Omega 3 benefits are wide-ranging and proven by clinical studies. Understanding the best Omega 3 sources means you can include more of these healthy foods in your daily meal planning.
From heart health to depression treatment to pregnancy health. Omega 3 benefits are too good to ignore if you are interested in health.
What are Omega 3’s and what are the best Omega 3 sources?
The Omega 3 essesential fatty acids (EFA’s) are polyunsaturated fats or the so-called “good fats”.
These desirable fats cannot be made by the human body, so they must be obtained from foods or supplemental sources.
These fats are required for normal development of the brain, eyes and nerve tissue in humans.
Clinical studies show that Omega 3 benefits come primarily from DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
The best Omega 3 sources are animal foods, not plant sources. For example, flaxseed is a source, but the body must convert the flax oil Omega 3 into DHA and EPA.
This can be difficult for unhealthy or elderly persons.
Three of the top Omega 3 sources are cold-water fish oil, grass-fed red meat and natural eggs.
Omega 3 oils provide DHA and EPA in a natural form that your body can easily assimilate. No conversion is required by the body.
Most of the clinical studies on Omega 3 benefits are based on fish oils from consuming fish and fish oil supplements.
Here are Omega 3 benefits proven by clinical studies:
1. Improves Heart Health
Fish oil and Omega 3 benefits include reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, reducing the risk of heart-related sudden death and lowering unhealthy triglyceride levels.
In fact, the American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish a week for healthy persons and one serving per day of fish or fish oil supplement containing at least 900mg of fish oil for persons with heart disease.
2. Improves Mood
Persons suffering from mood disorders such as depression benefit from fish oil supplementation and Omega 3.
The lack of omega 3 fatty acids (DHA) has been linked by researchers to depression.
3. Reduces Risk of Developing Altzheimer’s Disease
Clinical studies suggest that fish oil and DHA may protect the nervous system in humans.
4. Improves Memory and Brain Function
DHA and fish oil have been proven to stimulate memory & the ability to learn.
Research has shown that mothers who take supplemental DHA during their pregnancy and lactation may increase their baby’s IQ.
5. Reduces Allergies
Fish oil protects against the symptoms of hay fever, sinus infections, asthma, certain food allergies and allergic skin conditions like hives and eczema.
6. Reduces Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms
Omega 3 benefits come from the EPA and DHA in fish oil that reduce the amount of compounds causing inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of inflammatory arthritis.
7. Improves Eye Health
Consuming fish oil is related to lowered risk of developing age related macular degeneration, an increasing common eye disease in people over 50.
8. Reduces PMS Symptoms in Women
Omega 3 is converted into substances called ‘prostaglandins type-3’ that control contractions of the uterus, which cause the cramping.
9. Improves Skin and Hair Health
Fish oil helps protect the skin against damage from UV exposure, and skin disorders such as psoriasis can consider fish oil supplenentation a treatment option.
10. Lowers Cancer Risk
Studies on Omega 3 benefits have linked lowered risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer to the consumption of fish oil.
Besides adding cold-water fish to meal planning, an easy way to enjoy Omega 3 benefits is by adding fish oil supplementation to your diet.
Protect yourself from health problems related to the lack of the essential fatty acids DHA and EFA. The best of the Omega 3 sources is high-quality fish oil.
However, it must be pure and totally free from contaminants.
What Are the Best Omega-3 Foods?
Here’s a list of the top 15 omega-3 foods (percentages based on 4,000 milligrams per day of total omega-3s):
- Mackerel: 6,982 milligrams in 1 cup cooked (174 precent DV)
- Salmon Fish Oil: 4,767 milligrams in 1 tablespoon (119 percent DV)
- Cod Liver Oil: 2.664 milligrams in 1 tablespoon (66 percent DV)
- Walnuts: 2,664 milligrams in 1/4 cup (66 percent DV)
- Chia Seeds: 2,457 milligrams in 1 tablespoon (61 percent DV)
- Herring: 1,885 milligrams in 3 ounces (47 percent DV)
- Salmon (wild-caught): 1,716 milligrams in 3 ounces (42 percent DV)
- Flaxseeds (ground): 1,597 milligrams in 1 tablespoon (39 percent DV)
- Tuna: 1,414 milligrams in 3 ounces (35 percent DV)
- White Fish: 1,363 milligrams in 3 ounces (34 percent DV)
- Sardines: 1,363 milligrams in 1 can/3.75 ounces (34 percent DV)
- Hemp Seeds: 1,000 milligrams in 1 tablespoon (25 percent DV)
- Anchovies: 951 milligrams in 1 can/2 ounces (23 percent DV)
- Natto: 428 milligrams in 1/4 cup (10 percent DV)
- Egg Yolks: 240 milligrams in 1/2 cup (6 percent DV)
Other Natural Sources of Omega-3
- Nuts and Seeds with Omega-3s — In addition to walnuts, chia and flaxseeds, butternuts, brazil nuts, cashews, hemp seeds and hazelnuts have omega-3s in the form of ALA (although walnuts, flaxseeds and chia are definitely the better sources).
- Vegetables — Many vegetables, especially green leafy ones, are good sources of ALAs. While ALA omega-3 foods aren’t as good as those with DHA and EPA. These foods should still make regular appearances in your diet considering how much fiber and other nutrients they also contain. Some of the vegetables highest in omega-3s include Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach and watercress.
- Oils — Lots of oils contain omega-3s to some degree, usually in the form of ALAs. These include mustard oil, walnut oil and hemp oil. A newer vegetarian oil called algal oil is also gaining popularity as early research shows it’s easily converted to DHA in the body compared to other vegetarian omega-3s foods.
How Do Different Omega-3 Fish Oils Compare?
Because there is such debate over waters being contaminated with toxins and pollutants like mercury, many people find it hard to get enough omega-3s from eating fish alone.
This is one reason why some people prefer supplementing with fish oil in addition to eating some omega-3 foods.
The difference between “fish oil” and “cod oil” can be confusing.
Fish oil and cod liver oil are actually two different oils, although they are molecularly similar and both extracted in the same way.
The reason they are different is their sources: Fish oil is extracted from tuna, herring, cod or other deep-sea fish. Cod liver oil comes from the liver of cod fish only.
How do they compare nutritionally? Fish oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, but it doesn’t have much vitamin A or D. On the other hand, cod liver oil is lower in omega-3s very high in vitamins A and D.
According to some sources, cod liver oil contains about 8 percent EPA and 10 percent DHA, much less than fish oil, which has around 18 percent EPA and 12 percent DHA.
Due to its vitamin concentration. Cod liver oil traditionally has been given to young children on and from the 1960s, it helps support brain function and development.
Because many people today suffer from vitamin D deficiency, cod liver oil has made a comeback. A lot of people who use cod liver oil rely on it in the winter months.
When they spend less time outdoors, to supply a high level of absorbable vitamin D.
What is the ideal kind of fish oil if you want to supplement your diet? I believe that the best form of omega-3 fish oil contains astaxanthin (a powerful antioxidant that also helps stabilize fish oil), so my preferred choice is fish oil made from wild-caught pacific salmon, which has high levels of DHA/EPA and astaxanthin.