There is a large body of research that has now shown that omega-3 fatty acids are essential to our health.
In my own practice as a dietitian, I have observed how a sufficient intake of these fats can improve health.
This is why we should definitely include foods rich in these fats in our diet on a daily basis.
However, there is also a lot of hype around these polyunsaturated fats; they are heavily marketed everywhere by the supplement industry, and selling fish oils has actually become (very) big business.
So, here is what you need to know about omega 3s: in which foods to find them, how much you need, and where to find a quality supplement if for any reason you can’t get them through diet.
Below are the top 30 foods high in omega 3s. You will see that I have deliberately not included vegetable oils, although they do contain a small amount of these fatty acids.
The reason is because they mainly contain omega 6 polyunsaturated fats, which are highly detrimental to our health unless consumed in small amounts from whole foods.
Plus they are not cold pressed most of the time. If you can find traditionally made, cold pressed oils, then this is another story and these can be great for health in small amounts and always consumed raw.
As you can see in the table below, the foods richest in omega 3s are fatty ocean fishes, flax seeds and walnuts.
How much Omega-3s do you need?
Recommendations of omega-3s are around 1 to 1.5 grams per day for adults, with a maximum of 3 grams per day according to the FDA.
As you can see, you really don’t need to stuff yourself with omega-3 supplements. I recommend you save your money and invest it on high quality whole foods that naturally contain omega-3s.
One portion of 3.5 oz wild salmon would provide the omega-3s you need for the day, 200g cabbage and 200g spinach would provide half the daily ration, and only a tablespoon (15g) of walnuts would provide your daily amount of omega 3s (1.2g).
Likewise, half a tablespoon (7.5g) flax seeds, which are inexpensive and can be found in any health food store (get them organic), will meet your daily needs of omega 3s. You can just add them to your oatmeal, yogurt, salads or smoothies. (Note: flax seeds can also be great for constipation)
Of course, if you don’t have access to quality foods, or you can’t manage to include them to your diet, a good quality supplement is highly advisable. Make sure you don’t get fooled by the more than $2 billion fish oil industry, though.
Many people have been led to think by the industry that they need to stuff themselves with either natural flax oil or with whatever supplement they can get their hands on, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Remember that only a small amount of omega 3s is necessary on a daily basis.