Here at YouBeauty, we’re sort of like a broken record when it comes to taking omega-3 supplements (every day!).
With all that these little superpowers can do, you owe it to yourself to rotate some into your diet.
There are three forms of omega-3s to get familiar with: DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).DHA and EPA are found in fatty fish and help protect your brain, eyes and heart. ALA is more commonly found in plant sources, and the body eventually converts this to smaller amounts of EPA.
Our body needs omega-3s, but doesn’t naturally make them. Shoot for about 2,000 milligrams in a day. So, where and how can you get them?
If you’re vegan or a vegetarian, you can bypass the fish oil supplements and still get omega-3s in your diet. Fish actually get DHA and EPA through microalgae, so 600 milligrams of vegetarian DHA from algae is an excellent supplement to take.
Chia are edible seeds from a desert plant in the mint family. (Yes, chia sprouts grew on your chia pet!) Unlike flaxseed, they don’t have to be ground up to get the nutrients. Both can be sprinkled on cereals, yogurts or whatever you think needs a slight nutty crunch to it. Flaxseed has about 6,000 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids in one ounce, and chia seeds, nearly 5,000 mg an ounce. Keep in mind this isn’t always efficiently converted to the omega-3s our body uses, so if you want even more and aren’t opposed to ingesting fish, you may want to add those in, too.
You can get ALA from vegetable oils like soybean, flaxseed (or linseed) oil, which has a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Try canola oil that is supplemented with DHA. You can also use these oils in your salad dressing, or as you would with other cooking oils.
Walnuts have six times the amount of ALAs than most other nuts. Have an ounce a day (12 halves) for over 1,000 mg worth. Cashews and pecans also have ‘em, but to a lesser extent. If you want to be adventuresome, try tracking down walnuts’ cousin, the butternut.
If you’re a fan of fish, bring it on to get your DHA and EPA! Eat any of the below fish three times per week (4-ounce portions) to get your fix. You could also take a 2,000 milligram fish oil capsule a day.
- A portion of salmon contains between 1,200-2,400 mg of omega-3s. Wild, line-caught salmon will do the trick
- Other fish lower in chemicals like PCBs and mercury: Mahi mahi, catfish, flounder (sole), whitefish
- If you have a penchant for tiny, salty fish: Anchovies have about 2300 mg, and sardines, 1600 mg of omega-3s
If you are pregnant, get toxin-free marine-based sources of omega-3s. And yes, algae counts, dear vegetarians!
What’s the deal with omega-3 enriched foods?
More and more, we see foods fortified with omega-3 at the supermarket, from peanut butter to eggs. Unfortunately, most of these products don’t have a worthwhile amount of omega-3s to make it one of your primary sources of omega-3s. Nutrition Advisor Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D. recommends that you ask yourself if you would buy these products anyway. If so, it’s fine to choose the omega-3 version. But relying on them to get your omega-3s won’t fulfill your body’s needs.
Another thing to keep in mind, omega-3 enriched peanut butter still has palm oil (saturated fats!) and sugar (the omega-3 label doesn’t make it instantly healthier). As far as eggs go, if you are concerned about the conditions that chickens are raised under, omega-3 enriched eggs won’t necessarily mean they are housed on a more humane farm.