Foods High in Omega-3: Nourish Your Body Naturally
by Vickie Chin on Aug 18, 2023
Health professionals around the world sing the praises of omega-3s.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in both animal and plant-based foods, offering our bodies a variety of excellent health benefits. With extensive research to back these benefits, omega-3s have become a foundational building block of healthy eating and physical wellness.
In this article, we discuss how you can increase your intake of omega-3s to enjoy the many health benefits the fatty acids have to offer. When eaten as part of a balanced diet, foods high in omega-3s can provide you with significant advantages for maintaining your health and preventing your risk of disease.
Read on to discover how to nourish your body naturally with omega-3 rich foods!
Understanding the Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats (commonly referred to as “healthy fats”) that offer many vital health benefits. The two main omega-3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — are found in the highest concentrations in fish and fish oil.
Another common type of omega-3 fatty acid is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) found online in plants. High concentrations of ALA can be found in a variety of plant-based oils, such as flaxseed oil.
Here is an overview of the health benefits you stand to gain from omega-3s:
- Heart Health: According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), omega-3s have many cardiovascular benefits and can help to lower your bodily levels of triglycerides, a type of fat that can increase your risk of cardiovascular conditions when present at high levels in the body. The American Heart Association further suggests that regularly eating foods high in omega-3s can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Brain Function & Mental Health: A 2022 Cureus study found that the consumption of omega-3s can improve a variety of brain functions, such as learning, memory ability, cognitive well-being, and blood flow in the brain. The study further reports that omega-3s can be especially beneficial for the brain health of lonely people (aka, those living mainly in solitude), the elderly, and those who do not currently eat low levels of foods containing omega-3s.
- Inflammation & Joint Health: The Arthritis Foundation reports that omega-3s can help reduce pain and inflammation in the body, as well as assist in the injury-healing process. One 2020 study published in the Mediterranean Journal of Rheumatology found that omega-3s can help to improve the effects of and even prevent experimental arthritis, as well as decrease activity seen in rheumatoid arthritis. This makes omega-3 fatty acids essential for arthritis management.
- Cancer Prevention: The NIH reports that some studies have suggested omega-3s can lower the risk of specific types of cancer, like breast and colorectal cancer. However, the NIH also notes that other clinical trials have not supported this and that more research is needed.
The Best Omega-3-Rich Foods
To reap the many health benefits of omega-3s, you first need to know which foods to eat.
Omega-3s are found in both animal and plant-based foods, with the highest concentrations of the fatty acids often found in fish and fish oil. However, people following a plant-based diet can also benefit from omega-3 sources with smart selections of foods when shopping.
Here is an overview of the best foods rich in omega-3s:
Due to environmental adaptations, fatty fish require a very high concentration of omega-3s to survive and remain healthy. As a result, fatty fish tend to be the best sources of EPA and DHA omega-3s, with the skin, in particular, having a high concentration of the nutrient.
Here are four of the best fatty fish to add to your diet to increase your omega-3 consumption:
- Salmon: Salmon is one of the most popular fatty fish in today’s shopping markets and is an excellent source of omega-3s. Wild-caught salmon is generally thought to be the most abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, salmon is a great source of protein and a variety of additional vitamins and nutrients.
- Mackerel: Mackerel is another fatty fish that is one of the best foods with the highest omega 3 . Just like salmon, it's a delicious and nutritious option to include in your diet that not only provides you with a healthy dose of omega-3s, as well as protein and vitamins. The vitamins found in Mackerel include A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K.
- Sardines: Sardines are small, oily fish found in saltwater bodies of water around the world. Along with being high in omega-3s, sardines are considered to be a great source of potassium, zinc, and magnesium. Sardines are also thought to involve a more sustainable fish harvesting process compared to larger fish, making them an environmentally friendly choice.
- Anchovies: Known for their use in popular salad dressing recipes, anchovies are found in both saltwater and freshwater varieties. Anchovies are rich in omega-3s, as well as vitamin B3 (also called niacin) which is a key nutrient for energy production. These small fish are also packed with protein, making them a popular snack for outdoor recreationists.
Plant-based omega-3s (known as ALA) are the main alternative consumed by people following plant-based diets. Though generally thought to be less effective than EPA and DHA, ALA is still good for boosting your body’s omega-3 levels as a whole.
Here are three of the best sources of plant-based omega-3s:
- Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are an excellent plant-based source of ALA. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 60% of the oil in chia seeds comes from ALA omega-3s. In addition to omega-3s, chia seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants. Chia seeds are also a surprisingly good source of protein, providing between 4.5 to 5 grams of protein per 2-tablespoon serving.
- Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are another excellent source of ALA that have the most effective benefits when consumed in their ground form. Whole flaxseeds can be difficult for the body to digest, making it ideal to eat flaxseeds in a ground or powder form mixed in with another recipe (such as smoothies or soups. Flaxseeds are not only rich in omega 3, but also contain fiber, thiamine, and copper.
- Walnuts: Walnuts are not only a delicious snack but also are one of the favourite foods containing omega 3. These tasty nuts are great in all sorts of recipes, from a mix-in for trail mix snacks and smoothie treats to a key ingredient in entrée dinner dishes. In addition to omega-3s, walnuts are also a good source of antioxidants and can be essential for improving your gut health.
What is the Recommended Daily Intake of Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
When it comes to your omega-3 consumption, your ideal daily intake can depend on numerous factors.
Your age, biological sex, and individual health conditions can influence the recommended serving for all types of different foods, nutrients, and more. For instance, pregnant women are recommended to eat foods with a slightly higher level of omega-3 fatty acids than non-pregnant women or men.
Here is an overview of the recommended adequate omega-3 intake according to age and sex:
- 0 to 6 Months: 0.5 grams for boys and girls
- 7-12 Months: 0.5 grams for boys and girls
- 1-3 Years: 0.7 grams for boys and girls
- 4-8 Years: 0.9 grams for boys and girls
- 9-13 Years: 1.2 grams for boys, 1.0 grams for girls
- 14-18 Years: 1.6 grams for boys, 1.1 grams for girls (for pregnant girls, the recommended adequate intake is 1.4 grams or 1.3 grams if lactating)
- 19-50 Years: 1.6 grams for men, 1.1 grams for women (for pregnant women, the recommended adequate intake is 1.4 grams or 1.3 grams if lactating)
- 51+ Years: 1.6 grams for men, 1.1 grams for women
Incorporating more omega-3 fatty acid foods into your diet can have a plethora of benefits for your heart health, brain function, and more. The hardest part of increasing your omega-3 consumption is finding the right recipes and cooking tricks that work for your lifestyle.
To jumpstart your omega-3-rich diet, check out the Organics Traditions recipes complete with smoothies, salads, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and more. Each recipe is packed with different superfoods and nutritionally-dense ingredients that help boost your health while satiating your hunger and need to snack.