obtained from fish are also high in EPA and DHA content. Omega-3 fatty acids are well-known for other benefits including being a potent anti-inflammatory. We also know that inflammation is a major cause of heart disease. But wait a minute; plants contain omega-3 fatty acids also. One of my favorite is flax.

Why Flax Could Be a Better Source of Omega 3

Flax Seeds For HealthThe omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseeds differs from that found in fish. Flaxseed is either dark or golden brown derived from a pale blue flowering flax plant. This type of omega-3 fatty acid is mainly alpha linolenic acid (ALA.)

It is well-known that regular use of flax in recommended doses also decreases cholesterol levels. In one research study it was found that flax decreases susceptibility to dangerous arrhythmias, a major complication of heart attacks, as well as relaxing arterial smooth muscles.  Flax has the potential to decrease cardiovascular diseases and stroke, major complications of atherosclerosis.

What is the recommended dose and way to take flax

Many people ask for recommended quantity of flax.  I usually recommend 2 tablespoons of flaxseed per day to maintain a heart healthy diet. One researcher recommends 30 g of flax per day.

The best way to ingest flax is fleshly ground. Blood omega three fatty acid increases only when we consume milled flax or flax oil. I prefer freshly ground because the product retains its rich stores of lignans which if exposed to air for prolonged periods become oxidized.

It also contains a generous amount of healthy fiber, including the soluble fiber group. While the flaxseed oil contains omega-3 fatty acid, it lacks the fiber that is so good for us. In fact presence of fiber in Flax is the major differentiation between Flax and Fish oil. Eating whole flaxseeds does not increase the healthy beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in our blood as it is not broken down by our bodies.

What Are the Health Benefits

In a trial involving patients with peripheral arterial disease, these are patients with clogged arteries usually in the legs due to cholesterol plaques; in which flax were studied the patients showed a substantial decrease in their cholesterol levels, as well as improvement in blood flow to the extremities.

These patients are usually hypertensive, having high blood pressure. It was found that flax reduce blood pressure to a greater extent than fish. This could be because fish has cholesterol in high amounts in addition to omega-3 fatty acid. Remember fish oil is extracted from the muscle of a cold blooded animal whose major components are fat and protein. There is no carbohydrate, no dietary fiber or no vitamin C in fish.

On the other hand, flax is high in soluble fiber which absorbs bad fats and cholesterol from the body reducing cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Flax lignans are potent antioxidants. Flaxseeds, when consume properly appears to reduce blood pressure greater than the DASH diet or the Mediterranean-style diet, and may be as good as many drugs on the market.

Flax seems to reduce atherosclerosis, arrhythmias, and help relax arteries. Flax improves our blood pressure decreases the risk for cardiovascular and hypertensive diseases. Flaxseeds are also great for weight loss and diabetes.

Article By : Dr. Ray Innis is a local doctor of anesthesiology and is a healthy living columnist for the United Way Healthy Living Alliance.

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