Getting more omega-3 has become the mantra recently. Omega-3’s are not only heart healthy, but their anti-inflammatory benefits could lower the risk of some diseases – and even reduce the pain and discomfort of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. More doctors are recognizing the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and recommending that patients get more of them.
The best way to get more omega-3 fats is to eat fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel – or take an omega-3 supplement. On the other hand, not everyone is fond of these foods and some people don’t want to get their omega-3’s by taking pills. Is there another way?
General Mills recently launched an omega-3 cereal called Total Plus Omega-3’s. It offers a quick, convenient, and non-fishy way to get some of the benefits of an omega-3’s without taking a supplement. With this cereal launch, General Mills is hopping aboard the trend of fortifying foods with nutritional components that Americans don’t get enough of.
Is Omega-3 Cereal a Good Idea?
Although Total Plus Omega-3 Cereal sounds like a good idea, there are some drawbacks to getting omega-3’s this way. The “omega-3’s” in Total Plus are in the form of ALA which is a short chain fatty acid that the body converts to the longer chain omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. The problem is the body doesn’t make this conversion very efficiently. Some studies show the amount of ALA that’s actually converted to DHA and EPA by the body is less than five percent.
Getting omega-3’s in the form of ALA may not offer the same benefits as eating fatty fish that contains DHA and EPA in a form the body can already use – although ALA has some of the same heart healthy benefits as the omega-3’s according to some studies. Whether it has all of the benefits of the omega-3’s is unclear.
Total Plus Omega-3 Cereal: A Good Option?
The amount of ALA in Total Plus Omega-3 Cereal is only 160 milligrams per serving which isn’t a lot. ALA is naturally found in flaxseed and flaxseed oil – which are more concentrated sources. For most people, it’s just as easy to add a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseed to their cereal – and less expensive since Total Plus Omega-3 costs almost $4.00 a box.
The Bottom Line?
Total Plus Omega-3 Cereal may be a good way for vegetarians to get omega-3’s since they can’t eat fatty fish, but fatty fish is still a better source of DHA and EPA for humans since the body can use it directly, while ALA has to be converted to omega-3’s. Even vegetarians will find that ground flaxseed is a better source of the omega-3 precursor ALA than Total Plus cereal. If you don’t like fish or don’t eat meat, save your money and get ground flaxseed instead.
Int. J. Vitam. Nutr. Res. 68 (3): 159′”173.