Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that our bodies cannot make, meaning we need to get them from food sources.
Healthy fats are necessary for forming cell membranes, synthesis of hormones and even aid in the reduction of heart disease. They also help maintain healthy skin, hair and nails.
Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are healthy fats. omega-3 and omega-6 are a type of polyunsaturated fats.
The best way to get enough omega-3 fatty acids is through foods containing docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Types of omega-3 fats
There are 3 types of fats under omega-3. These are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
ALA is found in plant-based products, while EPA and DHA are rich in fatty fish like salmon.
These are used to produce substances called eicosanoids (prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes). Eicosanoids help regulate inflammation, blood clotting and other vital functions
Benefits of omega-3 fatty acids
1. Omega-3s reduce the risk of heart disease and the effects attributed to the following actions.
- First, they help lower unhealthy cholesterol, such as triglycerides and LDL levels. They increase healthy (good) cholesterol, such as HDL levels in the blood.
- Second, omega-3 helps reduce inflammation. So this action helps to keep the blood vessels smooth and prevent hardening, thus lowering blood pressure and preventing plaque formation and platelet aggregation.
2. Omega-3s also help reduce joint pain and swelling associated with arthritis by reducing inflammation in joints.
Here are 10 foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 foods consist of both plant origin and fish. Therefore, vegans can too enjoy a diet rich in omega-3.
Evidence suggests that 500 mg of daily intake could prevent heart attacks.
When eating oily fish, eat at least 1 portion (around 140g when cooked) per week.
Salmon is a good source. It also provides protein and vitamin D.
Salmon contains low levels of mercury compared to other fish types like tuna or swordfish, making it an excellent choice for pregnant women and young children who are at an increased risk for developmental problems from high mercury levels in fish oil.
Salmon is one of the best omega-3 foods with 4504 mg of omega-3 per serving.
Sardines are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and vitamin B12. They’re also high in protein and low in mercury, making them an excellent choice for anyone looking to get their daily dose of these nutrients.
Sardin has 556 mg of omega-3 per serving.
Mackerel is loaded with vitamins A & D, but it doesn’t stop there: this fish also has plenty of calcium and selenium, which help maintain healthy skin cells as well as protect against cancer cell growth.
It is also low in mercury—only about 1/3 the amount found in tuna or salmon. So you can enjoy this fish without worrying about harmful effects on your nervous system or brain
Mackrel is also considered a great omega-3 food because it has 2291 mg of omega-3 per 100g.
4. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are a source of omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and protein. It is a good source of plant-based ALA.
You can add chia seeds to smoothies, salads, or snacks. Chia seeds can be used in baking, cooking and in smoothies.
One ounce (28g) of chia seeds provides 5000mg of omega-3.
Tofu is made from soybeans and is an excellent source of omega-3 fats, protein, calcium and iron. It’s also an excellent alternative to meat because it has no cholesterol or saturated fats.
Tofu can be used in many recipes such as stir-fries, soups, sauces and desserts.
You’ll usually find tofu packaged in water or vacuum packed in the refrigerated section at your grocery store.
Look for organic non-GMO tofu when possible—the extra effort is worth it!
7. Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, which means they’re high in vitamin K, fibre, folate and potassium.
They also boast antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamin C.
These little green orbs are an excellent source of omega-3, and one serving (44g) contains 44mg of omega-3.
8. Canola oil
Canola oil is an excellent source of omega-3s.
In fact, it contains about 9 grams of omega-3s per tablespoon.
Canola oil is high in monounsaturated fats, which are suitable for your heart health because they help lower LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) and raise HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind). It’s also rich in vitamin E and antioxidants called phytosterols.
Flaxseeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and can be a great addition to your diet if you’re looking to add more heart-healthy fats. Just make sure not to eat them raw!
The best way to add flaxseeds to your diet is through a ground flaxseed meal. You can add it as a topping for oatmeal or yoghurt, stir it into smoothies or breakfasts, use it as an egg substitute in baked goods, and even grind it up and add it directly into salads for a nutty crunch (and an extra dose of fibre).
Flax seeds are also great omega-3 food because a serving size of 2 tablespoons provides about 2 grams of omega-3.
Soybeans are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease and other health problems.
Packed with protein and fibre, soybeans also provide magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc—all essential nutrients that can help you stay healthy.
Fortified foods as a source of omega-3 foods
If you don’t eat fish, it’s not always clear whether your diet is getting enough omega-3 fatty acids.
To ensure you get the right amount, look for foods fortified with omega 3s. These include eggs, milk (especially low-fat versions), breakfast cereal, and bread.
The Bottom Line
We hope this article has helped you understand the importance of omega-3 fatty acids and how they can benefit your health.
To summarize, there are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
ALA is found mainly in plants like flaxseed or walnuts; EPA is mostly in seafood such as salmon and mackerel; DHA is primarily on oily fish such as salmon, tuna or herring.
You don’t need to eat all three types every day – just focus on getting enough EPA and DHA from foods like salmon or tuna once or twice a week!