Hemp has an impressive list of beneficial phytonutrients like CBD, terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids. But did you know that hemp is rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) as well? Moreover, hemp seeds are a superfood that contains the golden ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 recommended for a regular, healthy diet.
In this post we’ll review why we all need those essential fatty acids, and explain how hemp seed oil, fortified with a vegan source of DHA, can offer the best balanced source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
What Are Essential Fatty Acids?
Similar to essential vitamins like Vitamin C, some fatty acids are essential because the human body does not make them and has to get them through diet and/or supplements. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA) are the two fatty acids essential to humans. To reiterate, “essential” means we need them to support our health, but we don’t make them in the body.
You may also know these essential fatty acids as omegas. ALA is known as omega-3 and LA is known as omega-6.
Yes, We Need Certain Dietary Fats
Depending on your age, you may remember a time when fat in your diet was evil. Then we slowly became aware of saturated and unsaturated dietary fats. Finally, trans fat emerged as the culprit behind fat danger. In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended people limit their calorie intake to less than 1% from trans fat a day.
That leaves us with saturated and unsaturated fats. Fatty acids are made of carbon atoms. Unsaturated fats have double bonds between some of the carbon atoms which block hydrogen atoms from attaching in those places, thus keeping them from being “saturated” with hydrogen atoms. Saturated fats do not have these double bonds, and therefore do become saturated.
In the world of unsaturated fatty acids, there are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Omega-3 and omega-6 are PUFAs and omega-9 is a MUFA. The difference is in the placement structure of the double bonds that block the hydrogen atoms (3, 6, or 9 placements away from one end of the fatty acid chain). As we said earlier, omega-3 and -6 fatty acids are the essential ones. This translates to getting these omega 3/6 sources from food or supplements.
Why Do We Need Omega 3/6 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 and -6 promote healthy heart, blood pressure, and circulation. They also support the health of your brain, skin, and immune system. Furthermore, essential fatty acids are a necessary component of cell membranes and support prenatal growth in pregnant women.
Before we get into supplements, we’ll explore which foods are rich in omega-3 and -6. But first, we need to have a quick conversation about the types of omega-3 fatty acids.
Three Types of Omega-3s
The three omega-3s that are recommended for our health are ALA, DHA, and EPA. DHA and EPA are actually thought to have more health benefits than ALA. These omega-3s can be made in the body using ALA, the essential fatty acid. But here’s the rub: The conversion rate of synthesizing DHA and EPA from ALA is poor (about 5%). This is why fish oil in diet or supplements is recommended; it is high in DHA and EPA.
ALA is a plant-based source of omega-3 and is found in flaxseed, hemp seed, chia seed, walnuts, and canola and soybean oils.
DHA and EPA are marine-based sources of omega-3 and are found in cold-water fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel. However, microalgae is rapidly becoming a vegan source for DHA. We’ll get to this soon when we discuss supplements.
Sources of LA include vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. There is also a nonessential omega-6, arachidonic acid (AA), that is found in meat and eggs.
Hemp Seeds — The Superfood of Omega Ratios
The oil from hemp seeds is around 75% essential fatty acids. This includes the vegan omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and the vegan omega-6, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Also, the ALA and SDA fatty acids found in hemp seeds provide a greater conversion to DHA.
6^3 or 6*3 refers to the specific ratio of omega-6 and -3. According to one study on the cardiac and blood pressure effects of hemp seed in the diet, hemp seed has a 2:1 to 3:1 essential fatty acid ratio, which is aligned with a healthy diet. It’s recommended to get anywhere from a 1:1 to 4:1 ratio. Most Americans intake closer to a 10:1 ratio.
Here are some other foods and their omega 6^3:
Sunflower Seeds: 312:1
Hemp Seeds/Oil: 3:1
Grain-fed Beef: 10:1
Salmon (wild, raw): 1:12
Tuna (canned, water, drained): 1:31
Tuna (canned, oil, drained): 13:1
Palm Oil: 46:1
Olive Oil: 13:1
Grape Seed Oil: 696:1
Avocado Oil: 13:1
Corn Oil: 46:1
Fish Oil and a Better Source of DHA
The USDA recommends 8 ounces of seafood a week to get your DHA — an omega 3 essential fatty acid that is important for heart health and combating inflammation. But what to do if you are a vegan? Or if you are flabbergasted that it takes hundreds of fish to make one bottle of fish oil vitamins? The answer is microalgae. Traditionally, we’ve gotten DHA from fish. But where do the fish get it? From phytoplankton, and they get it from a diet of microalgae — the source of DHA.
Ananda Vegan Omega+ contains DHA-rich algal oil that anyone can benefit from, fish eater or not.
Ananda Vegan Omega+ Softgels
We recommend Ananda Vegan Omega+ because you get the benefits of hemps seed oil along with the algal oil — DHA that comes from the algae that fish eat. You can have the same health benefits of fish-oil sourced DHA, but from 100% vegan and environmentally friendly sources. Check out The Hemp Haus for thies amazing new product that is coming soon!