14 Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients, which means they cannot be produced by the body and need to come from the diet. Despite the importance of omega-3s, most people don’t consume enough. Omega-3s have a variety of benefits, such as eye and brain health.

This article describes the types, benefits, sources and recommendations of omega-3s.

What is Omega-3?

Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that need to be consumed in food. The three important types of omega-3 are:

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

DHA and EPA are mainly found in algae and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna, while ALA is mainly found in plant foods.

How much Omega-3 should you consume per day?

According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended intake of omega-3 by age is:

  • Birth to 1 year: 500 milligrams (mg) per day
  • 1-3 years: 700 mg per day
  • 4-8 years: 900 mg per day
  • 9-13 years: 1,200 mg per day for men and 1,000 mg per day for women
  • 14-18 years: 1,600 mg per day for men and 1,100 mg per day for women
  • 18 years and older: 1,600 mg per day for men and 1,100 mg per day for women
  • During pregnancy: 1,400 mg per day
  • Lactation (breastfeeding): 1,300 mg per day

benefit

Potential benefits of omega-3s include:

protect eye health

DHA types of omega-3s are the main fatty acids that make up the retina of the eye (the layer of tissue at the back of the eye that senses light and sends signals to the brain so you can see). DHA is essential to support the healthy development of the eyes of the fetus and baby during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

It remains important for eye health throughout your life. Studies have shown that getting enough omega-3s can help reduce the risk of eye problems such as age-related macular degeneration (loss of central vision).

reduce inflammation

Research shows that omega-3s play an important role in preventing inflammation. When the body breaks down omega-3 fatty acids, it uses them to make anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants. Therefore, it helps reduce inflammation and protect cells from damage.

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Inflammation is thought to play a role in the development of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis. Therefore, reducing inflammation may help reduce your risk of developing these chronic diseases and their symptoms.

Improve heart health

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death. Omega 3 may help improve important markers of heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the effect is likely to be small and the evidence is weak.

Omega-3s help:

  • Raises “good” HDL cholesterol
  • lower triglycerides
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Can prevent plaque (deposits of fat, cholesterol, and calcium) from forming in arteries
  • May lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol levels

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Promotes baby brain health

Omega-3s are essential for healthy brain development in the womb and early in life. DHA is the main fatty acid used to make cell membranes in the brain. Most brain development occurs in the first six years of life.

Studies have shown that EPA and DHA are equally effective at raising DHA levels in the brain. Therefore, adequate intake of these nutrients is essential during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as well as during childhood.

Help with autoimmune diseases

Many autoimmune diseases can be triggered or worsened by chronic inflammation. Reducing inflammation may help manage symptoms and slow disease progression. Inflammation is part of the immune response to infection, disease and injury.

Autoimmune diseases are diseases in which the immune system mistakes healthy cells for problems and attacks them. Research suggests that omega-3s may help reverse the progression of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as:

  • lupus
  • multiple sclerosis
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

Prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Changes in brain health and cognitive decline are common side effects of aging. Still, several studies suggest that omega-3s may protect brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as we age.

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A systematic review found that omega-3 supplements may help improve cognitive performance in people with mild Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

Ease the side effects of cancer treatment

Inflammation plays a role in tumor development and side effects of cancer treatments. Research has been mixed on whether omega-3s can actually help prevent cancer, such as prostate cancer.

However, a 2013 study suggested that omega-3 supplementation with chemotherapy may help improve patient outcomes by reducing inflammation and chemotherapy side effects.

May reduce depression

Omega-3s may also protect your brain health by reducing the risk of certain mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and depression. A 2019 study found that omega-3 supplements containing EPA helped improve symptoms of depression.

14 Foods Rich in Omega-3

In general, it’s best to try to get essential nutrients through food as much as possible. In general, animal omega-3 sources provide EPA and DHA, while plant sources tend to contain ALA.

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • salmon
  • oysters
  • Walnut
  • sardine
  • tuna
  • shrimp
  • Cod liver oils, such as cod liver oil and krill oil
  • algae
  • Algae Oil
  • kidney beans
  • soybean oil
  • Chia seeds
  • flax seeds
  • Linseed oil

How to take Omega-3

Most of the time, people are able to meet their nutritional needs with a balanced diet. However, sometimes it can be difficult to achieve the daily recommended nutrients due to food preferences, food acquisition, or the way the body absorbs nutrients.

Consult your healthcare provider if you are concerned about getting enough omega-3s. They may recommend taking dietary supplements to increase your omega-3s. Your healthcare provider can let you know how much to take and review any potential risks of taking supplements.

For example, omega-3 supplements may interact with blood thinners such as coumarin (warfarin), and high doses have been shown to increase the risk of bleeding or stroke (insufficient blood supply to the brain or bleeding in the brain).

Potential side effects of taking dietary supplements include digestive discomfort, such as:

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  • burping or gas
  • indigestion
  • bloating
  • diarrhea or constipation

Be sure to do your research on the company before purchasing a dietary supplement. Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as medicines and are therefore not tested for quality, composition, and effectiveness.

when to see a doctor

It is best to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any dietary supplement. Especially if you take it to help manage conditions like autoimmune disease, depression, or heart disease.

Supplements may help manage symptoms, but they are not intended to be the only treatment. If you develop new symptoms, talking with your doctor can verify the cause and adjust your treatment plan to prevent drug interactions.

generalize

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients consumed through food or supplements. There are three types of omega-3; DHA, EPA and ALA. Potential health benefits of omega-3s include protecting heart health, brain function, eye health and reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases.

Food sources of omega-3 include fatty fish, walnuts, flax seeds, and algae. Dietary supplements can help meet omega-3 needs. Before starting a new supplement, discuss the potential benefits and risks of omega-3s with your healthcare provider.

VigorTip words

A balanced diet rich in various vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can help reduce the risk of chronic disease and maintain a higher quality of life. Try eating fatty fish or plant sources several times a week for the potential health benefits of omega-3s.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much omega-3 should you consume per day?

    Most adults need 1,000 to 1,600 mg of omega-3 per day. You can easily meet your needs with a healthy diet. For example, half a salmon fillet provides about 1,800 mg of omega-3, About seven walnuts provide 2,500 mg of ALA.

  • How should vegetarians get their omega-3 fatty acids?

    Vegetarians who don’t eat fish can get omega-3s from plant sources such as walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and algae.