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Natural Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Natural Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fatty fish is the best source of omega-3s because docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are the active forms of omega-3 fatty acids that the body can use right away.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are found mainly in plant sources and requires enzymatic conversion to DHA or EPA.

There are many health benefits to these omega-3 fatty acid due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 fatty acids are most well-known for its heart health benefits and alleviation arthritic pain.

In children, omega-3 fatty acids are major components of brain tissues and eye development. Pregnant women and lactating moms are encourage to take more to provide their babies with this benefit substances.

Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the most studied nutrients for the treatment of ADHD in children.

Of course, you’ve probably seen DHA and EPA being added to many grocery products as well. However, be wary of these so-called fortified products. Frequently, food manufacturers want to jump on the fancy bandwagon of the omega-3 fatty acid hype, so they come up with adding DHA and EPA to everything they made. Sounds pretty good right? Now you can easy get DHA and EPA from foods you like too.

Here’s the dilemma…the amount of the DHA and EPA is usually a sprinkle. I shall call this the “sprinkle dilemma”. Of course the manufacturers are not going to give you a full dose of the omega-3 fatty acid. They’ll just sprinkle a little in their products and “voila, our products are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids”.

My recommendations? Don’t bother…just eat foods that are naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids or take a couple of supplement pills or take cod liver oil.

The three most nutritionally beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Research suggests these omega-3 fatty acids are better absorbed by the body when obtained from food rather than omega-3 supplements.

Natural Sources of Omega-3 EPA and DHA

EPA and DHA omega-3s are mainly found in fish, especially cold-water, high-fat varieties such as:

Atlantic herring
Albacore tuna
Cod liver oil
Lake trout
Mackerel
Sardines
Salmon
Swordfish

If fish is not your taste…you can still get omega-3 fatty acids, such as ALA, from plant sources. Approximately 35 percent of ALA found in food is converted to DHA and EPA in our body. Since the body cannot make ALA, it must be consumed in the diet.

Natural Sources of Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA)

Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
Soybeans and soybean oil
Walnuts
Brazil nuts
Soy nuts
Olive oil
Hemp seeds
Pumpkin seeds

Omega-3 fatty acids are not only found in fish, nuts, seeds and oils. Fruits and vegetables that are good sources of omega-3s include: kidney beans, navy beans, tofu, winter and summer squash, certain berries such as raspberries and strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, romaine lettuce, and collard greens. Wheat germ and free-range beef and poultry are also good sources of omega-3s.

If foods rich in ALA are the only dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids, it is important to limit saturated and trans fats in the diet as both can interfere with the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA.

Daily Recommended Intake for Omega-3s

The Institute of Medicine suggests an Adequate Intake level of ALA at 1,600 mg per day for men and 1,100 mg per day for women, and 110mg to 160 mg per day of EPA and DHA.

The American Heart Association recommends 500 to 1,000 mg per day of DHA and EPA.

The National Institute of Health recommends consuming at least 2 percent of total daily calories from omega-3 fatty acids; based on a 2,000 calorie diet, this would be at least 2,000 mg of omega-3 fats daily, about 2 fish oil pills per day.

Related article: Omega-3 Fatty Acids for ADHD.