Omega-3 fatty acids are somewhat of a buzz term these days.
Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for the health of your heart, your brain and your body.
The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are those found in wild-caught fish, seafood and algae.
Algae synthesize the omega-3 fatty acids. Fish (like salmon) then consume phytoplankton that consumed the algae. The result is that omega-3 fats accumulate within the tissues of the fish.
The body can make all the fats it needs except for omega 3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential fat meaning that they must be supplied by the diet.
This is why it is imperative to consume Omega 3s directly from foods or supplements to increase levels of these essential fats in the body.
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. They are called “omega” fats because of the unique location of their double bonds.
There are two types of omega 3 fatty acids: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). They are typically found in abundance in cold water, fatty fish.
There is also a plant-based omega-3 fat (called Alpha Linolenic Acid) that is not a sufficient source of omega 3’s. This is because your body cannot fully convert Alpha Linolenic Acid to its bioavailable forms- EPA and DHA. It is a very minimal conversion rate that occurs in the liver and thus plants are not a good omega-3 source.
The body needs the two omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA forms to benefit health.
These fats are very healthy. They are considered “anti-inflammatory” and cardioprotective.
People need more omega-3 fatty acids in their diet than they’re getting!
What do omega-3 fatty acids do?
- They boost immunity
- They lower cellular inflammation
- They are needed for brain function and vision
- They have been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer
You can read more about the health benefits of these fats in our exclusive guide to omega-3 fatty acids.
Why are omega-3 fatty acids important to heart health?
- They are anti-inflammatory
- They decrease blood pressure
- They increase blood flow
- They protect against irregular heartbeats
- They slow the growth of atherosclerotic plaques
- They are heart-healthy!
Top 7 foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids:
1. Mackerel – 5 oz. serving has 5,134 mg omega-3 fatty acids. Mackerel is a type of small, saltwater fatty fish that is available in both fresh and canned forms. It is also rich in protein, micronutrients like vitamin B12 and vitamin D as well as the essential omega-3 fatty acids. Atlantic mackerel is one of the healthiest options you can get.Note: If using canned mackerel be sure to source a BPA-free option and rinse off any excess salt!
Recipe: Mediterranean Roasted Mackerel
2. Salmon – 5 oz. serving has 2, 260 mg omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is a very nutrient dense food. It is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is good for your heart, your brain, your bones and your skin. There is Atlantic or Pacific salmon varieties. Always choose wild-caught salmon or wild Alaskan salmon (which is always wild-caught). You can also check out Vital Choice Seafood online for sourcing options. Salmon is a rich source of protein, B vitamins, vitamin D, potassium, magnesium and selenium.
Recipe: Superfood Baked Salmon
3. Herring – 5 oz. serving 1,729 mg omega-3 fatty acids. Herring are a medium sized type of fatty fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They are oily and bony just like sardines. You can find them fresh or canned, smoked or pickled in the store. Herring also contain adequate levels of B vitamins, vitamin D, selenium and potassium. They are a great source of protein, as well. They are similar to sardines. Often, small herring are canned and sold as sardines.Note: If using canned herring be sure to source a BPA-free option and rinse off any excess salt!
Recipe: Paleo Pickled Herring
4. Sardines – 5 oz. serving has 1,480 mg omega-3 fatty acids. Sardines are a small, fatty and bony fish that contain good levels of omega-3 fats. They also contain adequate amounts of protein, B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc and calcium. Sardines are a small fish at the bottom of the aquatic food chain and so they are highly sustainable and often have one of the lowest contamination risks. The most sustainable sources are those from the Pacific region of United States and Canada. You can find sardines fresh or canned (or in glass bottles). If purchasing canned sardines, choose ones found in olive oil.Note: If using canned sardines be sure to source a BPA-free option and rinse off any excess salt!
Recipe: Sardine and Garlic Spread
5. Oysters – 5 oz. serving has 672 mg omega-3 fatty acids. Oysters have quite a lot of omega-3 fatty acids per serving. Additionally, oysters are a rich source of protein, zinc, vitamin D, B vitamins and magnesium. Oysters are considered a bivalve. Bivalves are a type of mollusk, which has two shells protecting a soft inner body. They have a pretty low risk of mercury contamination and are considered healthy.
Recipe: Oyster Stew
6. Anchovies – 2 oz. (one can) serving 951 mg omega-3 fatty acids. Anchovies are a small fish that have a large amount of omega- 3 fatty acids.They also contain a good amount of protein, B vitamins, calcium, vitamin K and potassium. They are very heart-healthy little fish. They also have a lower contamination risk than that of bigger fish options. They are typically found canned.Note: If using canned anchovies be sure to source a BPA-free option and rinse off any excess salt!
Recipe: Spicy Sauteed Mushrooms with Anchovy
7. Mussels – 3 oz. serving 730 mg omega-3 fatty acids. Mussels are also a type of bivalve similar to oysters. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They have a higher protein content that oysters. Mussels are also a rich source of B vitamins, selenium and phosphorous. These have a lower risk of mercury contamination, as well, which is another health benefit.
Recipe: Mixed Seafood Paella
Should I take an Omega 3 supplement?
It is recommended adults get a minimum of 250-500 mg of omega-3’s per day.
If you don’t like to eat fatty fish, then you may need to consider supplementation.
Many people do not get enough wild-caught fatty fish in their diet. Additionally, many people who have chronic disease like heart disease need to increase their daily intake and a supplement is usually the only way to do that.
Check out our high quality fish oil supplement with EPA and DHA in the most available and well-sourced form. Look for fish oil that has a high amount of EPA and DHA, as well as one that is high in purity, freshness and sustainability (like ours).