There’s lots of research behind omega-3 fats and how they can support heart health. Here, we discuss some of the best sources of omega-3 (fish and plant-based) and why you might benefit from more of it.
Omega-3 is a group of unsaturated fats that you’ve probably heard are important to your wellness. You’re also likely to have picked up that they’re more abundant in oily fish. But what about if you don’t like salmon and you can’t stomach sardines?
There are three main types of omega-3 fats – ALA (alpha linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid.) There are two ways that you can optimise your body’s supply of this omega-3 goodness:
You’re probably expecting a list dominated by oily fish. And yes, they feature heavily. But the good news is you can also get omega-3 from plant sources too. As a general rule, EPA and DHA are mostly found in foods like fatty fish and seafood, whereas ALA is more commonly found in plants.
Fatty fishes have a reputation as a superfood for good reason – they’re packed with nutrients. One of them being a healthy dose of DHA and EPA. Fish rich in omega-3 include salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and anchovies.
Walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts in particular are plentiful sources of ALA. For example, eating one serving of walnuts can meet your requirement of omega-3 fatty acids for the day.
Green, leafy vegetables are another group of foods that are densely packed with everything from vitamin c to fibre. Although they don’t offer as high a concentration of omega-3 as the foods higher in this list, cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and kale can help to boost your ALA intake.
Did you know soybeans contain ALA? Soya beans and soya products such as tofu are a lesser known source of omega-3 that’s suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Some foods have omega-3 added to them. For example, certain brands of eggs, milk, yoghurt, bread and spreads. This can help to increase your omega-3 intake, especially if you don’t eat fish.
Algae oil is one of the few vegan sources of both EPA and DHA. More studies are needed to determine the extent of its health benefits, however, current evidence in the scientific literature looks promising.
Here is a comparison of the omega-3 levels found in a variety of foods considered to be rich sources of these fatty acids.
|Fish source||mg per serving|
|How much omega-3 in salmon||4,123|
|How much omega-3 in canned sardines||2,205|
|How much omega-3 in herring||946|
|How much omega-3 in mackerel||4,107|
|How much omega-3 in anchovies||951|
|Food source||mg per 28g serving|
|How much omega-3 in chia seeds||4,915|
|How much omega-3 in flaxseed||2,550|
|How much omega-3 in walnuts||2,542|
|How much omega-3 in hemp seeds||6,000|
|How much omega-3 in Brussels sprouts||135 (when cooked)|
But what if you don’t eat fish? Here are a few vegan and vegetarian-friendly ideas to add some extra omega-3 to your diet:
Hopefully this post shows there are lots of sources of omega-3, making it relatively easy to get your daily dose of these fatty acids from foods. Even if you’re vegetarian, vegan or simply not a fan of fish.
Last updated: 21 July 2020