You already know about the potential benefits of a diet that is rich in omega-3—but aside from taking an omega-3 supplement, how can you incorporate more of this essential nutrient in your diet?
There are plenty of delicious foods that are naturally high in omega-3. Some of them you may know already, others may surprise you! Below you will find some of our favourite foods that are contain omega-3. We’ll outline the best ways to prepare them to preserve their omega-3 content, and let you know what other nutrients you’ll enjoy from eating these foods.
Omega-3: A Healthy Essential
If you’ve spoken to a healthcare professional about omega-3, you may have been informed that it contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which are considered essential fatty acids. These fatty acids have been shown to help maintain the signal pathways of our bodies, as well as improve overall cell health. As a matter of fact, studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can positively impact many aspects of our physical and mental health, including:
Mood: Research suggests that individuals who consume a lot of fish or have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood are less likely to report signs and symptoms of depression [1-3]. Additional studies seem to indicate that omega-3 can actually help to alleviate depression and help regulate mood [4-7].
Brain Health: Omega-3 has also been linked to improved cognitive health in a variety of people, including healthy young people and the senior population [8-16].
Heart Health: Researchers have found that omega-3 may improve overall heart health, while decreasing the risk of cardiac death [17-23]. In addition, studies have shown omega-3 fatty acids decrease triglycerides and lower blood pressure [24-31].
Studies have also shown links between omega-3 and reduced inflammation [32-34], as well as weight and fat loss (specifically belly fat) in clinical trials .
The Ultimate Guide to High Omega-3 Foods
Now that you know about the benefits of omega-3, it’s time to figure out how to get more of it! Because omega-3 fatty acids are not naturally produced by the body, we must acquire them through diet or supplements. Luckily, you have plenty of options when it comes to choosing omega-3 foods.
Keep in mind that most plant-based sources of omega-3 contain ALA (alpa-linolenic acid) but not EPA and DHA. ALA is still beneficial—think of it as the building blocks your body uses to create EPA and DHA. However, it’s not a very efficient process. Only about 5% of diet-sourced ALA is converted by the human body.
Note: All of the nutritional information below, including serving sizes, is from the USDA’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference and based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet.
Fish & Meat High in Omega-3
Fish and seafood are the best sources of whole food dietary omega-3 you can find, and some meat products contain varying levels of omega-3.
Without a doubt one of the most popular sources of whole food omega-3, salmon contains 633 mg of omega-3 per ounce. This omega-3 is mainly in EPA and DHA form, meaning your body can use it as soon as it enters your bloodstream. Salmon is also an excellent source of lean protein, and contains approximately 10% of your daily recommended intake of both niacin and vitamin B6 and 13% of your daily vitamin B12 needs. Look for sustainably caught wild salmon, and eat it baked or grilled.
Although we tend to think of canned food as being less healthy, canned sardines are a great way to get fish-sourced omega-3 when you’re on the go or need to pack a lunch. One ounce of canned sardines contains 414 mg of omega-3 and is also high in vitamins D and B12. Plus, it delivers over 10% of your daily recommended calcium intake!
Oysters and Mussels
Sustainably farmed shellfish are both healthy and delicious as appetizers or the main course! 3 ounces of cooked oyster contains approximately 427 mg of omega-3, plus over 3 times your daily recommended minimum intake of vitamin B12 and over two and a half times your intake of zinc. The same serving of mussels delivers 736 mg of essential omega-3 and lots of critical vitamins and minerals.
Choosing grass-fed beef can be a healthier alternative to traditionally farmed (i.e. grain-fed) beef. Grass-fed beef contains about 5.9 mg of omega-3 per ounce, and some beef producers have managed to raise the amount of naturally present omega-3 in their beef by feeding marine algae to livestock . The amount of omega-3 in the beef you buy will vary based on how the beef was raised.
Eggs & Dairy Products High in Omega-3
Eggs and dairy products are not always high in omega-3, but some brands offer egg and dairy products with additional omega-3. The quality and bioavailability of this additional omega-3 varies between producers, so we can’t guarantee it—we encourage you to do your own research before purchasing added omega-3 products! Usually, the added omega-3 comes from fortifying the animal’s diet with marine algae or another source of omega-3.
