Omega-3 fatty acids are a trendy topic right now, especially with fish oil and omega-3 supplements being promoted on the market. But what about getting omega-3 from your diet? Is it possible? Learn more about the top sources of omega-3s you should be including in your diet and how omega-3s can play a role in your health.
What are omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning, they can’t be created by the body and therefore need to be consumed by the diet. The two major forms of omega-3s are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Plant sources contain another source of omega-3 called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). This source can be converted into EPA and DHA by the body. DHA and EPA are mainly found in animal foods.
Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish, fish oils, flax seed, chia seed, and walnuts. For those that don’t consume a well varied and nourishing diet, you may need to take an omega-3 supplement. Those can be costly though, so we’re all about getting your omega-3s in through real food! (Also if you know us well here at Nourished Routes, you know we’re more for trying real, whole foods in your diet before moving to supplements.)
ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
This is the most common type of omega-3 found in your diet. Your body mainly uses it for energy; however, it also can be converted into the other types of omega-3 as mentioned above. Overall, though, this process is quite inefficient and only a small amount can be converted to the active form. ALA is found in flax seed, chia seed, and soy beans.
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
EPA is mainly found in animal products such as fish oils and fatty fish. EPA helps our circulatory system function properly, decreases fat in our blood, and can aid in swelling and pain. Part of EPA can also be converted into DHA.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
DHA is the most crucial omega-3 in the diet. DHA is the key structural component of many parts of our body including our eyes and brain. DHA is found in mostly animal products like fish, eggs, or meat.
What role does omega-3 play in your diet
As we’ve mentioned, omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for our brain and eyes. While pregnant, it’s also important to focus on omega-3s as the overall health of the baby can be impacted. A prenatal containing DHA and EPA is recommended for those who are pregnant or actively trying to conceive. Research shows that adequate omega-3 intake can also play a role in our immunity as well as reduce risk of cardiovascular events, the main killer in the United States. Those who consume enough omega-3s have a lower risk of breast cancer, depression, ADHD, and other illnesses.
Our top 5 recommended sources
Here are some of our top sources of omega-3s for optimal health.
- Fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel)
- Chia seeds
- Flax seed
Looking at this list, none of these are particularly hard to get into your diet, either! (Ok, unless you have a food allergy or intolerance). Salmon and other fatty fish can be incorporated into your routine 2-3x per week by roasting it on a baking sheet, sautéing it, or consuming as tinned fish. We love incorporating chia seeds and flax seeds in a smoothie, in a yogurt parfait, or baking up something fun with it. Walnuts are an easy topper to a salad or in trail mix as a snack. Lastly, soybeans are a great protein source in a stir fry or grain bowl. We’re all about this roasted salmon pomegranate salad right now.
The bottom line
Omega-3 fatty acids are important to consume daily as high intake has been linked to better overall health, less inflammation, and reduced risk of disease. We recommend focusing on these top 5 omega-3 packed foods to up your omega-3 intake.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, focus on sources like chia seed, flax seeds, or walnuts. If you’re not sure if you’re consuming enough, schedule a free discovery call with us here and we would love to chat to help you determine if you are:
- Eating enough omega-3s in your diet
- Eating the right sources of omega-3s
Looking for snack sources of omega-3s to make snacking easy? We’ve got you covered! We provide over 20 snack ideas in our guide “Top 3 Snack Hacks” that is available for instant download HERE!