What is in this article?:
From decoding common omega terms to understanding vegetarian sources and how much you need, here's the lowdown on healthy fats.
EPA, DHA, and ALA: What is the difference?
Omega-3 fatty acids come in various forms, each with their own unique benefits. DHA is a structural fat that makes up the brain, nervous system, and eyeballs and produces compounds critical for cognitive health. EPA produces anti-inflammatory compounds and lowers heart-damaging triglycerides. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—found in vegetarian sources such as hemp foods, flaxseeds, leafy green vegetables, and chia seeds—can counteract the pro-inflammatory impact of eating too many omega-6 fatty acids and (to a limited degree) be converted to DHA and EPA in the body.
EPA and DHA get most of the credit for omega-3s’ health benefits. However, you might assume that if you’re getting enough ALA—often the source of omega-3s in fortified foods—you’re covered. That’s not the case (see number 5 below).