One large regular egg contains approximately 71 mg of omega-3. Some producers of omega-3 eggs (produced by hens fed a diet rich in omega-3) claim their products contain up to five times that amount. Although you may choose organic eggs or eggs produced by free-range hens over conventional eggs for other reasons, there isn’t a substantial difference in the omega-3 content of those eggs. Overall, eggs are a great source of many vitamins and minerals—including riboflavin, vitamins A, B12, D, E, and K—and a good source of protein.
Omega-3 Milk & Dairy Products
There are so many different kinds of milk available that it’s impossible to tell you exactly what each serving contains. Most kinds of milk are fortified with various vitamins and minerals. Some producers now offer omega-3 milk and dairy products which, like omega-3 beef, are a result of feeding dairy livestock diets higher in omega-3. We can’t guarantee the omega-3 content of any of these products, but we are happy that so many people are realizing the potential health benefits of omega-3!
Nuts, Seeds & Beans High in Omega-3
Nuts and seeds can be a great source of omega-3, and are very popular with vegans and vegetarians looking to include more whole food sources of omega-3 in their diets. While the numbers may look high (hello, walnuts!), remember what you learned earlier about the differences between the omega-3 fatty acids: nut and seed sources of omega-3 are primarily ALA, which must be converted to EPA and DHA in your body. They also tend to be higher in omega-6, which can cancel some of the health benefits of omega-3.
Hemp Hearts are nutty and sweet like pine nuts. They sport 830mg of Omega 3 fatty acids per tablespoon. Flax and Chia share the Omega 3 benefit but when they get wet their mucilage fibre gets slippery and sticky. Hemp’s crunchy yet creamy texture makes it a versatile vegan Omega-3 source.
One ounce of walnuts contains a whopping 2500 mg of omega-3! We know what you’re thinking—why not just eat walnuts every day to meet my omega-3 dietary needs? While walnuts are an excellent food to incorporate into your diet (the same serving contains nearly half of your daily recommended intake of manganese, 8% of your vitamin B6 intake, and 4.3 g of protein), keep in mind that the omega-3 essential fatty acids found in walnuts are ALA, which still must be converted to EPA and DHA in your body. Since your body only converts ALA at a rate of about 5%, you won’t receive the same benefits as you would ingesting an equivalent amount of EPA and DHA.
Macadamia nuts only contain about 58 mg of omega-3 in a one-ounce serving, but of all the tree nuts they have one of the most balanced ratios of omega-3 to omega-6. They’re also high in thiamin, a water-soluble B vitamin which helps convert carbohydrates into usable energy.
Flaxseed is an excellent source of omega-3, as far as plants go. One ounce of flaxseed contains 6388 mg of omega-3 essential fatty acids, and only 1655 mg of omega-6, which is a good balance. If you eat whole flaxseeds you won’t receive as many nutritional benefits, so try to eat ground flaxseed instead. Keep in mind that ground flaxseed doesn’t have as long of a shelf life—if you can grind your own flaxseed at home, even better! Try sprinkling it over yogurt or adding it to smoothies.
Chia seeds have been gaining popularity in recent years, and for good reason—they’re tiny nutritional powerhouses! An ounce of chia seeds contains 4915 mg of omega-3 and 1620 mg of omega-6. While chia seeds don’t contain much in the way of vitamins, they deliver several crucial dietary trace minerals including calcium, phosphorus, and manganese. Like flaxseed, you can sprinkle chia over yogurt, add to smoothies, or make your own chia pudding.
Soybeans are most often prepared and eaten as edamame. While different methods of preparation can alter the nutritional content of the soybean, raw soybeans contain approximately 963 mg of omega-3. They’re also extremely high in calcium and iron—one cup of raw soybeans contains approximately half your daily recommended intake of each! They’re also a great source of dietary fibre, folate, vitamin C, potassium, and more.
