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?
How to get more omega-3?
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:
- Eat foods rich in these fats. This is the best way to obtain all types of omega-3
- You can choose to build up your omega-3s levels by taking a dietary supplement
8 sources of omega-3
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.
- Oily fish
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.
Flax (linseed), pumpkin, chia and hemp seeds are nutrient dense and known for their wellness benefits. For example, flaxseed oil omega-3 levels are impressive at around 7,196mg of ALA in a tablespoon.1 And a single portion of chia seeds could be all you need to exceed your recommended daily dose of ALA omega-3 fatty acids.
- Leafy green vegetables
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.
- Soya beans
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.
- Omega-3 enriched foods
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
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.
If you don’t eat many of the foods on this list you could consider taking omega-3 rich dietary supplements, such as those containing fish oil and algae oil. They are widely available in a range of doses.2
How much omega-3 is in my food
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 rich in omega-3 (DHA and EPA)
|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|
Plant-based foods rich in omega-3 (ALA)3
|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)|
Making omega-3 part of your daily diet
It’s recommended you aim to eat two fish meals per week with at least one portion being of the oily variety.4 So, including salmon and mackerel in your weekly meal plan and adding a few anchovies to the top of your pizza is an excellent start to an omega-3 rich diet.
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:
- Include walnuts in your homemade energy bars or porridge
- Add kale to your smoothies or as a side to your evening meal
- Make a chia pudding
- Sprinkle hemp seeds into a smoothie or add them as a topping for yoghurt
- Add flaxseed to cereal, soups or sprinkled on your salads
- Try chlorella and spirulina as an addition to smoothies
Summary: How can I get more omega-3?
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