Flaxseed is one of the best-known plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. A single tablespoon of these seeds contains 1.8 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, primarily in the form of ALA alpha linolenic acid. Unlike fish oil that comes from fatty fish varieties, these seeds are derived from plants and do not contain any animal products, serving as an excellent choice for those who follow a vegan diet. Whether you add ground flax to a smoothie, sprinkle whole flaxseeds over a salad, or take a daily omega 3 supplement.
Flaxseed Oil is Rich in Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
Flaxseed oil has a unique blend of the "good" fats: the essential polyunsaturated fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA). Essential fatty acids must be consumed through food or supplements, as they cannot be made in the body. Diets that are high in fatty fish usually contain healthy fats, however, if an individual does not consume animal products, they may be at risk of suffering from a nutrient shortfall.
Approximately 45-52% of the fatty acids in flaxseed oil are ALA, making it the richest plant source of this essential omega-3 fatty acid.
How Much ALA Per Day Do You Need?
The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 1.6 g/day ALA for men and 1.1 g/day ALA for women, with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 5:1 to 10:1.
However, national surveys report that most Americans are not meeting these recommendations. Data from the 2003-2008 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that over 40% of adults are not meeting the recommended intake for ALA.(3) Although the Institute of Medicine recommends an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 5:1 to 10:1, most American diets consist of much higher ratios, about 16:1 or higher. This is because Americans consume oils that are usually higher in the LA omega-6 fatty acid, such as soybean and canola oil. Consuming more flaxseed oil, whether in the diet or as a supplement, can help to improve the ratio to recommended levels, since flaxseed oil contains more than three times as much omega-3 as omega-6 fatty acids.
The National Academy of Medicine, NAM, (formerly known as Institute of Medicine; IOM) recommends consuming omega-3 fatty acids from various sources, including walnuts, flaxseeds, and their oils, and tofu.
Large population-based studies suggest that consuming both plant and marine sources of omega-3 fatty acids help support a healthy heart.† Flaxseed and its oil, whether through your diet or as a supplement, is a great way to get the recommended amount of the essential omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Try Nature Made Flaxseed Oil 1000 mg, made with organic flaxseed oil.
Who Should Take a Flaxseed Supplement?
On average, most adults are not eating enough fatty fish to receive the recommended amount of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. While chia seed, walnuts, and flaxseed are all plant-based sources of the omega-3 fatty acid ALA , these healthy fats may be missing from the average diet. Adding a flaxseed oil supplement or fish oil supplement can help increase your daily omega-3 fat intake.
Choo WS, Birch J, Dufour J. Physicochemical and quality characteristics of cold-pressed flaxseed oils. J Food Compost Anal. 2007;20:202-211.
Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2005.
Papanikolaou Y, Brooks J, Reider C et al. U.S. adults are not meeting recommended levels for fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake: results of an analysis using observational data from NHANES 2003-2008. Nutr J 2014;13:31
Liu J and Ma DWL. “The Role of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids ...”. Nutrients. 2014;6:5184-5223.
American Heart Association. Fish 101. Updated Aug 2015. Website: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Fish-%20101_UCM_305986_Article.jsp# Accessed December 20, 2017.
As a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Sandra educates healthcare professionals and consumers on nutrition, supplements, and related health concerns. Prior to joining Pharmavite, Sandra worked as a clinical dietitian at University of Chicago Medicine in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Sandra received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Science, with minors in Spanish and Chemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ. She earned her Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from RUSH University in Chicago, IL. As part of her Master’s program, Sandra performed research on physical activity participation and correlates in urban Hispanic women.
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