Sea Moss—A Sustainable Source for Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a family of healthy fats essential for survival. The body cannot make them on its own, so they are primarily ingested through foods or dietary supplements.
There are eleven types of omega-3s. The three most discussed are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
ALA is often found in plant-based foods such as nuts and seeds. Though the body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, it is in very minimal amounts.
The latter two types are the most important omega-3s. EPA and DHA are most abundant in fish.
Doctors will often specifically advise pregnant patients to take fish oil supplements (on top of eating cooked fish two to three times a week) to ensure the baby’s healthy development.
However, with growing concern over environmental sustainability, more people have been searching for plant-based ways to access the health benefits of EPA and DHA.
In recent years, the algae family (of which sea moss is a part) has been researched and produced as a source for vegan omega-3 supplementation. It makes sense that the food source for fish would give us similar nutritional benefits since they are also unable to produce omega-3s naturally.
Read on to see why plant-based origins like sea moss are viable sources of essential omega-3s.
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Why Are Omega-3s Important?
The health benefits of omega-3s are abundant.
These healthy fats are vital to the structure of every single cell wall in the body and act as an energy source. Omega-3s additionally do work to keep the body in check and working optimally.
Without omega-3s doing their jobs, the cardiovascular, respiratory, and immune systems would not be running as smoothly as they should.
There is research to support that omega-3 intake through food or supplementation positively affects the following health conditions:
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Omega-3 fatty acid intake associated with certain diets have been linked to a slower cognitive decline with age and may even lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
- Heart Disease: Omega-3s have been linked with many heart-healthy benefits including a reduction in the body’s inflammatory response, blood clot prevention, artery plaque prevention, an uptick in HDL levels (the good cholesterol), triglyceride reduction, and lower blood pressure levels.
- Fetus and Infant Development: There have been ties between conscious omega-3 consumption during pregnancy and breastfeeding with an improvement in the baby’s intelligence, respiratory health, and eye health.
- Cancer: Though the results of studies have been inconsistent, there have been noted connections between reduced risk of mortality and prevention of colon, prostate, and breast cancers.
- Mental Illness: Omega-3 supplementation can lessen symptoms of depression and anxiety. Tangentially, omega-3 supplements can also improve symptoms of ADHD in children and young adults.
- Pain Caused by Inflammation: The same anti-inflammatory benefits that support heart health also work to decrease pain from menstrual cramps, migraines, and some autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
There are numerous other benefits associated with omega-3s that show how essential the fatty acids are to overall health.
Even so, it is important to remember that it is possible to overdo it either through diet or supplementation. Never take more than the recommended dosage unless specifically advised to by your doctor.
Luckily, any side effects that may occur with supplementation are typically mild and include smelly sweat or breath, diarrhea, headache, nausea, heartburn, stomach pain, and a bad taste in the mouth.
In the wake of the documentary Seaspiracy being released on Netflix, thoughts about the environmental impacts of commercial fishing have been brought to the forefront of many concerned consumers' minds.
While the health benefits of omega-3s in fish oils are undeniable, there has been more information published related to the unsustainable consumption of fish worldwide.
Around 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’s floating mass is comprised of fishing nets (though 94% of the pieces floating in the area are microplastics). And often, problems arise when wealthier markets divert catches to serve their consumers. This causes cases of food insecurity in poorer islands, coastal communities, and nations.
This is shocking considering that nearly 47% of seafood is lost each year in the United States due to mainly consumer waste.
Although corporations with massive production models usually comprise the bulk of waste and pollution, consumers do have the collective power to only buy what they know they will consume to minimize waste on their end and perhaps push corporations to create less supply.
Unfortunately, farmed fish does not always end up being the healthy, sustainable solution it occasionally claims to be. The farms sometimes face issues with harmful algae growth, parasite transmissions between fish, and even pollution and waste contaminating the fish.
Concerns Over Contaminants
Depending on the fish oil source, there may be a risk of contaminants like methyl-mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxins. Mercury in particular can cause neurologic damage in excess.
Certain kinds of seafood like wild-caught salmon, shrimp, pollock, catfish, scallops, and sardines have lower levels of mercury. Still, the recommended serving is around two 6-ounce pieces of low-mercury seafood a week to protect against any possible contaminants.
Algae may also be contaminated with toxins. It is key to check local guidelines for healthy fish and algae and whether the companies you give patronage to have third-party checks into the safety of their harvest areas and seafood.
Lifestyle changes like creating well-rounded nutritious meals without meat or seafood are not always manageable depending on factors like location, income, time, and access to affordable grocery stores with variety.
However, there are small ways that those with the means can practice sustainability and push for change.
It is important to ask questions about where your food is coming from in the same way it has become more common to ask about how cows or chickens are raised before buying their meat. Find out how your food is sourced, how the harvesters are treated, and how the local ecosystem is cared for in the process.
Small companies like Happy Fox Health have lower production levels and automatically have a smaller carbon footprint than larger corporations by virtue of our size. We harvest sea moss only when it is in season and when it's aligned with natural growing cycles, giving Mother Earth the respect and time she needs to regenerate and provide for us. We are Non-GMO Project Verified, and we make it a point to work with local organizations to ensure that our sea moss harvest area maintains its natural balance for a better product and healthier ecosystem.
The answer always seems to be: if you have the means, shop small when attempting to live a more environmentally sustainable life.
And while individual action does not do much, it can often cause a domino effect of other people asking the same questions or taking the same actions, leading to real change.
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