Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that support skin, eye, brain and immune health. Our bodies can’t produce omega-3s, so you need to get them from food and supplements. Although true omega-3 deficiency is rare, it’s common for people to have insufficient or inadequate omega-3s in their diet. If you’re not eating enough omega-3s, there are a few ways your body will tell you that you need more and we’ve rounded up 10 omega-3 foods to add to your diet to help.
What Are the Health Benefits of Omega 3 Foods?
Omega-3s, also known as healthy fats, support the health of many important functions in your body, including your immune system, organs and hormones. They have been shown to help prevent heart problems, reduce inflammation and may play protective roles in cancer and other diseases. They’re also necessary for neurological development.
There are 3 main omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA is important for maintaining healthy cells in your eyes and brain, and omega-3s have been shown to help prevent and control conditions like eczema, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and stroke.
10 Omega 3 Deficiency Symptoms
2. Poor memory
3. Dry/irritated skin
4. Hair thinning and loss
5. Dry eyes
6. Heart problems
7. Mood swings
9. Poor circulation
3 Omega 3 Deficiency Causes
1. Not consuming enough dietary sources of omega-3s, like cold water fish, over the long term
2. Diets that are high in red meat and poultry or significantly restrict fat
3. Diets high in processed foods
3 Omega 3 Deficiency Treatment Options
1. Eat fish and seafood several times per week, emphasizing salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, halibut and tuna. Choose wild-caught fish over farm-raised fish as they contain less nutrients and omega-3 content.
2. Consume other omega-3 foods like walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, egg yolks, butternuts and cod liver oil.
3. Add an omega-3 supplement to your daily routine.
10 Omega 3 Foods
Likely the most popular type of fish on this list, salmon is also one of the most nutritious types of fish there is. Along with omega-3s, salmon is also rich in protein, magnesium, potassium, selenium and B vitamins. You can broil, grill, poach or bake your salmon. If you fry it, be sure to use olive oil, so the fats you get are healthy and unsaturated.
Mackerel is a small, fatty fish that’s often eaten smoked. It’s a substantial source of omega-3 fatty acids, and also has significant amounts of vitamin B12 and selenium. You can roast, pan-fry, grill or smoke your mackerel to get all of its healthy benefits.
Oysters are a popular appetizer served in seafood restaurants, but you can also prepare them yourself at home. They’re delicious with toppings like lemon, horseradish and pickled shallots. Unlike many other seafood sources, oysters contain all 3 major classes of omega-3s, ALA, DHA and EPA. They’re also rich in zinc and vitamin B12.
Sardines are tiny, oily fish that can be cooked from raw, but are often packed into a can and are one of the best healthy convenience foods out there. They’re a cost-effective way to get in a whole bunch of nutrients, including omega-3s, calcium, selenium, vitamin D and protein. They’re lower in mercury than other fish, and you can add them to pasta, salads or eat them on crackers or a slice of baguette.
Tuna is another great source of omega-3s. Canned tuna is low in calories and high in protein, and is also a good source of a variety of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin D and selenium. You can use canned tuna on toast, in salads, on crackers, in pasta, or make tuna patties. You can also use fresh tuna to make a poke bowl or sushi, or grill it up with a nice marinade.
Seaweed, nori, spirulina and chlorella are different types of algae people eat for their health benefits. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, seaweed and algae are super important sources of omega-3s. Nori is the seaweed that’s wrapped around sushi, spirulina and chlorella can be placed in smoothies or oatmeal and you can eat dried seaweed as a crispy snack or rehydrate it to make seaweed salad.
7. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are an excellent source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids. They’re also high in fibre, protein, and contain quercetin, an antioxidant that can reduce your risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease. Dry chia seeds can be added whole or ground to smoothies and juices, mixed into yogurt and oatmeal or sprinkled on top of salad. You can also mix them with your choice of milk to make chia pudding.
8. Hemp Seeds
Hemps seeds contain a good dose of ALA omega-3 fatty acids and are also rich in many nutrients including protein, magnesium, iron and zinc. They’re good for your heart, digestion and skin and are the perfect addition to granola, oats, snack bars, salads and smoothies.
Another good source of ALA fatty acids, walnuts have also been shown to help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, as well as lower your cholesterol overall. They’re rich in antioxidants and also promote a healthy gut. You can eat walnuts on their own or toast them to add to sandwiches, salads and desserts.
Edamame beans are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are also an excellent source of plant-based protein. They’re rich in nutrients like vitamin K, folate, iron and calcium and are also a good source of fibre. You can boil or steam edamame to eat them on their own or toss into salads, grain bowls or noodle dishes.
If you’re not getting enough omega-3s in your diet, it can lead to health issues and inflammation in the body. Up your intake of omega-3s with these 10 foods.
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