There are several excellent food sources of omega 3 fatty acids within easy reach of consumers. If you are a vegetarian, you can enjoy flax seeds and walnuts as well as cooked soybeans and raw tofu. Your body can make use of the long-chain polyunsaturated fats to create omega 3 nutrients. If you are not vegetarian, hopefully you like fish. Certain types of fatty fish represent the best natural source of omega 3.
It is believed that the best absorption of EPA and DHA (Omega 3 forms) is through food rather than taking supplements. Some kinds of food are better than others at providing usable EPA and DHA. Salmon is better than cod liver oil. Cooked salmon is more effective than smoked salmon. For those who decide that cod (or cod liver oil) is the fish of choice, it should be noted that some studies have shown a much lower effective rise in blood serum omega 3 from cod versus other fish, something for which there is no current explanation 1. It does indicate, however, that the source of your omega 3 fatty acids does matter, and just “eating fish” may not be a silver bullet.
Even if more cod-liver oil by weight is taken, the effectiveness of cooked salmon is better at raising omega 3 levels in the blood. Both EPA and DHA levels increased significantly after only eight weeks of a test study. Although cod liver oil raises omega 3 levels in the blood, the increase is not as significant as when the nutrient is taken as food.
Although salmon ranks at the top of the food choice list, other fish products are also helpful to increase omega 3 levels in the blood. Sardines offer 56 percent of the recommended daily intake. Baked or broiled halibut offers about one-quarter of your need for omega 3 each day. Shrimp, snapper and scallops each are good for about fifteen percent of your daily allotment of the nutrient.
Vegetarians don’t suffer lack of the nutrient. In fact, a small serving of flax seeds can produce EPA and DHA needs at more than 146 percent of daily requirements. Ground flax seeds can be sprinkled over other foods to add the nutrient to your diet. Flax seed oil can be used for cooking. Walnuts can be used for snacks and provide nearly one hundred percent of the daily needs. Just these two foods in small amounts offer more than enough omega 3 to protect your nutritional needs.
At more than forty percent of your daily needs, cooked soybeans are another way for vegetarians to get the nutrients that they need each day. Another vegetarian choice is raw tofu. Tofu comes in at about fifteen percent of your needs.
Those who are conducting studies of the nutrient believe that it is better absorbed when it is obtained from fish. The reason given is that omega 3 from fish comes in the form of triglycerides. When the body absorbs the food, omega 3 is transformed by the body to ester form as the need arises. When you use fish oil supplements, they are usually in the form of ethyl ester.
Food sources of omega three fatty acids are easy to add to the daily dietary foods that you would use anyway. Planning menus that include fish a couple times per week is easy to do. You can use nuts as snacks instead of sugary concoctions.
1Elvevoll EO, Barstad H, Breimo ES, Brox J, Eilertsen KE, Lund T, Olsen JO, Osterud B. Enhanced incorporation of n-3 fatty acids from fish compared with fish oils. Lipids. 2006 Dec;41(12):1109-14. PMID:17269556.