Finding the Best Food Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Plant Foods High in Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

There are many foods that are terrific sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids.

  • Soybean oil, for instance, contains 7 per cent omega-3 essential fatty acids.
  • Canola oil contains 9 per cent. Walnut oil contains 10 per cent.
  • And flaxseed oil contains a whopping 57 per cent omega-3 fat.

So why not just make sure you use lots of these plant oils from certified organic sources?

For one thing, using any of these oils in frying cancels out their contributions to controlling inflammation. You have to use them without cooking them.

And there are two other reasons that even flaxseed oil poses problems for fighting inflammation.

Your body uses omega-6 essential fatty acids to make the inflammatory hormones that activate the immune system, give you the energy you need to deal with physical danger, and keep you from excessive bleeding.

Your body uses omega-3 essential fatty acids to make the anti-inflammatory hormones that keep their effects from being excessive.

If you are trying to get omega-3 and omega-6 in the right balance, then you really don't need to consume more omega-6 fat.

  • Soybean oil contains 51 per cent omega-6 fat.
  • Canola oil contains 20 per cent.
  • Walnut oil contains 52 per cent.
  • And even flaxseed oil is 14 per cent omega-6.

Moreover, the kind of omega-3 fat in plant oils is a compound called alpha-linolenic acid.

Women's bodies, in particular, have to work hard to transform alpha-linolenic acid into the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosahexaenoic acid (EPA) actually needed.

As little as 1 per cent of alpha-linolenic acid actually gets transformed into DHA or EPA.

Seafood and Fish High in Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

When you eat seafood, you don't get a lot of omega-6 fatty acids, and you do get a lot of omega-3's.

The problem with eating seafood and fish, especially if you fry it, is that you get a lot of other kinds of fat along with the omega-3 essential fatty acids you need.

For instance, a 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of Atlantic mackerel provides a healthy 420 mg of EPA and 590 mg of DHA for a little over 1,000 mg of omega-3's, about the minimum you need each day. But that same serving of salmon also contains 15 grams of other kinds of fat.

A 3-1/2 oz (100 gram) serving of Atlantic wild salmon is even better. It gives you about 300 mg of EPA and 1,200 mg of DHA for 1,500 mg of omega-3's. And it only gives you about 10 grams of fat.

But if you need to be taking 5 to 15 grams of omega-3's every day for some specialized health concern, can you really eat 1 to 3 pounds (500 to 1,500 grams) of fresh, wild Atlantic salmon every day-when it costs $25 a pound ($58 a kilo)?

Other kinds of seafood and fresh-water fish also contain omega-3's, but a lot less. You get about 200 mg of omega-3's from a serving of frozen fish sticks. You get about 100 mg from a serving of canned tuna packed in oil. The more the fish is processed, the less omega-3 it contains.

What's Better than Eating Omega-3 Foods?

For you best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, eating foods rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids is not the best way to go. You spend a lot of money on expensive, perishable fish, or you have to consume a lot of oil in salad dressings (no frying!) with a lot of calories.

It's simpler, less expensive, and probably healthier to get your omega-3's from supplements. The best fish oil supplements and microalgae supplements cost just pennies a day and give you all the benefits of omega-3's without the extra fat.

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