Nutrition Articles

The Mega Benefits of Omega 3s

These Healthy Fats Belong in Everyone's Diet

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Sources of Omega 3s

The three different types of omega 3s are found in specific types of foods.
  • ALA is found primarly in foods of plant origin, but it's also found in other foods such as beef. The richest source of ALA is flaxseed, but it is also found in hempseed, canola oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, linseeds, walnuts, and walnut oil. Once ingested, the body converts ALA into EPA and DHA, allowing it to be more readily used by the body. However, this conversion isn't very efficient. That's why experts recommend including EPA and DHA sources in your diet as well. *Note: Flaxseed oil supplements are available in liquid and capsule form, but always consult your health care provider before taking any supplements.
     
  • DHA is found in seafood, algae, and coldwater fish such as salmon, sardines and albacore tuna. *Note: Fish oil supplements and vegetarian DHA supplements (containing algae) are also available in liquid and capsule form, but always consult your health care provider before taking any supplements. Only use fish oil supplements that have been certified to be free of heavy metal contaminants like mercury.
     
  • EPA is found in many of the same foods as DHA, including cold-water fish such as salmon, and sardines, as well as cod liver, herring, mackerel, and halibut. *Note: Fish oil and vegetarian algae supplements are also good sources of EPA, but always consult your health care provider before taking any supplements. Only use fish oil supplements that have been certified to be free of heavy metal contaminants like mercury.
     
  • Enriched eggs that contain all three types of omega-3 fatty acids are readily available these days. These eggs are enriched by adding flaxseed or algae to the hens' diets so that they produce eggs that are rich in healthy fats. According to the Flax Council, omega-3-enriched eggs provide almost half of the recommended daily level of ALA and one-quarter of the recommended daily level of EPA and DHA—the same amount that can be found in 3 ounces of fish.
 
To get the recommended levels all types of omega 3s, aim for:
  • 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed (or 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil) daily. To learn more about storing and using flaxseed, click here.
  • 2 to 3 servings of the above-mentioned fish sources per week. In general, fresh fish contain more DHA and EPA than frozen fish. To learn more about fish selection and safety, click here.
Omega 3s might seem overwhelming at first. But once you understand the types and "mega" health benefits that come with them, you'll be on your way to improving your health.  Now that's something to brag about!

This article has been reviewed by Tanya Jolliffe, a SparkPeople healthy eating expert.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

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