In one of my past articles in the Should you Supplement series, I touted the importance of Omega-3 fatty acids and the purpose they serve for optimal health.
As mentioned in the article, Omega-3 fatty acids serve many functions for optimal health, including:
- Cardiovascular Health
- Protection from Stroke and Heart Attack
- Better Brain Function
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties
- Reduction of Breast, Colon and Prostate Cancer
- Decrease in Depression, Attention Deficit Disorder and Aggression
With all of the benefits it may be necessary to supplement with some added flax or fish oil to make sure you are getting the optimal amount of Omega-3 because high levels are absent in many of the food we eat.
Even if supplementation might be a necessary step towards optimal health, eating as many foods with high Omega-3s should be the first line of attack. There are a variety of foods out there that contain Omega-3 fatty acids and in this article I will list the five sources of food that have some of the highest levels of Omega-3 fatty acids.
The most common dietary source of Omega-3 Fatty acids can be found in the cold-water, oily fish varieties. These fish are high in the Omega-3s (EPA and DHA) because their diet is rich in green seaweed and algae. The fish with the highest amount of Omega-3 are herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and anchovies; containing anywhere from 1.8-2.2 grams of Omega-3 for every 4 ounce serving.
Eating any of these fish can also supply about seven times the amount of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. Make sure of your source because many of these fatty fish can contain higher levels of heavy metals and dioxins; fresh, wild fish is most likely your best options.
Where fish get their Omega-3 richness from the green algae and seaweed, meat can have very high ratios of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids if the animal source is consuming nutrient rich grass. If meat is fed grain diets at feedlots the Omega-3 benefits drop immensely. Look for grass-fed beef and lamb as your best Omega-3 meat sources.
Have you ever seen those Omega-3 eggs in the store and wondered how they were different than the other eggs on the shelf and what makes them so Omega-3 enriched? Keeping with our common theme of you are what you eat, these eggs were produced by chickens that had diets rich in greens and insects compared to ones with diets of corn and soybeans.
Nuts and Seeds
Most nuts contain only trace amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, however, walnuts are the exception. For every 1 ounce of walnuts there are 2.6 grams of Omega-3s. Flax seeds contain one of the highest amounts of Omega-3s in the form of ALA. For every 1 ounce serving there are 1.8 grams of Omega-3s.
Chia seeds have grown in recent popularity and possibly for good reason. For every two tablespoon full they contain about 5 grams of Omega-3s.
When thinking about the nutritional value of plant sources we probably think of fiber, vitamins and phytonutrients before Omega-3 Fatty acids. Most greens only contain trace amounts of Omega-3s but there are a few sources like spinach, kale, and collard greens that contain about 0.1 grams for every half-cup. This may seem miniscule when compared to the other sources we have looked at previously, however these greens are very important for optimal health in other ways and the Omega-3s they contain are just an added bonus.
One plant source that contains the highest amounts of Omega-3s is purslane. One hundred grams of purslane leaves contain 300 to 400mg of ALA. I personally have never tired this weed but knowing what I know now, I may have to give it a shot.
There is plenty of variety when it comes to foods containing high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, just make sure to know the source of the food to get the most out of what you are eating.