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.

Member Comments

  • SIOL55
    Great info but how about Fish Oil and Krill Oil capsule? How much per day? - 4/29/2014 7:13:51 AM
  • RIHOZN
    Hi!
    I'm contacting you because I have read you article about Omega. Shortly my story: I have psoriasis and five years ago it really flared up in my joints so I couldn't exercise anymore and two years ago patches started appearing on my skin and under nails. But about a year ago I started taking a new natural omega product that was suggested to me and now for all practical purposes my psoriasis is gone. I would like to know how you measure omega 6 and 3 ratio due to its importance? I use a blood test which shows the ratio and several other data analyzed by leading laboratories. For example my first test ratio was 8,4:1, second after four months 3,4:1 and third a year later 1,6:1. It`s would be nice to heard your opinion.

    - 3/17/2014 10:21:12 AM
  • BETHKAYLE
    Great Article! One of the few great ones I've read. I take Laminine Omega. It is patented and has Omega fatty Acids 3 (EPA and DHA), 6, and 9 + CoQ10(Extended Release), Vitamin K2... It is made in USA; head office is in California. That's why
    delivery and handling is free in the States. Delivery varies from 3 to 8 days.
    I found this online and have been ordering it online as well http://tinyurl.co
    m/q8fjc93 . You click Join if you want to be a member and get the member's price Or click retail order if you don't want to be a member.

    One more thing, LPGN sources its fish oil from Engraulis Ringens, a member of the anchovy family, found in the Humboldt Current off the coast of South America near Peru, where the waters are clean and clear. Phytoplankton that the Engraulis Ringens species consumes in this region is rich in DHA and EPA, giving the fish the highest naturally occurring ratios of DHA and EPA of any other fish species. The fish oil also
    undergoes molecular distillation, and is tested before and after the process to remove gunk and toxins and ensure the safety of the oil. - 3/17/2014 2:53:53 AM
  • Great article
    - 5/9/2013 8:52:17 PM
  • Great article! I would love to be able to add Omega-3 to the SP nutrition tracker!

    Please? - 7/25/2012 11:55:34 PM
  • While it is true that there are 3 main Omega3s that are in the standard American diet, there are actually over 11 different types. Please! for the science geeks amongst us be a bit more accurate! :)

    Also, please not that in addition to SOY being bad for folks with breast or reproductive area cancers, it is also VERY BAD for people with THYROID issues. So many of us have thyroid issues and do not know that soy is poison!! for them. - 4/9/2012 12:16:53 AM
  • don't forget your chia seed or Salba if you prefer the trademarked light coloured seed. nearly 5,000 mg per oz of Omega 3 fatty acid and you don't need to grind it. - 11/27/2011 3:14:30 PM
  • Finally and article that has a great explanation and one I know I'll remember most of. Thank you so much. Donna - 11/27/2011 9:18:42 AM
  • This is one of the best written articles i have read.So easy to understand .THANK YOU . - 11/27/2011 9:00:54 AM
  • AMADOOFUS1
    One of the best written articles. The analogy to family tree clarifies this immensely. The writer must be a teacher! (Skilled one.) - 11/27/2011 7:25:43 AM
  • Thanks for this. I recently was alerted to the fact that I was deficient in DHA and EPA.
    I am vegetarian for 22 y and while I get some ALA I don't even eat yolks which are enriched -so I miss out. I found a vegetarian source of DHA and hope that it is sufficient.
    Thanks for the great article.
    - 6/21/2011 8:10:50 PM
  • I love the family tree analogy -- thanks for the clarity! - 6/21/2011 4:45:13 PM
  • As a vegan (for philosophical and environmental reasons), it seems I can consume just one of the three types of "essential" omega 3's. I wonder whether I should be concerned about this, despite consuming flaxseed regularly. - 2/10/2011 5:36:45 AM
  • Thank you for sharing this is a great way to gain information. - 2/9/2011 5:46:10 AM
  • I am allergic to salmon and most other flaky fish. I had been suffering from chronic inflammatory disease, IBS, and other related illnesses. My neurologist told me that their was such thing as vegetarian Omega 3. I didn't know that. Six months after taking this supplement, I feel MUCH better. The inflammation is better and IBS is gone. Now, I have to work on getting the weight off. - 12/22/2010 10:01:01 PM

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