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What Foods Contain Omega 3? 14 Tasty Options

Omega 3 is a type of fat vital to human health. Fatty acids are distinguished from other fats by a particular molecular structure. 

Meanwhile, ‘polyunsaturated’ fatty acids like omega 3 have a distinctive structure consisting of multiple double bonds. The final double bond is located three carbon atoms from the tail end of the molecular chain: hence the name ‘omega 3’. 

Omega 3 referred to as an essential fatty acid because our bodies cannot make it, so it must be sourced from food and drink.

Omega 3 comes in three principle forms: Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA: this is the most widespread in a typical western diet. ALA is found in many common foods, including leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and even some types of animal fat.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): these two forms are sourced almost exclusively from fish (Read More: how to get omega without fish?). ALA can be converted by our bodies into these two forms but that requires a good supply of particular nutrients. Nutritional supplements can help to address such deficiencies.

Why you need to maintain healthy levels of omega-3

As an essential nutrient, omega 3 is closely involved in multiple biological processes that enable life. These include:  
  • Building the membranes of every cell in our bodies.
  • Stimulating the function of the nerve receptor within those membranes, including those which express genetic data from our ancestors.
  • Metabolic energy.
  • Being the basic building block for hormones which control the movement of artery walls, switch off the inflammatory response and stimulate blood clotting.
  • Stimulating the healthy function of our hearts, lungs and immune system.
  • Lowering triglyceride (blood fat) levels.
  • Maintaining healthy joints.
  Studies have linked healthy omega 3 levels to a decreased risk of developing, amongst other ailments:  
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Eczema
  • <span style="Cancer
  • Depression and similar mood disorders
  • Asthma
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s in later life
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in childhood
  Differing guidelines for daily omega 3 intake have been issued but none have gained universal acceptance. These guideline amounts fall between 0.25 and two grams per day. If you’re looking for more information on the other Omega, Omega 6, then check out our medically reviewed article ‘What Is Omega 6?’

14 amazing foods jam-packed with omega 3

So just what foods contain omega 3? Fortunately, this fundamental nutrient is not difficult to find on supermarket shelves. Prioritise fresh foods over supplements. Here are 14 of the best nutritional sources of omega 3. As you will soon discover, seafood is a particularly rich source of omega 3, and nutritionists recommend eating oily fish at least twice a week.

1. Anchovies

Anchovies are small fish known for their strong, salty flavour which is used to add kick to various recipes, sauces and pizzas.  They are rich in vitamin B2, the minerals selenium and calcium, and omega 3: 9.5 grams per serving.

2. Herring

This long-standing staple seafood staple is served in a variety of ways, from breakfast kipper to canned snack. A herring fillet offers 100% of the recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin D and the mineral selenium, along with well over 200% of the RDA for vitamin B12 – plus an abundant 9.5 grams of omega 3.

3. Mackerel

This small but tasty fish is remarkably rich in nutrients: one 3.5 ounce serving offers 100% of the RDI for selenium and no less than 200% of the RDI for vitamin B12.  That same serving of mackerel will contain a healthy 5.1 grams of omega 3. 

4. Salmon

This delicious seafood is one of the most nutritious in the world, with a rich mix of nutrients including B vitamins, D vitamins, and selenium. Half a fillet of farmed salmon offers more than four grams of omega 3, with even higher levels in the wild-caught variety.

5. Sardines

These oily fish are another nutrient-packed delicacy from the sea. Like herring, they are abundant in vitamin B12, vitamin D and selenium, along with 2.2 grams of omega 3 per serving.

6. Tuna

Amongst the tastiest of seafoods, bluefin tuna contains more than a gram and a half of omega 3 per 3.5 ounce slice.

7. Trout

This prized freshwater fish offers around two grams of omega 3 per three ounce serving. As with salmon, wild trout contains higher levels than the farmed variety.

8. Walnuts

Walnuts are packed with fibre, vitamin E, the minerals copper and manganese – and 2.5 grams of omega 3 per ounce.

9. Flax seeds

Flax seeds – also available as an oil – are one of the richest available sources of omega 3, in its ALA form. As a result they are often used as an omega 3 supplement. Each tablespoon of seeds offers around 2.3 grams of omega 3, rising to 7.2 grams per tablespoon of flaxseed oil.

10. Soya beans

Soya beans contain a number of important nutrients, including vitamins B2, B9 and K, as well as the minerals magnesium and potassium. Half a measuring cup of roasted soya beans also offers more than six and a half grams of omega 3.

11. Leafy vegetables

Many leafy vegetables contain a good level of alpha linoleic acid. Examples include:
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Spinach

12. Meat from grass-fed animals

The fat of meat from grass-fed animals usually contains a nutritious level of omega 3: this will vary by animal and pasturing methods.

13. Cod liver oil

The name of cod liver oil is self-explanatory: it is indeed an oil made from the livers of cod. It is very nutritious, with high levels of vitamins D and A, along with 2.6 grams of omega 3 per tablespoon serving.

14. Brussel sprouts and cabbage

Last but not least, these highly nutritious veg offer a good level of omega 3, alongside vitamins, minerals and fibre. Cooked sprouts contain the most omega 3.

Discover if you need to introduce more omega-3 into your diet

Why not learn more about your nutritional needs with an omega 3 and omega 6 test you can take at home? Take a blood sample and send it in for full medical analysis. It’s a great way to take full control of your health and make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.

Sian Baker

Medically reviewed by Sian Baker, Dip ION mBANT mCNHC – Written by Beth Giddings

Updated on 1st December 2021