Microalgae are where fish get their omega-3's. Certain kinds of fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines are especially rich in DHA and EPA because they are at the top of a food chain that begins with marine microalgae.
These tiny marine algae make more omega-3 essential fatty acids than any other plant on land or sea. They are consumed by smaller fish, that are in turn eaten by bigger fish, that are eaten by still bigger fish. Each step up the food chain concentrates the omega-3 essential fatty acid content of the fish.
Each step up the food chain also concentrates lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, polychlorinated biphenyls and plasticizers. To make a fish oil product healthy, the oil has to be distilled to remove these pollutants. If you start with the algae to extract your omega-3's, however, there is far less of a problem with ocean-borne pollution.
Vegetarian omega-3's are concentrated from microalgae. To get enough DHA and EPA to do your body good, the essential fatty acids in microalgae have to be concentrated. But concentrating the essential fatty acids in microalgae doesn't concentrated ocean pollution. In fact, vegetarian sources of omega-3's aren't exposed to any pollution at all.
It's impossible to "catch" algae with a net, so they are cultured in clean, sterile tanks filled with purified water. The tanks are carefully maintained to keep bacterial contamination out. That's something that simply is not possible with ocean-going fish. A combination of sunlight and artificial light for 16 hours a day charges the phytoplankton make up to 45 per cent fat, and the fat can then be distilled at harvesting.
Why you pay more for vegetarian omega-3's. The high-tech growing tanks and distillation equipment for phytoplankton are not cheap. Generally, you will pay about five times as much for vegetarian omega-3's as for fish oil. You can be assured, however, that you are getting the essential fatty acids your body needs in a form your body can use right away, without danger of heavy metal or chemical pollution. Marine algae are also a great source of astaxanthin, an antioxidant in the same chemical family as the beta-carotene you get from carrots or the lycopene you get from tomatoes.
What are some good brands of vegetarian omega-3's? Reliable brands of vegetarian omega-3's include DEVA and V-PURE. Read the label carefully to make sure you are taking enough capsules to get the DHA and EPA you need.