What are the best sources of Omega 3?
Posted on March 26 2019
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fats that play an important role in several cellular and bodily functions. They’re classed as ‘essential’ fatty acids. The body can’t make them itself, so we have to make sure we’re getting enough from dietary sources as they’re so important for human health. Omega 3 is found in both animal and plant-based sources, with the two most beneficial omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) being found almost exclusively in fish.
While it's true that plants such as avocados, walnuts, flax and chia do contain Omega 3, they only contain ALA. The human body can turn ALA into EPA and DHA through a series of enzymatic reactions, but only in extremely minimal amounts. Less than 1 percent of the ALA we get from plant-based sources ultimately becomes the types of omega 3 our bodies use. The ocean is the best source of EPA and DHA, particularly fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel and kippers.
Which fish is best?
You can get high amounts of omega-3 fats from oily fish and should try to incorporate this into your diet a few times a week. Here are some of the best sources, based on levels of EPA and DHA combined:
What about plant-based foods?
Although plant sources such as flax, chia, walnuts and avocado do contain the Omega 3 ALA, our bodies can only convert 1 percent of it to EPA and DHA and the rest is used for energy. Omega-3 fats from plant sources do not provide the same benefits as that from fish, but you can still get small amounts from them. These are some of the best plant-based sources of omega 3, based on levels of ALA per serving:
- Flaxseed (oil and seeds)
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
Eating foods like this have a range of health benefits, from vitamins to protein. But they don’t contend with the levels of omega-3 in oily fish, because they only provide us with ALA.
What to remember
When it comes to getting the kind of omega-3 fats that our bodies can put to good use, it’s best to concentrate on sources with high amounts of EPA and DHA, like oily fish. Having a handful of nuts as a snack is a nutritious option and provides other health benefits for our bodies, but if you really want to boost your omega 3 levels, it’s better to choose fish as a source. If you don’t fancy eating fish often, your best option is to take a high-quality fish oil supplement to keep up your levels. Always opt for fish oil that’s free from harmful contaminants and contains high levels of EPA and DHA. That way, you can best benefit from the essential work that omega 3 does in our bodies.