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Omega-3 rich foods

15 Foods Rich In Omega-3 Fatty Acids — Benefits

Omega-3 fatty acids are becoming increasingly popular for the array of health benefits they offer. These essential nutrients can impact the physical and mental well-being of an individual. Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps improve the functioning of cells and membranes (1). It also helps maintain the metabolism of glucose and cells. Studies also suggest that intake of omega-3 fatty acids for more than six weeks may increase the body’s metabolic rate and decrease total body fat (2). In this article, we discuss the 15 foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and their health benefits. Keep reading!

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for the body. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the two major types of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Seafood is the main source of EPA and DHA (2).

The body also synthesizes small amounts of EPA and DHA from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseed, canola, and walnuts. The body also forms docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) –also a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid–when it breaks down (metabolizes) DHA (3).

A healthy adult should consume at least two portions of fish a week to obtain its health benefits, according to the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (4).

Learn about the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in the next section.

Health Benefits Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

1. May Help Combat Depression

The deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids is linked to an increased risk of various psychiatric disorders, including depression (5). Depression is a multifactorial disorder, and depression due to insufficient omega-3 fatty acid intake can be of one type. People suspected to have this type of depression may respond well to a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids with no significant side effects (6).

2. May Reduce The Risk Of Cardiovascular Diseases

Omega-3 fatty acids protect the heart and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing high LDL cholesterol and blood clotting. The intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of sudden death caused by cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat). Besides, it may also reduce all-cause mortality in people with known coronary heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are also used to treat hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol levels) and hypertension – which cause cardiovascular disease (7).

The American Heart Association recommends at least one serving of fish daily for those with coronary heart disease. It also recommends two servings of fish per week for persons with no coronary heart disease (7).

3. May Help With Cancer Treatment

Inflammation causes tumors and their growth. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, and their intake may increase the efficacy of chemotherapy. These fatty acids are shown to preserve muscle mass and function in cancer patients even during active treatment. A combination of chemotherapy and supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids may enhance the treatment outcome (8).

4. May Help Reduce Cholesterol

Elevated triglycerides (fats) may lead to hypertriglyceridemia (high-fat concentration in the blood). Managing LDL cholesterol levels helps manage triglycerides effectively. Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA are proven to reduce triglycerides levels (9).

Why take supplements when you have other alternatives? Here are 15 foods you can eat to get omega-3 fatty acids naturally. Read on!

15 Foods High In Omega-3 Fatty Acids

1. Purslane

Purslane (a leafy green vegetable) is richer in omega-3 fatty acids than spinach. Fresh purslane leaves (100g) contain about 300-400 mg of alpha-linolenic acid (10). Including it in your diet may help you get a sufficient amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Walnuts

Walnut is one of the healthiest nuts that contain the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids (11). These nuts can also be a tasty addition to your diet.

3. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts resemble miniature cabbages and are low in calories. They contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids (12).

4. Soybean Oil

The protein-rich soy is popular in many diets. Soybean oil is found to contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids (13). However, more research is warranted to understand the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids from soy.

5. Seeds

Seeds like chia seeds flaxseed are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Their oil extracts are also used in omega-3 supplements. Sprinkling these oils or ground seeds over salads or smoothies is an easy way to include them in a regular diet (14).

6. Egg Yolks

Many people don’t prefer egg yolks due to their high-calorie content. But, they contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids (15). So, add egg yolks to your diet in moderation.

7. Seaweed

Seaweed is a great source of nutrients for people who prefer plant-based foods. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent inflammatory, cardiovascular, and nervous system disorders (16).

8. Fish

Oily fish, fatty fish, cold-water fish, salmon, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They are also rich in proteins and vitamins, and may help lower the risk of many health conditions (17).

9. Wild Berries

Different kinds of wild berries contain significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (18). They can be used as toppings on smoothies or consumed as an evening snack.

10. Oysters

Oysters are rich in many nutrients. 100 g of oysters contain 188 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 203 mg of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (19).

11. Scandinavian Caviar Paste

Scandinavian caviar paste is a spread naturally enriched with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (20). It is used in making sandwiches, tapas, soups, and as a spread on toasted bread.

12. Wild Rice

Wild rice grows in the shallow waters of North America and differs from brown and white rice. 100 g of wild rice provides 300 mg (0.3g) of omega-3 fatty acid (21).

13. Winter Squash

Winter squash (100g) contains 26 mg of omega-3 fatty acids (22). This seasonal fruit can be a healthy inclusion in your diet.

14. Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. They have also been found to improve cardiovascular health (23). You can add them to smoothies and salads or consume raw.

15. Spinach

Spinach is a proven source of omega-3 fatty acids (24). You can make spinach dishes or add some spinach leaves to your juices or smoothies.

In the next section, we discuss how much omega-3 fatty acid you need in a day. Read on!

How Much Omega-3 Fatty Acid Do You Need Per Day?

The required intake omega-3 fatty acids varies from person to person. However, it ranges between 200-500 mg (both EPA and DHA) per day for adults (25).

Pregnant women need 650 mg of omega-3 fatty acids every day, of which 300 mg should be DHA. Depending on the omega-3 content of the seafood consumed during the week, pregnant women would need an additional 400 to 550 mg of omega-3 PUFAs (EPA and DHA) daily. Of this, about 225 mg should be DHA (26).

Anthony Puopolo, Chief Medical Officer and Physician at LifeMD, says it is in general agreement that 250-500mg of omega-3 fatty acids is a healthy amount for adults to consume daily. This can be achieved simply through diet or through fish oil tablets or other supplements.

The Final Takeaway

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that offer an array of health benefits. Consuming foods rich in these fatty acids helps treat depression and enhance cancer treatment outcomes. They may also lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. While many people prefer taking them in supplemental form, they can also be consumed through the foods listed above. Add any of these foods to your diet to meet your daily requirement of omega-3 fatty acids.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is avocado high in omega-3?

Yes, avocados are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which also account for their antioxidant properties (27).

Does milk have omega-3?

Recent research suggests that organic milk from grass-fed cows contains about 147% more omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally fed cows (28).

Do almonds have omega-3?

While almonds have reasonable amounts of monosaturated fatty acids, they only have traces of omega-3 fatty acids (29). Walnuts and pecans are better options for omega-3 fatty acids.

Does yogurt have omega-3?

Yes, you can find yogurt varieties fortified with omega-3 fatty acids (30).

Does chicken have omega-3?

Chickens fed a diet fortified in omega-3 fatty acids can have a good amount of this heart-helathy nutrient.

Key Takeaways Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for the body.

Including omega-3 fatty acids in the diet may help combat depression, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, help with cancer treatment, and help reduce cholesterol.

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include fish, seeds, walnuts, brussel sprouts, and purslane.


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Top 8 Fish for Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential form of dietary fat with several health benefits. Fatty fish is high in two main types of omega-3s, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Because of their omega-3 content, regular consumption of fish is associated with significantly lower rates of heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish every week. One serving equals 3.5 ounces of cooked fish or 3/4 cup of flaked fish. Choosing from a variety of different fish helps reduce your exposure to environmental pollutants, like mercury. Here are eight delicious fish to add to your grocery list.

Omega-3 rich foods

Food fads come and go, but ensuring you get enough omega-3 in your diet isn’t one of them, for one simple reason - without omega-3, we just don’t function very well. Yet this set of nutrients has been quietly slipping out of our diets over the last 50 years.

In our quest for slimmer waistlines we’ve demonised fat as the enemy. At the same time, the industrialisation of agriculture has stripped omega-3 from the very foods that used to be brimming with them.

Our cows used to graze on pastures, turning the omega-3 rich grass into substances that humans could digest - milk, butter and beef. Chickens were free to roam, foraging through the grass for omega-3 rich grubs, providing us with equally omega-3 rich eggs.

Now our cows are fed on grain, our chickens are raised on corn and both are routinely given antibiotics to fight off the diseases caused by intensive farming methods.

While at the same time the good fats have been taken from our diet, the food supply has also been flooded with cheap vegetable and seed oils, rich in an altogether more troublesome kind of fat - omega-6. We cook with it at home and food manufacturers love its affordability and long shelf life. From crackers and crisps to granola bars and hummus, if it’s processed, you can bet it contains some kind of omega-6 rich oil.

And why’s that a problem? Both omega-6 and omega-3 have a role to play in building the trillions of cells in your body. While omega-3s are more fluid, omega-6s are rigid to help give cells their structure. We need them both, but in balanced amounts for optimal good health. Too many omega-6s and too few omega-3s do not add up to good health. Ideally our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 ratio would be 1:1, but in the West we’re eating a ratio as high as 20:1. Read more about this delicate balancing act in our omega-3, 6, 9 guide.

Luckily, there are lots of ways you can get the balance right in your own diet. We’ve discovered the very best omega-3 rich foods to help you restore this essential fatty acid back to its rightful place - on your dinner table.

Eric Carter