Omega-3 fatty acids are essential lipids that provide multiple benefits for health.

According to research, they could reduce inflammation, blood lipids, and possibly the risk of dementia.

Fish oil and fatty fish like salmon, trout, and tuna are popular sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for health.

This can make it difficult for vegans, vegetarians, or those who just detest seafood to achieve their omega-3 fatty acid requirements.

Plant meals generally contain just alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of the three primary kinds of omega-3 fatty acids.

To provide the same health advantages, ALA must be transformed into two additional omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Unfortunately, the ability of your body to convert ALA is restricted. Only approximately 5% of ALA is converted to EPA and less than 0.5% to DHA.

As a result, if you don’t supplement with fish oil or acquire EPA or DHA from your diet, consuming a variety of ALA-rich foods is critical to satisfying your omega-3 requirements.

Keep your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in mind as well, as a diet low in omega-3s but high in omega-6s can raise inflammation and your risk of illness.

Here are 20 of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

What are omega-3s, and why are they important for our bodies?

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids1.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are the three fatty acids included in the word.

Each omega-3 fatty acid has its unique advantage, yet they all work together to:*

  • Support anti-inflammatory pathways in the body 
  • Promote cardiovascular health and function 
  • Nourish your brain and cognitive functions 
  • Keep your eyes and eyesight sharp
  • Support a positive and balanced mood

Although your body can produce EPA and DHA from ALA (albeit inefficient and restricted), ALA must be obtained from the diet.

“ALA is special because it’s an important fat that our bodies need, but we can’t make it ourselves,” explains Maya Feller, a registered dietitian, and mbg Functional Nutrition teacher.

As a result, the Institute of Medicine suggests that adult women consume 1.1 grams of ALA per day, and adult males consume 1.6 grams of ALA per day.

There is no official suggested consumption amount for these two fatty acids because the body can synthesize EPA and DHA from ALA in the liver (although inefficiently). However, it’s best to obtain as much as possible from your meal because the conversion rate is so low5 and varies so much (from 0.3 to 20%).

Because EPA and DHA are vital, many researchers and physicians wish daily requirements existed.

Plant-based diets are generally high in ALA, but animal foods (of marine origin), such as seafood (particularly fatty fish) and the algae these fish ingest, are high in EPA and DHA.

1. Mackerel ( 4,580 mg per serving)

Mackerel is a small and fatty fish.

They are typically smoked and eaten as entire fillets in several places.

Mackerel is extremely nutrient dense; a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) meal contains 500% of the RDI for vitamin B12 and 130% of the Reference daily intake for selenium.

Furthermore, these fish are tasty and require no cooking.

Omega-3 fatty acid content: In 3.5 ounces (100 grams), 4,580 mg of EPA and DHA (combined).

2. Salmon ( 2,150 mg per serving)

Salmon is considered one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet.

Assorted foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Photo by CA Creative on Unsplash

It has a high protein content and a range of minerals, including high vitamin D, selenium, and B vitamins.

People who consume fatty fish like salmon daily have a decreased risk of illnesses, including heart disease, dementia, and depression, according to research.

Omega-3 fatty acid content: 3.5 ounces (100 grams) contains 2,150 mg of EPA and DHA combined.

3. A serving of cod liver oil ( 2,438 mg per serving)

Cod liver oil is not a regular food, but rather a type of supplement.

As the name says, it is oil taken from the livers of cod fish.

This oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins D and A. Just one tablespoon of it provides 170% and 453% of the recommended Daily Value (DV) for these nutrients.

As a result, ingesting just one tablespoon of cod liver oil meets your requirements for three crucial elements.

To stay safe, it’s important not to exceed one tablespoon of this oil at a time, as consuming excessive amounts of vitamin A can be harmful. There are 2,438 mg of EPA and DHA (combined) per tablespoon. 

4. Herring ( 2,150 mg per serving)

Herring is a small, oily fish. It is frequently cold-smoked, pickled, or precooked before being offered as a canned snack.

Smoked herring, often known as kippers, is a common morning meal in countries such as England, where it is eaten with eggs.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of herring offers almost 100% of the daily value for selenium and 779 percent of the daily value for vitamin B12.

