Omega-3 fatty acids are a healthful and essential type of fat, and they offer many health benefits.
Fatty fish is an excellent dietary source of omega-3. People can also meet the recommended omega-3 intake by eating plant-based foods, including omega-3-rich vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acid, which are called ALA, DHA, and EPA.
Plant sources, such as nuts and seeds, are rich in ALA, while fish, seaweed, and algae can provide DHA and EPA fatty acids. Eating a variety of omega-3 sources is important.
In this article, we list the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, including omega-3 supplements.
Fish sources of omega-3
Fatty, oily fish is an excellent source of DHA and EPA, which are two key types of omega-3 fatty acid.
The following types of fish are some of the best sources of these fatty acids. For each fish below, the serving size is 3 ounces (oz):
Omega-3 fatty acids have many health benefits.
Mackerel is a small, fatty fish that people commonly eat smoked, often for breakfast.
A serving of mackerel contains:
- 0.59 g of DHA
- 0.43 g of EPA
Along with omega-3s, mackerel is rich in selenium and vitamin B-12.
Salmon is one of the most popular and highly nutritious types of fish available. There are several differences between wild and farmed salmon, including some variations in the omega-3 content.
One serving of farmed salmon contains:
- 1.24 g of DHA
- 0.59 g of EPA
One serving of wild salmon contains:
- 1.22 g of DHA
- 0.35 g of EPA
Salmon also contains high levels of protein, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and B vitamins.
Learn more about the differences between wild and farmed salmon here.
Seabass is a popular Japanese fish.
One serving of seabass contains:
- 0.47 g of DHA
- 0.18 g of EPA
Seabass also provides protein and selenium.
Oysters are a favorite shellfish that restaurants tend to serve as an appetizer or snack. Unlike many other seafood sources, oysters contain all three major classes of omega-3s.
One serving of oysters contains:
- 0.14 g of ALA
- 0.23 g of DHA
- 0.30 g of EPA
Oysters are also rich in zinc and vitamin B-12.
Sardines are a small, oily fish that people can buy in cans and eat as a snack or appetizer.
One serving of canned sardines contains:
- 0.74 g of DHA
- 0.45 g of EPA
Sardines are also a good source of selenium and vitamins B-12 and D.
People around the world eat shrimp as both an appetizer and a component of many meals.
One serving of shrimp contains:
- 0.12 g of DHA
- 0.12 g of EPA
Shrimp is also rich in protein and potassium.
Rainbow trout are among the most popular and healthful types of fish.
One serving of trout contains:
- 0.44 g of DHA
- 0.40 g of EPA
In addition to omega-3s, trout is a good source of protein, potassium, and vitamin D.
Vegetarian and vegan sources of omega-3
8. Seaweed and algae
Seaweed is a nutrient-dense food.
Seaweed, nori, spirulina, and chlorella are different forms of algae that many people eat for their health benefits.
Seaweed and algae are important sources of omega-3 for people on a vegetarian or vegan diet, as they are one of the few plant groups that contain DHA and EPA.
The DHA and EPA content varies depending on the type of algae and the particular product.
There are many ways to include these foods in the diet. For example:
- Nori is the seaweed that most people use to wrap around sushi.
- Seaweed is a tasty, crispy snack.
- Chlorella and spirulina make a healthful addition to smoothies or oatmeal.
Seaweed is also rich in protein, and it may have antidiabetic, antioxidant, and antihypertensive properties.
People can find chlorella and spirulina in health-food stores or online. Shop here for chlorella and spirulina.
9. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are an excellent plant-based source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids. They are also high in fiber and protein.
Chia seeds contain 5.055 g of ALA per 1-oz serving.
People can use these seeds as an ingredient in granola, salads, or smoothies, or they can mix them with milk or yogurt to make chia pudding. Mixing chia seeds with water also creates an egg substitute that vegans can use.
Many health-food stores now stock chia seeds, and it is also possible to buy them online.
10. Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds contain 2.605 g of ALA in every 3 tablespoons (tbsp).
