Omega-3 fatty acids are the darling of the nutrition world. What I love most is that they really are beneficial to your health — there’s no “maybe” or “perhaps”… they are simply good for you!
These healthy fats can improve heart health, lower high blood pressure, reduce blood clotting in the arteries, reduce inflammation, help stiffening joints, and improve symptoms of depression. And that’s only some of the goodness.
Here in the UK, however, research suggests four in five people don’t eat enough omega-3s. And, apparently the average American adult gets less than 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids per day.
But, what are the recommendations for daily omega-3 fats?
At least 2% of our total daily calories should come from omega-3 fats. In other words, for someone eating a 2,000 calorie diet, they should eat at least 2 grams of omega-3 fats per day.
So, how can you make sure you are getting enough of these super healthy fats?
6 Easy Ways to Eat More Omega-3 Fats
1. Nuts and Seeds
Flaxseeds and walnuts are an excellent way to get more omega-3 into your diet. One-quarter cup of flaxseeds have around 7 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, while one-quarter cup of walnuts contains around 2 grams.
An easy way to add more omega-3s to your diet is to top your regular bowl of oatmeal with some ground flaxseeds, and then snack on a handful of walnuts later in the day.
Other choices include pumpkin seeds and pine nuts — although these have very small amounts of omega-3 per serving, they are still a healthy option.
Beans are one of my top healthy foods to include in your diet regularly. And, here’s another reason to eat them regularly.
One cup of soybeans, navy beans, or kidney beans provides up to 1.0 gram of omega-3s. A serving of tofu (4 ounces) will also give you around 0.4 grams of omega-3s, so that is also a good, healthy option.
Fish is the obvious food for boosting your omega-3 levels, giving you around 2 grams of omega-3s for a 4 ounce serving of oily fish.
When cooking your fish, however, stay away from frying it, as this can alter the omega-3 fats. One study compared consumption of fried fish versus non-fried fish in relation to atherosclerosis risk. Surprisingly, they found that eating fried fish offered no health protection, even when the fish contained omega-3 fats.
Good choices include salmon, halibut, sardines, tuna, prawns, and mollusks.
Sunflower oil is so widely used these days in food manufacturing that most people have a higher intake of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in their diets.
This imbalance has the potential to restrict the conversion of omega-3 fats in your body, which is undesirable. The ideal balance is thought to be around three to four parts omega-6, to one of omega-3.
Oils to use regularly include, flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybean oil, walnut oil, wheatgerm oil, even extra virgin olive oil has smaller amounts of omega-3s.
When purchasing seed oils, go for cold pressed varieties, and don’t use flaxseed, olive or walnut oil in cooking, as they don’t withstand high temperatures well. These oils are, however, excellent choices for salad dressings, etc.
5. Fruit and Vegetables
Most people associate fish and oils with omega-3 fats, but don’t know that fruits and vegetables are also beneficial for providing smaller amounts of omega-3 fats.
Some of the best options include leafy green vegetables like spinach, Chinese cabbage, and collard greens, but also squash, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.
For fruit, avocado, papaya, and even cantaloupe melon are good choices.
Eggs from chickens fed 10 to 20 percent flaxseed contain omega-3s — just check the label first, as not all eggs contain these fats.
Some foods have also been fortified by manufacturers, such as bread and fruit juice. Again, it will be marked on the label if the product contains omega-3
Another option is spirulina.
What about omega-3 supplements?
As with most nutrients, you are much better to get them directly from a food source, rather than popping a pill.
Okay, here a quick run down of some of the foods you should try to eat regularly to boost your omega-3 intake:
- Fish such as albacore tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel, lake trout
- Oils such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil and walnut oil
- Nuts such as walnuts
- Soy nuts
- Seeds such as flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds
- Beans such as kidney beans, soybeans and navy beans
- Eggs from chickens fed flax and greens
- Summer and winter squash
- Leafy greens and coniferous vegetables
Here is a fun recipe you could begin using, if you aren’t sure what to do with flaxseeds. Each portion contains 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids.
From The Flax Cookbook by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD (edited from here)
1 cup low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup strong decaf coffee, chilled (use caffeinated if you prefer)
1 cup ice cubes
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
- Add all ingredients to your blender or food processor.
- Blend on highest speed until smooth (about 10 seconds). Scrape sides of blender, and blend again for five more seconds.
- Pour into two glasses and enjoy!
- Yield: 2 smoothies.
Nutritional Information: 157 calories, 7 grams protein, 4.5 grams fat (1.3 saturated fat, 1 grams monounsaturated fat, 1.9 grams polyunsaturated fat), 2.3 grams fiber. (Omega-3 fatty acids = 1.5 grams, omega-6 fatty acids = 0.4 gram.)