Dietary sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Dietary Sources of omega 3s
While most people’s everyday dietary intake of omega 3 fatty acids is far below the recommended level, it is fortunate that these fatty acids may be found in many of the foods that we eat. In this section we will outline various sources of omega 3 fatty acids and their nutrient density, so to speak, in terms of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA). This section is currently under development and as such, merely includes a very basic list at this moment. We intend to make this section a sizable database of information for those seeking ways to incorporate more omega 3 fatty acids into their diet. For overall recommendations of how much DHA a person should take in all walks of life, please review our omega 3 Recommendations page.
In terms of nutrient density, the best source of omega 3 fatty acids is seafood, since fish oil has high concentrations of the important fatty acids, DHA and EPA. As the body only converts only a portion of the precursor fatty acid Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) into DHA and EPA, the largest concentrations of DHA and EPA specifically are to be found in deep dwelling, cold water fish, which should make sushi lovers happy. Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are significant sources of omega 3 fatty acids, and two 3 ounce servings per week are recommended. Most seafood contains these essential fatty, including shellfish, however generally speaking the more fat a fish has, the greater the concentration of omega 3s.
Many seeds and nuts are excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids, particularly ALA. Walnuts and Flax seeds are particularly high in these fats and make a nice snack as well. These foods should generally be eaten raw as heat may reduce the health benefits of these fats.
Flax seeds are easily added to many other foods, however have the ability to pass through the body undigested. For this reason, they should be crushed or chopped prior to ingestion in order for the body to access the oil rich interior. Flax oil is another option, however it has a short shelf life and must be kept refrigerated.
While walnuts make an excellent treat by themselves, they may be added to many foods. Walnut oil is a particularly nice addition to many salad dressings.
Item Tables – Quantitative information about particular foods.
Advice from the FDA
Women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or nursing — and young children — should not eat fish from the "Seafood Potentially High in Mercury" table. Everyone else can eat up to 7 ounces of fish from that table per week (per the FDA). Minimizing exposure to methylmercury is particularly important for pregnant women, women who are planning to become pregnant, nursing women and young children. These people should limit their consumption of all fish with much lower mercury levels than 1 ppm Hg (see below). The guideline for them is 12 ounces per week (about 3 to 4 servings). Other people can eat 14 ounces a week of fish with mercury levels that average 0.5 ppm.
Of particular interest to those who are vegetarian or vegan, the following tables should provide information to allow proper dietary planning.
Goyens PL, Spilker ME, Zock PL, et al. Compartmental modeling to quantify alpha-linolenic acid conversion after longer term intake of multiple tracer boluses. J Lipid Res, 2005. 46:1474-83.
“FOOD PROCESSOR – Nutrition and Fitness” from ESHA Research.