Omega-3 content: 3.5 ounces (100 grams) contains 2,150 mg of EPA and DHA (combined).

5. Oysters (329 mg per serving)

Shellfish is one of the most nutritious foods obtainable.

Assorted foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Photo by Bruce Chapman on Unsplash

Oysters contain more zinc than any other meal on the globe. Just six raw eastern oysters, weighing 3 ounces or 85 grams, provide a whopping 289% of the recommended daily intake of zinc, 69% of copper, and an impressive 567% of vitamin B12.

Oysters can be eaten as an appetizer, snack, or main course. Raw oysters are considered a special and highly valued food in many countries.

Omega-3 content: 6 raw eastern oysters have 329 mg of EPA and DHA (combined) or 391 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams). 

6. Sardines ( 1,463 mg per serving)

Sardines are little oily fish that are popular as appetizers, snacks, or delicacies.

They’re packed with nutrients, especially when eaten whole. They include nearly every vitamin your body need.

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of drained sardines has more than 370% of the daily value for vitamin B12, 24% of the daily value for vitamin D, and 96% of the daily value for selenium.

Omega-3 fatty acid content: 1 cup (149 ) of canned Atlantic sardines has 1,463 mg of EPA and DHA (combined) or 982 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 ).

7. Anchovies (411 mg per serving)

Anchovies are small oily fish that can be purchased dry or canned.

Assorted foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Photo by Denis Agati on Unsplash

Often consumed very little, anchovies can be rolled around capers, packed inside olives, or used as pizza and salad toppings.

They also flavor various meals and sauces due to their strong flavors, such as Worcestershire sauce, remoulade, and Caesar dressing.

Anchovies are high in niacin and selenium, and boned anchovies are high in calcium. In every 5 anchovies (20 grams) or 3.5 ounces (100 grams), there is a total of 411 milligrams of EPA and DHA (combined) omega-3 content.

8. Chia seeds (5,050 mg per serving)

Chia seeds are well-known for their numerous health advantages, including a high fiber and protein content in each meal.

They’re also an excellent source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids from plants.

Assorted foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Photo by Karyna Panchenko on Unsplash

Chia seeds have been shown in studies to reduce the risk of chronic illness when ingested as part of a balanced diet due to their omega-3, fiber, and protein content.

One research of adults with metabolic syndrome showed that eating chia seeds, nopal, soy protein, and oats reduced blood lipids, glucose intolerance, and inflammatory markers.

A 2007 animal research discovered that ingesting chia seeds reduced blood triglycerides while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol and omega-3 levels.

However, more human study is required before reaching a firm conclusion.

For people over 19, the current daily recommended ALA intake is 1,100 mg for women and 1,600 mg for men.

Eating just one ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds gives you a generous dose of 5,000 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids, which is more than the recommended daily amount.

Make a nutritious chia pudding or sprinkle chia seeds on top of salads, yogurt, or smoothies to maximize your chia seed consumption.

Chia seeds, ground, can also be used as a vegan alternative to eggs. Combine one tablespoon (7 grams) with three tablespoons of water to substitute one egg in recipes.

9. Walnuts (2,570 mg per serving)

Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids and healthful fats. In reality, walnuts contain around 65% fat by weight.

Several animal studies have suggested that walnuts, due to their omega-3 concentration, may aid in boosting brain function.

According to research, eating walnuts has been linked to improved cognitive function and memory in both people and animals.

In a different study involving animals, it was discovered that walnuts had positive effects on memory, learning, motor development, and anxiety in mice with Alzheimer’s disease.

More study is still required because animal findings cannot be extended to people.

A single ounce (28 ) of walnuts has 2,570 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, enough to satisfy an entire day’s worth.

Add walnuts to your homemade granola or cereal to enhance your ALA intake, sprinkle them on top of yogurt, or just nibble on a few.

Other foods

Assorted foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Image by René Schué from Pixabay
  • 10. Soybeans
  • 11. Perilla oil
  • 12. Flaxseed
  • 13. Hemp seed
  • 14. Algal oil
  • 15. Brussels sprouts
  • 16. Caviar
  • 17. Eggs
  • 18. Seaweed & algae
  • 19. Goat cheese
  • 20. Grass-fed beef

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