Is it all about oily fish?
No it’s not! However, one of the reasons fish oils have had so much publicity is that fish and seafood are the main natural sources of the vital omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which are critical for brain development and function. It’s the old folk wisdom – fish really is good for the brain!
- Oily fish contain long chain omega-3s which are important fats for the brain
- Seeds, nuts and vegetables contain short chain omega-3s but these are not converted into long chain fats very well in the body
The most important fats are technically described as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) from the omega-3 fatty acids family, called eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA).
Our best source is oily fish (salmon, trout, sardines etc) but they actually come from the algae that fish eat, so vegetarians can get them from omega-3 supplements produced from these algae.
Soya, hemp, flax and pumpkin seeds and oils, walnuts and leafy green vegetables also contain omega-3 fatty acids, but they are the shorter-chain ones. In theory, our bodies can convert these into EPA and DHA but this process is not very efficient.