7 Sources of Omega-3s
Scientists around the world continue to explore all forms of omega-3s and the many benefits of this powerhouse nutrient. Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for heart health, brain function, and eye health. They’ve been studied in conjunction with many conditions, including blood pressure, cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, ADHD, and arthritis.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are three essential types of omega-3 fatty acids. DHA is needed for brain development and function. EPA has a role in managing and reducing inflammation, which is associated with many chronic diseases. ALA is a precursor to both.
Where You Get Omega-3s
ALA is found primarily in plant-based forms—like walnuts and flaxseed—while EPA and DHA are found in fish and other seafood. But the problem is that Americans only eat about one-third of the recommended amount of seafood (USDA, 2016). And while the body converts ALA to EPA and then to DHA, studies have shown that the conversion process is extremely inefficient (Gerster, 1998), so your body doesn’t get the full benefits of omega-3s from ALA alone.
Recommended Intake of Omega-3's
There is no official Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for omega-3s, and suggested amounts vary by health organization. The Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) suggests a minimum of 500 mg of DHA and EPA a day (combined) for the general adult population to maintain adequate levels, but the amount may be increased without side effects (2017).
Here is a list of omega-3 sources that you might want to work into your diet.
Food Sources of DHA/EPA
Most people think of seafood as a primary source of omega-3s, and for good reason. A 3-ounce serving of farmed Atlantic salmon has 1,240 mg of DHA and 570 mg of EPA (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2018).
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week, especially fatty fish like herring, salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines, which typically have higher omega-3 levels.
Fortified or Enriched Foods
Before they reach your grocer’s shelves, eggs, dairy, and meat can be enriched by increasing DHA in the animals’ diets (Metcalf, M., et al., 2003). Dairy, baked goods, and juice can also be fortified by adding omegas to the finished product. Horizon Organic Milk carries a line with 32 mg of DHA per serving.
Cold-pressed flaxseed oil has 7,260 mg of ALA omega-3s per tablespoon (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2016). While you shouldn’t heat cold-pressed oils, you can add them to foods like salad or nut butter.
One ounce of chia seeds has 5,060 mg of ALA (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2016). Add to your smoothies or make chia seed pudding.
One ounce of English walnuts has 2,570 mg of ALA (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2016). No preparation needed—just grab a handful.
Supplement Sources of DHA/EPA
Fish Oil Supplements
You can get DHA and EPA from fish oil or krill oil. Check the label to see how much DHA and EPA are in the supplements. Not all are created equal, and some brands can vary by hundreds of milligrams.
Algal DHA Supplement
If you don’t eat fish, you can get DHA from algal supplements. Fish get their DHA from the base of the food chain—microalgae. But depending on the location, species, and food source, the level of omega-3s in fish can fluctuate. What makes the DHA in Acutia Brain Health unique is that it is made from algae grown in a highly controlled environment, so its nutrient content is more reliable.
A decrease in DHA is potentially linked to cognitive decline as we age (Horrocks, et al., 1999). Which is why you’ll find it in the Acutia Brain Health supplement. While we did not make Brain Health to be an omega-3 replacement, it can count toward your daily intake. You can read more about DHA research and literature on our science page.
If you struggle to eat a variety of whole foods and fish regularly, supplements may be a good option for you to get enough of the DHA and EPA found in seafood. That way you can fill any nutrient gaps and give your body the fuel it needs to thrive.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should consult your doctor about incorporating supplements or fish into your diet.