by Sean Sortor, owner of Pure Plates
While omega-3s are now artificially added to multiple kinds of processed foods — peanut butter, baby formula, cereal and some protein powders, for example — it’s still best to get your omega-3s from whole, real food sources, especially wild-caught seafood.
The Benefits of Natural Omega-3 Foods
◦ Cardiovascular health (by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, plaque buildup in the arteries, and the chance of having a heart attack or stroke)
◦ Stabilizing blood sugar levels (preventing diabetes)
◦ Reducing muscle, bone and joint pain by lowering inflammation
◦ Helping balance cholesterol levels
◦ Improving mood and preventing depression
◦ Sharpening the mind and helping with concentration and learning
◦ Boosting immunity
◦ Treating digestive disorders like ulcerative colitis
◦ Reducing risk for cancer and helping prevent cancer reoccurence
◦ Improving appearance, especially skin health
Currently, there isn’t a set standard recommendation for how many omega-3s we need each day, so suggestions range from 500 to 1,000 milligrams daily depending on whom you ask. How easy is it to get these recommended amounts? To give you an idea, there are more than 500 milligrams of total omega-3s in one can of tuna fish and one small serving of wild-caught salmon.
What Are the Best Omega-3 Foods?
Here’s a list of the top 15 omega-3 foods (percentages based on 4,000 milligrams per day of total omega-3s)
Other Natural Sources of Omega-3
Nuts and Seeds with Omega-3s — In addition to walnuts, chia and flaxseeds, butternuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, hemp seeds and hazelnuts have omega-3s in the form of ALA (although walnuts, flaxseeds and chia are definitely the better sources).
Vegetables — Many vegetables, especially green leafy ones, are good sources of ALAs. While ALA omega-3 foods aren’t as good as those with DHA and EPA, these foods should still make regular appearances in your diet considering how much fiber and other nutrients they also contain. Some of the vegetables highest in omega-3s include Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach and watercress.
Oils — Lots of oils contain omega-3s to some degree, usually in the form of ALAs. These include mustard oil, walnut oil and hemp oil. A newer vegetarian oil called algal oil is also gaining popularity as early research shows it’s easily converted to DHA in the body compared to other vegetarian omega-3s foods.
Final Thoughts on Omega-3 Foods
Omega-3s are “essential” fatty acids because the body isn’t capable of producing them on its own. Therefore, we must rely on omega-3 foods in our diets to supply these extremely beneficial compounds.We recommend eating plenty of omega-3 foods and also supplementing in most cases. Through a combination of both, make sure you’re getting at least 1,000 milligrams a day of EPA/DHA and about 4,000 milligrams of total omega-3s (ALA/EPA/DHA combined).