They are also rich in many nutrients, including:
Research suggests that hemp seeds are good for a person’s heart, digestion, and skin.
Hemp seeds are slightly sweet and make an excellent addition to granola, oats, snack bars, salads, and smoothies.
Hemp seeds are available to buy online.
Flaxseeds contain 6.703 g of ALA per tbsp.
Flaxseeds are one of the most healthful seeds that people can eat. They are rich in many nutrients, including:
These seeds may reduce blood pressure and improve heart health.
As with chia seeds, people can mix flaxseeds with water to create a vegan egg replacement. It is also easy to incorporate them into the diet by adding them to oatmeal, cereal, or salad.
Flaxseeds are available to buy online.
Walnuts contain 3.346 g of ALA per cup.
These nuts are a great source of healthful fats, including ALA omega-3 fatty acids.
People can enjoy walnuts on their own, in granola, or in a trail mix, snack bar, yogurt, salad, or cooked dish.
A half-cup of frozen edamame beans contains 0.28 g of ALA.
Edamame beans are immature soybeans that are particularly popular in Japan. They are not only rich in omega-3s but are a great source of plant-based protein.
Boiled or steamed edamame beans work well in a salad or as a side dish.
14. Kidney beans
Kidney beans contain 0.10 g of ALA per half-cup.
Kidney beans are one of the most common beans to include in meals or eat as a side dish. People can add them to curries or stews or eat them with rice.
15. Soybean oil
Soybean oil contains 0.923 g of ALA per tbsp.
Soybeans are popular legumes from Asia. Many people use soybean oil for cooking.
The oil is also a good source of:
- vitamin K
People usually serve soybeans as part of a meal or in a salad. Soybean oil works well as a cooking oil and in salad dressings.
Omega-3 supplements can vary in quality.
People who cannot meet their omega-3 dietary requirements and those who experience high levels of inflammation may benefit from taking omega-3 supplements.
There are several types of omega-3 supplement to choose from, including:
Fish oil: Fish oil is the most common omega-3 supplement, and it offers the highest available dose. Fish oil supplements include both DHA and EPA.
Cod liver oil: Cod liver oil is rich not only in DHA and EPA omega-3s but also in vitamins A and D.
Krill oil: Krill oil is another seafood oil that is rich in DHA and EPA.
Algae oil: For people following a vegetarian or vegan diet, algae oils are an excellent source of omega-3s. However, they contain a lower dose than most fish oil supplements, so people may need to take more of them. There are also fewer brands, and they may be more expensive. Some brands include only DHA, but a brand with both DHA and EPA will be more beneficial.
ALA supplements: Flaxseed, chia seed, and hemp seed supplements contain only the plant-based omega-3 ALA, which is not sufficient on its own. The seeds also contain omega-6 fatty acids, which can be inflammatory. This means that these supplements do not contribute to a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in the body. Although ALA supplements are not a substitute for fish or algae oil, they can be an excellent additional supplement to include in the diet.
The amount of omega-3 in each of these supplements depends on the type of supplement and the specific brand.
Certain plant-based supplements, such as some algae and ALA supplements, include gelatin and are not suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Always read the label carefully.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a vital component of the diet as they can minimize inflammation and keep the body healthy.
People should bear in mind that the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 in the body plays a role in preventing inflammation. In addition to increasing their omega-3 intake, people should limit their consumption of foods high in omega-6.
Foods that are typically high in omega-6 fatty acids include processed foods, tofu, nuts, seeds, and meat.
A variety of fish, vegetarian, and vegan sources can help people increase their omega-3 intake, and omega-3 supplements are also available.
It is essential to include all three main types of omega-3 in the diet and to keep the omega-3 and omega-6 ratio in balance. People who wish to avoid seafood sources can meet their requirement using plant-based sources and algae supplements.
Before making dietary changes or using supplements, people should talk to a doctor and a registered dietitian to ensure that they will be meeting all their nutritional and health needs.