Omega 3 Fortified Foods Archives

Omega 3 eggs aren’t cheap, but are they good value?

Just about everything you eat now seems to be fortified with the Omega 3 essential fatty acids. And of course as we have pointed out many times on this website the Omega 3 essential fatty acids are very good for your health, so what’s wrong with that?

Well of course as with all these things it’s important to dig a little deeper before you accept something on face value. So let’s dig a little deeper into Omega 3 eggs.

We should begin by saying that eggs are not normally devoid of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids. In fact eggs should have plenty of Omega 3 fats in them. However the operative word there is “should”.

Unfortunately the average egg that you buy in the supermarket now has very little of the Omega 3 fats. There is a very specific reason for that, it’s modern farming practices.

You see the Omega 3 fats found in eggs used to come from grass. The chickens ate the grass and the Omega 3 went into their system and ended up in the eggs.

That’s exactly how you get the Omega 3 essential fatty acids in fish. Fish at the bottom of the food chain eat seagrass, which is also high in the Omega 3 fats. Therefore they take Omega 3 fatty acids into their system and their oil is correspondingly high in fatty acids.
The value of omega 3 fortified eggs
And those Omega 3 fats work their way up the food chain as bigger fish eat smaller fish.

In the past we used to get our eggs from chickens which free ranged. They used to have a wide range of food sources, including all sorts of insects, and grass.

Yes believe it or not chickens eat grass. In fact the authors of this website have their own chickens, and are constantly amazed at how much grass they eat.

But modern chickens are not allowed to free range, or if they are it is usually rare that there is grass available to eat. More commonly they are fed chicken pellets or grains or soy products. These are not high in the Omega 3 fats.

And since the fatty acids come from their diet if there are none in their diet they don’t get any in their system, and if there is none in their system there will be none in their eggs.

That would seem to be an argument for eating Omega 3 fortified eggs. Lets see.

Of course the first thing to note is that Omega 3 eggs are more expensive than regular eggs.

But surely if you’re getting your Omega 3’s in the eggs the extra cost is worthwhile? Not necessarily.

You see not all of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids are created equal. DHA and EPA are the most important of the Omega 3 fats for your health. These are the ones which are found in fish oil and which used to be found in chicken and eggs, before modern farming practices changed.

However there is another type of Omega 3 fat called ALA. ALA is a precursor to DHA and EPA, meaning that it is converted in your body to DHA and EPA. And there’s a problem with that.

The problem is not that it is converted, the problem is how well it’s converted. It is generally recognized that it takes a large amount of ALA to convert into a very small amount of DHA and EPA. Estimates are that as little as under 1 percent of ALA is converted into more useful DHA and EPA.

ALA is cheaper than DHA and EPA, and therefore that is the fatty acid most commonly found in Omega 3 fortified eggs. So in effect you’re getting very little of the Omega 3 fats, certainly not enough to justify the cost, in fact you’d be much better if you spent your money on Omega 3 supplements which are filled with DHA and EPA, not ALA.

And the same applies to many other Omega 3 fortified foods, read the label and you’ll find that in almost all cases the Omega 3 fat in the food is ALA.

So why do they bother fortifying the eggs, or the other foods? It’s marketing silly, it’s all about selling more eggs.

It’s very difficult, though not impossible, to find eggs fortified with DHA and EPA, if you do then you’re getting much better value, though in our view it’s still much better value again to buy fish oil supplements and avoid paying a lot more for your eggs, or for any other Omega 3 fortified foods.

Best of all, get some chickens of your own, allow them to free range around the garden eating grass and bugs and you’ll have your own eggs high in Omega 3.

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Omega 3 fortified foods may not be all they are claimed to be

It is now generally accepted that most of us are deficient in our intake of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids. The 2 most important of these are DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid), and these are found primarily in oily fish. There is a plant-based form of Omega 3 called ALA however this is not considered to be nearly as beneficial to our health.

In the past our Omega 3 fatty acids were just part of our diet because we ate plenty of fish. However now, because of a decline in our intake of fish, most of us are deficient in the Omega3 fats and this is negatively impacting our health.

In the last decade people have turned to fish oil capsules to supplement their diet, as these fish oil supplements are cost effective and simple to take every day.

However it is now possible to get Omega 3 fortified foods. This is a marketing ploy by food manufacturers to make their foods more attractive to shoppers, but if we can get our essential fatty acids from eating Omega 3 rich foods then why not? Lets see.

This article is based on research done by The Food Commission examining this issue.

The first question to answer when examining Omega3 foods is whether or not the essential fatty acids are the plant-based form, namely ALA, or the much more important fish-based forms, namely DHA and EPA. If the essential fatty acids are based on the plant-based form they are much less useful to our health.

So the first question to ask yourself if you are buying Omega 3 fortified foods is what form of essential fatty acids are found in the foods? If it is impossible to tell because the label does not specify then we suggest you treat those foods with some suspicion.

Note that of the survey done by The Food Commission on 21 products purchased from food retailers, around a third had plant-based Omega 3 fatty acids. So it is well worthwhile examining the label to check that the Omega3 fats are EPA and DHA.

Are omega 3 fortified foods worth it?

The second question to ask yourself if you’re considering buying Omega 3 rich foods is how much of the fatty acids are in the food and how much you would need to eat to get your daily recommended allowance?

There are no universally recognised standards for daily recommended allowance of DHA and EPA. So, as does The Food Commission, we shall take the UK government recommended daily amount of 450 milligrams a day of fatty acids, as DHA or EPA, for the purposes of this article. (Note that the European standard according to the European food safety authority is 250 milligrams per day, considered by many to be too low).

Interestingly, according to the survey which examined the levels of essential fatty acids found in the various foods, it would be necessary to eat relatively large amounts of any of these foods to reach the recommended daily intake of 450 milligrams per day.

For example you would need to eat 8 of the fish fingers examined, 6 tins of Heinz ravioli, 23 slices of Omega 3 fortified white bread and so on. You get the picture. Whilst these products may be fortified with Omega 3 fatty acids there is not a lot in there.

In fact it is much cheaper and you will probably do much better in terms of Omega 3 intake eating a can of mackerel for your Omega 3, or taking capsules.

And the third question to ask yourself is what are you eating along with the Omega3 fats? Because of course many of these foods are high in salt, sugar and saturated fat, and whilst you may be getting modest amounts of essential fatty acids in your Omega3 fortified foods you are also eating the salt, sugar and other fats which are not healthy.

For example Heinz Spiderman pasta shapes with sausages were examined, and to get the recommended amount of Omega 3 fatty acids you would need to eat 6 cans of these. 6 cans would provide you with 17.4 grams of saturated fat.

Whilst the Omega 3 fatty acids may be healthy the saturated fat that comes with them is not.

So as you can see eating Omega 3 fortified foods may not be the panacea you thought.

If that is the case then what should you do to add more essential fatty acids to your diet and attract all those health benefits? You should eat more oily fish, though this can be expensive, unless you buy canned varieties such as mackerel. Personally we get pretty tired of eating canned mackeral.

And fish is now recognised to be a source of contamination as fish are generally contaminated with various industrial toxins.

Or you can take fish oil capsules. These are cost effective, and the best ones are quite clean.

So there’s some food for thought if you’ve been considering buying Omega 3 rich foods like Omega 3 fortified bread.

There’s no doubt getting more essential fatty acids in your diet is healthy, it’s just a question of how you go about it.

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