How to Track Omega 3s Using Wholesome

How do you use Wholesome to know if you're getting enough Omega 3s?

Wholesome doesn't have a single field for "Omega 3s" because there are many different types and there's really no way to bucket them into one category. Wholesome tracks each type individually and the data is sourced directly from the USDA. The types of Omega 3s are: a-Linoleic acid (ALA), EPA, DHA, DPA. Note that linoleic acid is an Omega 6. 

Foods high in ALA: flax seed oil, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds.

Foods high in EPA, DPA, & DHA: fish and fish oils (see nutrient pages in Wholesome app for specifics).

Foods high in Omega 6 linoleic acid: walnuts, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, pepitas.

Don't worry, you don't need to memorize these - you can reference these lists any time in Wholesome.

What's the difference between Omega 3s and Omega 6s?

To start off, they are both fatty acids. While both are considered healthy, they do compete for the same enzymes and so it's important not to consume too many Omega 6s that may inhibit the benefits of Omega 3s. 

Several sources of information suggest that human beings evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) of approximately 1 whereas in Western diets the ratio is 15/1-16.7/1.
— The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, Washington, DC

It is important to get the right ratio of Omega 3s to Omega 6s (ideally 1 to 1). Most of us have far too much Omega 6s with the average western diet having 15 to 1. Try to reduce the amount of vegetable oil and eat more chia and hemp seeds. A lower ratio is also thought to help with chronic disease:

The lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk. A ratio of 2-3/1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and a ratio of 5/1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma, whereas a ratio of 10/1 had adverse consequences.
— The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, Washington, DC

source

How it works in the app

To track your intake of Omega 3s, simply add the foods that you eat and go to the My Nutrition page. Look for the section called "Steroids & Omega Fatty Acids".

ALA and linoleic acid both have recommended amounts set by the USDA and so they show as a percent so that you can track toward your daily goal. 

EPA, DPA, & DHA do not have pre-determined goals set by the USDA and so they are shown in exact grams rather than percent form.

Why do Flaxseeds not show Omega 3s DHA and EPA in the app?

Flaxseeds contain the omega 3 fatty acid ALA (listed in the app). When consumed, it can be broken down into DHA and EPA by the body but there is controversy around how much converts. Flaxseed oil, on the other hand, has ALA in the ready form, likely due to processing. source:usda 

Whfoods.org has fantastic information on this topic: 

There is considerable scientific debate about our ability to get optimal amounts of EPA and DHA by relying exclusively on ALA-containing foods. That’s because our body’s ability to make EPA and DHA from ALA can become compromised under a variety of common circumstances.

... our body cannot do an effective job of converting ALA into EPA and DHA without a satisfactory supply of certain nutrients. These nutrients include vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and the minerals zinc and magnesium. If we are deficient in one or more of these nutrients, our bodies may not be able to provide us with optimal amounts of EPA and DHA, even when our ALA intake is sufficient.
— whfoods.org

Currently, Wholesome provides the data for pre-digestion and does not guess on bio-availability amounts. If you want to ensure you are getting EPA and DHA it is suggested that you eat it directly in it's natural form by consuming fish. EPA and DHA are especially considered to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. So if you're a vegetarian, you might consider talking to your doctor about supplementation. This information comes from whfoods.org.

Why does Wholesome show that almonds contain ALA and linoleic acid but almond butter does not?

The USDA provides data that almonds contain both linoleic acid (18:2 n-6, c, c) and ALA (18:3 n-3, c, c, c). source

However, almond butter shows only as the "undifferentiated" form which I don't believe qualify as LA and ALA. It doesn't mean that it doesn't contain them though its just not explicitly mentioned (super frustrating!). It is possible that the LA/ALA content is altered during commercial processing but I don't know for sure. I tried searching on google but can't seem to find a good answer. 

Sometimes the data is not straight forward, unfortunately. I've spent many hours researching fatty acids and how to get the most accurate nutrition information into Wholesome and it's quite complicated. 

Always note...

I'm not a nutritionist, but I am a cancer survivor who seeks out the best and most reliable health research available. Please feel free to reach out to me if you feel any information is inaccurate. I would appreciate your thoughts. Thank you! - Jessica