Fruits & Vegetables Containing Omega-3
To be honest, fruits and vegetables aren’t a great source of omega-3. While they’re definitely an extremely important part of a nutritious diet, they do not contain significant amounts of omega-3 essential fatty acids. That said, some are better than others—and can be paired with other high-omega-3 foods for maximum nutritional value!
Technically a fruit (but way more versatile due to its mild taste), avocados are nutritional superheroes for a variety of reasons! A medium-sized avocado contains approximately 165 mg of omega-3. It also delivers nearly a quarter of your daily recommended potassium, 30% of your daily folate, and 40% of your daily recommended amount of fibre. Eat avocados sliced with salt and pepper, or mash them up with freshly squeezed lemon juice and your preferred spices for guacamole! Just keep in mind that they also contain high levels of omega-6, so be sure to balance them out with more high-omega-3 foods.
While they’re certainly not a huge source of dietary fats, leafy greens still punch above their weight when it comes to omega-3 content. Eaten raw (like in a salad), a cup of kale has 121 mg of omega-3, and a cup of spinach has 41 mg. They also provide lots of healthy dietary fibre, a ton of vitamins, and minerals such as calcium and iron.
One cup of cauliflower contains approximately 31 mg of omega-3 essential fatty acids. It also contains 77% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C, and 20% of your daily recommended vitamin K. Steam your cauliflower for the most nutritious results.
Brussels sprouts are a very divisive food! Some people love them, others say they taste too bitter. If you’re a brussels sprouts lover, you’ll be happy to learn that a cup of cooked sprouts contains 270 mg of omega-3. It also provides more than twice your daily recommended intake of vitamin K, 24% of your daily folate requirements, and lots of vitamin C.
Of course, the easiest way to ensure you’re getting enough omega-3 in your diet is to take an omega-3 supplement. Ensure the omega-3 product you choose is of the highest quality and potency, so you know you’re getting the EPA and DHA benefits your body needs.
Our NutraSea liquid omega-3 contains 1250 mg EPA and DHA per teaspoon, and comes in delicious flavours like Zesty Lemon and Chocolate. If you prefer fish oil in a capsule format, NutraSea also comes in Liquid Gel formats containing between 1000 and 1250 mg of omega-3. Try adding liquid NutraSea to your favourite smoothie recipe to make it nutritious and extra-tasty!
For those who prefer a higher ratio of EPA in their omega-3 supplement (such as athletes or people addressing chronic inflammation issues), NutraSea HP contains 1500 mg EPA and 500mg DHA in every teaspoon. NutraSea HP is available in a crisp lemon-flavoured omega-3 liquid and in Liquid Gel format. Try adding NutraSea hp to your favourite guacamole recipe for an added EPA boost!
For a higher ratio of DHA, choose NutraSea DHA—it contains 1000 mg DHA and 500 mg EPA in every teaspoon. NutraSea DHA is available in a juicy citrus flavour liquid format, and in 2x concentrated Softgels. Like the rest of our liquid omega-3 products, it’s a delicious addition to your favourite smoothie recipe, or great on its own!
Vegans, vegetarians, and people who prefer to avoid fish no longer have to worry about getting enough omega-3 in their diets. The new and improved NutraVege formula delivers 500 mg EPA and DHA per teaspoon, sourced from marine algae and free of animal products. NutraVege 2x has 1000 mg of EPA and DHA per teaspoon—our most potent vegan omega-3 product ever. As a bonus, they come in brand new mouthwatering flavours: Strawberry Orange and Cranberry Orange. You’ll be in vegan smoothie heaven, and never worried about omega-3 deficiency in your diet!
With so many omega-3 supplement options, the recipe opportunities are nearly endless. Try adding them to dishes already high in omega-3, like adding a teaspoon of NutraSea to your favourite homemade salad dressing and serving it up with baked salmon. NutraSea liquid omega-3 products are also amazing in smoothies, mixed in with yogurt or pudding, or straight from the spoon!
For more information on omega-3 and how to incorporate it into your diet, download the free Natural Health Enthusiast’s Guide to Omega-3 Fish Oil.
*Republished with permission from Nature's Way Canada.
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