The Best Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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I’ve been sick at home for the last couple of days. Now before you go feeling sorry for me, don’t…it could be a lot worse. I have friends and coworkers who have the same virus, and have been coughing and hacking for 10 days or more. I have a very minor case, and I attribute my health to Omega-3 fatty acids. Look below at all the wonderful health benefits of Omega-3, with strengthening the immune system being only one of the many benefits.

omega-3-benefits

Most experts will tell you that Omega-3 fats are essential to your overall health, and recommend that adults should consume about 500 mg of Omega-3 per day (equivalent to two fatty fish meals per week) to maintain overall good health. But in our Western diets, people eat about 10 times more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3 fatty acids. These large amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids come from vegetable oils such as corn oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, and walnut oil. Because Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids compete in the body, you can reach the desired Omega-3 benefits by decreasing Omega-6 intake or increasing Omega-3 intake. But how?

Omega-3 comes from both animal and plant sources, most notably from krill oil and fish oil. I take a good amount of Omega-3 fish oil supplements every day, and I know that helped me stave off this virus. Omega-3s have been shown to stimulate the immune system in a positive way.

There are many excellent articles about the benefits of Omega-3s. One of my favorites is from Dr. Mercola. In his article named Your Practical Guide to Omega-3 Benefits and Supplementation, he states that Omega-3s are best absorbed and utilized from animal sources rather than plant sources. And when he says “animal”, he means fish. As for my supplements, I prefer the Nordic Naturals Omega-3s, made from wild caught fish.

But I have both vegetarian friends and “meat-aholic” friends; they both could benefit from these fatty acids. Here is a guide to the best animal and plant sources for Omega-3s.

Stay healthy my friend!

Animal Sources of Omega-3s

fish-varieties

Fish, Fish Oil and Krill Oil

Fish is by far the best way to get Omega-3s, but you must be careful to avoid eating certain fish with high mercury content (see photo above). Wild caught salmon, tilapia, perch and sardines are your best bet since they have the lowest amounts of mercury. For a list of mercury and contaminant levels in fish, visit this article on the NRDC’s website.

Plant Sources of Omega-3s

flaxseed

Flickr photo by Alisha Vargas

Flaxseed or Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed is one of the most highly-recommended plant sources for Omega-3s, and with good reason. A fourth of a cup of flaxseed packs a whopping 8543mg of Omega-3. Ground flaxseed should become a staple in your kitchen. It freezes well, and is an easy way to boost your Omega-3 intake by adding it to cereal, oatmeal, or smoothies. I even add a teaspoon to almond butter for banana snacks or sandwiches. You can also use a ground flaxseed mixture as an egg substitute in vegan baking. Flaxseed oil has 7980 mg Omega-3s per 1-tbsp serving.

chia- seeds

Flickr photo by little blue hen

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are a close second to flaxseeds with 7164mg of Omega-3. I use chia seeds in smoothies and puddings; the seeds thicken in liquid to help you to feel full. Like ground flaxseed, chia seeds have a mild, if any, taste. But they’ll add a dose of omega-3s and a slight crunch wherever they’re added.

Hemp- seeds

Flickr photo by Jason Rogers

Hemp Seeds

Vegan and gluten-free, hemp seeds also have the most essential fatty acids of any nuts or seeds and a perfect 3:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6. They’re loaded with protein, healthy fats (mainly omega-3s), vitamin E, and minerals like magnesium and zinc. Like flax and chia seeds, you can sprinkle hemp seeds into cereal or salads, incorporate them into granola bars, or add them to smoothies. Store them in the freezer to keep them from going bad.

Flickr photo by eszpee

Walnuts and Other Nuts

Nuts, and specifically walnuts, are another plant source of Omega-3. Walnuts contain 2776mg of Omega-3; the other nuts not as much. But nuts are easy to keep in the car or work (don’t try this with fish!), so they’re a ready source of healthy fats. For a useful list of the Omega-3 amounts in nuts and seeds, visit Self Nutrition Data.

brussel-sprouts

Flickr photo by Mallory Dash

Brussel Sprouts

If you haven’t tried brussels sprouts since turning up your nose at them as a kid, give them a second chance. You can shred them raw for a delicious salad, or roast or steam them. One serving of Brussels sprouts contains about 430 milligrams of alpha-linolenic acid, more than one-third of the daily ALA amount recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.

hummus

Flickr photo by Albertas Agejevas

Hummus

Hummus is a vegan source of Omega-3s,” with about 300 mg in a one-cup serving. Most of the Omega-3 in hummus comes from the tahini paste, which is made from Omega-3 packed sesame seeds, so be sure to use a recipe with either the paste or sesame seeds.

cauliflower

Flickr photo by Jessica Spengler

Cauliflower

Wow, I was not aware that cauliflower contains a good amount of omega-3 essential fatty acids. But it’s a good thing because cauliflower is such a versatile vegetable. In addition to the Omega-3, cauliflower contains other heart-friendly nutrients including potassium, magnesium and niacin. One cup contains about 37 mg of Omega-3s. I use cauliflower as a substitute for white potatoes. Like brussel sprouts, it tastes great roasted, mashed, or simply steamed.

What’s your favorite way to boost your Omega-3 intake?

Carol #strivetosimplify

 

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