Food choices you make every day can boost your omega-3 intake.
Filling up on omega-3 fatty acids does a body good. These polyunsaturated fats, which play a crucial role in how your body’s cells function, have been shown to reduce harmful inflammation and help keep cholesterol and blood pressure levels in a healthy range, which can lower risk for heart disease. Your body can’t produce omega-3s, though, so you’ve got to be diligent about making sure your diet provides them. The good news is the fatty acids are found in foods like walnuts and beans and certain oils, and — as you probably know — seafood, which remain the source for two main types of omega-3s. Here are some foods that are rich in omega-3s.
While there’s no set daily recommended allowance of omega-3s for healthy adults in the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommendations from health authorities like the World Health Organization and heart-healthy diets have suggested regular fish consumption. That’s often boiled down to having at least two servings of fish per week, or consuming around 200 to 500 milligrams’ worth of eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, often referred to as DHA — two main types of omega-3s. Here’s a look at some popular fish and shellfish and the approximate amount of these two fatty acids per 4-ounce portion:
— Salmon (Atlantic, Chinook, Coho): 1,200-2,400 mg.
— Anchovies: 2,300-2,400 mg.
— Yellowfin tuna: 150-350; canned: 150-300 mg.
— Sardines: 1,100-1,600 mg.
— Trout: 1,000-1,100 mg.
— Crab: 200-550 mg.
— Cod: 200 mg.
— Scallops: 200 mg.
— Lobsters: 200 mg.
— Tilapia: 150 mg.
— Shrimp: 100 mg.
What was the Institute of Medicine — and is now the National Academy of Medicine — didn’t set so-called daily adequate intake recommendations for the level of EPA or DHA needed to ensure nutritional adequacy. But the IOM set the adequate intake of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, another type of omega-3 that’s found in some oils at 1.6 grams for men and 1.1 grams for women per day. One tablespoon of flaxseed oil contains more than 7 g of ALA, and 1 tbsp of canola oil contains 1.28 g of ALA and a tbsp of soybean oil contains nearly a gram of ALA, which the body partially converts to EPA and DHA.
Chia seeds have been touted for their energy-boosting properties, and they’re also a great plant-based source of omega-3s. An ounce of chia seeds, which can be added to many foods from oatmeal to smoothies, contains 5 g of ALA.
Add a nutty flavor to salad, yogurt or morning muesli with walnuts. A small handful will up your omega-3 intake, where a single ounce of English walnuts contains 2.57 g of ALA.
Although you won’t find close to as much omega-3s in beans as, say, seafood, it can provide another healthy option to get more of the fatty acids in your diet. Kidney beans contain 0.1 grams of ALA per serving, while edamame, a preparation of soybeans, contains 0.28 grams of ALA per half cup.
While health experts advise getting nutrients through diet wherever possible, if you’re not able to get enough omega-3s that way — for example, if you don’t eat fish — you might want to consider taking a supplement, especially if you have heart disease or high triglycerides. Talk with your doctor about whether a supplement may be recommended.
To recap, here are some foods that are rich in omega-3s.
— Chia seeds
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Update 06/20/19: This story was originally published on April 14, 2011, and has been updated with new information.