Omega-3s are essential fatty acids, meaning our body cannot produce them and we have to get them through our diet. There are three kinds of Omega-3s; DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid ). DHA and EPA are most commonly found in fatty fish like wild caught salmon, sardines, and mackerel. ALA on the other hand is found in plant based foods like some nuts ( Example, walnuts) and seeds (like chia and hemp seeds).
Unfortunately in western countries, specially United States, we are not consuming enough Omega-3s (1).
there are several important health benefits in consuming omega 3 rich foods. Here I would like to focus on the top 5 proven health benefits of consuming a diet rich in omega-3s:
Omega-3s can fight depression and anxiety:
Studies have found that people who consume diets rich in Omega-3s are less likely to suffer from depression (2).
EPA has been found to be most effective kind of Omega-3 against depression, compare to the other two (ALA and DHA) (3).
Can improve eye health:
A major structure of the brain and retina of the eye is DHA (4).
Consuming enough DHA has been linked to reduction in Macular degeneration, the leading cause of permanent eye disease and blindness (5).
Can promote brain health during pregnancy and early life:
DHA accounts for 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the brain, and 60% in the retina of the eye (6).
At birth brain weight is 70% of an adult, 15% brain growth occurs during infancy and remaining brain growth is completed during preschool years. It is recommended that the pregnant and nursing woman should take at least 2.6 g of omega-3 fatty acids and 100-300 mg of DHA daily to look after the needs of her fetus and suckling infant (7).
there has been many benefits associated with getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy including, Higher intelligence, better communication and social skills, less behavioral problems, decreases risk of developmental delay, decreased risk of ADHD, autism and cerebral palsy (8, 9, 10).
Can reduce symptoms of metabolic disorders:
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions. It includes central obesity (belly fat), high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high triglycerides and low HDL levels.
Metabolic syndrome is a major public health concern because it increases ones risk of developing many other diseases including, heart disease and diabetes (11).
Can fight inflammation:
Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines (18, 19). Studies shown a link between higher omega-3 consumption and lower inflammation (20, 21).
Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids:
- Atlantic 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)
- Alaskan Salmon (wild-caught): 1,716 milligrams in 3 ounces (42 percent DV)
- Flaxseeds (ground): 1,597 milligrams in 1 tablespoon (39 percent DV)
- Albacore Tuna: 1,414 milligrams in 3 ounces (35 percent DV) (not safe during pregnancy or breast feeding)
- White Fish: 1,363 milligrams in 3 ounces (34 percent DV) (not safe during pregnancy or breast feeding)
- 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)
Foods high in Omega-3 that are not safe to eat during pregnancy:
Most of the foods mentioned above are safe to consume if you are pregnant (like me 🙂 ) or breast feeding. below is a list of fishes that are high in mercury and therefore should be avoided while pregnant or breast feeding:
- King mackerel
- Orange roughy
- Ahi Tuna
- Bigeye tuna
- Spanish mackerel
- Gulf mackerel
- Albacore tuna
- Yellowfin tuna
- Sea bass
- Striped bass
- Black bass
- Saltwater bass
- Mahi Mahi
- Fresh water perch
- Sea trout
- Canned light tuna
- Skipjack tuna
one of my Omega-3 rich recipes:
Sardines with Quinoa
Note: this dish has about 1824 mg (1.824 g) of omega-3. This exceeds the DRI (Daily Recommended Intake) value of 1.1 g for adult female, 1.4 g for Pregnant female, and 1.6 g for adult male (22).
Ingredients: (makes 2 servings)
- Wild-caught sardine in extra virgin olive oil: 2 cans
- Avocado oil: 3 Tbsp.
- Onion: 1 small chopped
- Garlic: 2 cloves minced
- Dried dill: ¼ cup
- Turmeric: 1 Tsp.
- Salt and pepper: to taste
- Quinoa: 1 cup uncooked
- Place a skillet over medium heat. Add oil and onions.
- Sauté onions until slightly browned.
- Add minced garlic. Stir until you can smell the aroma of the garlic.
- Add turmeric, salt and pepper, and stir.
- Turn heat to low.
- Drain the oil from sardines and add the sardines to the skillet.
- Add dried dill and stir gently for couple of minutes.
- Turn off the heat. In a separate pot, cook quinoa (see best practice to cook quinoa in ”Extra Goodies” section)
- Add sardines mixture to quinoa and mix gently.
- Cook quinoa and sardines on very low heat for another 5 minutes.
Nutrition facts per serving:
- Protein 8g
- Fat 25g
- Carb 65g
- Fiber 5g
- Sugar 5g
As always stay happy and healthy