Omega-3s are the ‘good’ fat your body needs, but cannot otherwise produce on its own.
They are important for brain function heart health, normal vision and much more.1
There are various types of Omega-3s, but the three most important ones are ALA (also known as α-linolenic acid), EPA (or eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (or docosahexaenoic acid).
If you are looking to increase your intake of omega-3s through changes to your diet, which are some the best foods which naturally contain omega-3?
Six of the best foods containing omega-3
Your body struggles to process ALA and convert it to EPA and DHA, so it tends to use it more like it would other fats.
ALA is found in greens. EPA and DHA are the omega-3 types that you need, and they are mostly found in seafood.
Salmon is one of the most nutrient dense foods available, and it also has one of the highest concentrations of omega-3s.
It contains high-quality protein, as well as large amounts of vitamin D and B.2
To make the most of a fillet of salmon, health wise, you can use almost any method to cook it. Although frying or deep frying will obviously add more of the unhealthy kind of fat to your total consumption.
Grilling and broiling (cooking over dry heat) are fast ways to cook fish without adding any fats.
If you add a marinade to your fish before cooking, you can help reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
These are compounds which form in the flesh of animals when cooked over very high heats, and have some risks associated with them – though more with red meat than with fish.3
Ideally, you want to eat a portion of fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, or other kinds, once or twice a week.4
Sardines have around half the amount of omega-3s per serving than salmon, but they are still extremely nutritious, especially when eaten whole.5
Sardines are great source of vitamin B-12, which gives you energy and helps your immune and nervous system.
They also contain vitamin D, for bone health, and important minerals such as niacin, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus.
They are also a great way to get calcium if you cannot tolerate (or do not want to eat) dairy products.6
For the pescatarians out there, sardines are a great way to cover much of your protein needs.
Sardines go off relatively quickly, which is why you will find them more easily in cans.
They make great additions to salads, and can be eaten as snacks on crackers, grilled on a sandwich, or as part of a curry or pasta recipe.7
3. Flaxseed oil
Flax seeds or flaxseed oil is very high in ALA omega-3. They are also a good source of fibre and magnesium.
As oils go, flaxseed oil may not have a high amount of EPA or DHA omega-3s, but it has a better ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s than most oils.8
That is important because the two omega types compete for the same enzymes.
Mackerel, typically eaten smoked and whole, are full of omega-3s, as well as B12 and selenium.9
Mackerel is a heavy and filling fish which can be smoked, baked, or grilled.
You can also steam cook it and have it with rice.
Grilled mackerel is great on toast with some aubergines and onion. Its plain taste means that it is good at taking on flavours, so you can eat it cooked with a teriyaki sauce, garlic, and lemon, for example, for a quickly and delicious meal.
If you want to impress, a smoked mackerel risotto will both blow your friends’ minds, and provide you all with a very healthy lunch or dinner.
5. Chia seeds
Chia has a massive amount of omega-3s (5,060 mg per serving – more than salmon, even though the serving size will be much smaller).
Chia seeds are also a great source of protein, fibre, manganese, selenium, and other nutrients.11
Similarly, walnuts are loaded with fibre, and they have about half the amount of omega-3s of chia seeds.
A handful of walnuts will bring you a good amount of vitamin E, copper, manganese, and antioxidants.
Walnuts make a great snack, and they can be added to a salad to really uplift it.
For an incredible pasta, try walnuts with a blue cheese-based white sauce and some parmesan on top.
Last updated: 28 January 2021
Author: Bhupesh Panchal, Regulatory Affairs
Bhupesh started his career as a clinical toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products. After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.
In his spare time, Bhupesh likes to cycle and has been learning to speak Korean for several years.