Omega-3 fatty acids are a class of polyunsaturated fats that play several important and essential roles in the body, including serving as components of the phospholipids that form cell membranes' structures.
You’ve likely heard that consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids is important for general health and wellness, but aside from fish, you might not know where to find them in your diet.
Here’s a list of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to get you started!
Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The most abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet comes from fish and other seafood.
At the top of the list is salmon.
A standard serving of salmon (3.5 ounces or 100 grams) contains approximately 2,260 mg.
Beyond its omega-3 content, salmon is also rich in essential vitamins and minerals and important carotenoids like astaxanthin, which gives salmon its pink color.
Astaxanthin also serves as an important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in the body, and it has also been associated with improved blood flow and skin health. [1,2]
Mackerel are small, fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids but not too common to the American diet.
In Europe, the fish are commonly smoked and eaten. A 3.5 ounce (100 gram) serving of mackerel contains 5,134 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, making it even richer in omega-3s than salmon.
Mackerel is also rich in b-vitamins and minerals, including selenium.
Shellfish, like oysters, are nutritional powerhouses. Not only are they good sources of high-quality protein, but they’re also packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including zinc, copper, and vitamin B12.
A 3.5-ounce serving of oysters supplies approximately 435mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Oysters can be eaten raw, grilled, baked, broiled, or fried.
Much like mackerel, herring is another fish commonly smoked. In fact, smoked herring is a common breakfast in England served alongside eggs.
A 3.5 ounce serving of herring contains 2,366mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Outside of the rare addition to a pizza or mixed into a Caesar salad, anchovies aren’t frequently consumed by the average individual.
Yet, these tiny, fatty fish pack a nutrition punch.
Besides being salty and delicious, anchovies are rich in niacin, selenium, and calcium.
A 3.5 ounce serving of anchovies contains around 2,113mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Other fish were more commonly seen inside a can or tin than prepared fresh are sardines. Like all the other foods on this list, sardines provide a high-quality source of complete protein as well as a bevy of essential vitamins and minerals.
While these are commonly found in the can, if you can find good seafood and/or Italian restaurant that serves this grilled or baked, you don't want to pass up the opportunity. Sardines can be delicious!
A 3.5 ounce serving of sardines provides 1,480 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Segueing from animal sources of omega-3 fatty acids to plant sources brings us to flax seeds.
The biggest difference between animal sources and plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids (aside from the total quantity of omega-3s delivered per serving) is the type of omega-3s in the food.
Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, like flaxseed and chia seed, supply alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Our bodies can subsequently convert this into EPA and DHA, but the conversion process is highly inefficient in the body.
One tablespoon of flax seeds contains 2,350 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Flax seeds can be added to oatmeal or smoothies. They’re also a good source of fiber, magnesium, and other essential nutrients.
Like flax seeds, chia seeds pack quite the micronutrient punch.
They’re loaded with fiber, manganese, copper, and vitamin E -- an important and powerful antioxidant in the body.
A one-ounce serving of chia seeds supplies 5,060 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Walnuts are an incredibly rich plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, with a one-ounce serving providing 2,570mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Beyond their omega-3 content, walnuts are also a good source of b-vitamins, manganese, copper, zinc, selenium, melatonin, ellagic acid, vitamin-E, carotenoids, and polyphenolic compounds.
How Much Omega-3 Do I Need?
Unlike vitamins and minerals, there has yet to be an established standard for how many omega-3 fatty acids individuals consume each day.
That being said, various health organizations recommend that healthy adults consume a minimum of 500 mg of EPA and DHA each day.[3,4]
What If I Don’t Like Fish and/or Seafood?
This is a common question we receive whenever they discuss eating fish or other types of seafood to satisfy omega-3 fatty acid requirements through whole food.
You could try to get all of your omega-3 fatty acid requirements from fortified foods or plant foods like walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, etc. As we mentioned above, plants are rich in ALA, not so much EPA and DHA.
The body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but the process is highly inefficient.
Another option would be to use an omega-3 supplement, such as SteelFit® AhiFlower®.
Ahiflower is the most abundant plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. It contains a type of omega-3 fatty acid, known as stearidonic acid (SDA), that converts far more efficiently (4x more efficient than ALA) to the EPA and DHA body. [5,6]
Stearidonic acid accounts for up to 20% of the fat content in Ahiflower oil.
Ahiflower® also contains GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), an essential omega-6 fatty acid noted for its anti-inflammatory effects.
A common complaint about many omega-3 supplements is that they smell and/or taste like fish since they contain fish oil.
Since Ahiflower oil is derived from plants, it doesn't come with the fishy taste, smell, or "other" effects (e.g., fish burps) common with typical omega-3 supplements derived from fish. It's also vegan and vegetarian friendly, making it ideal for those who follow a plant-based diet.
- Kidd P. Astaxanthin, cell membrane nutrient with diverse clinical benefits and anti-aging potential. Altern Med Rev. 2011 Dec;16(4):355-64. PMID: 22214255.
- Tominaga K, Hongo N, Karato M, Yamashita E. Cosmetic benefits of astaxanthin on humans subjects. Acta Biochim Pol. 2012;59(1):43-7. Epub 2012 Mar 17. PMID: 22428137.
- EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA); Scientific Opinion related to the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA). EFSA Journal 2012; 10( 7):2815. [48 pp.] doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2815.
- Siscovick DS, Barringer TA, Fretts AM, Wu JH, Lichtenstein AH, Costello RB, Kris-Etherton PM, Jacobson TA, Engler MB, Alger HM, Appel LJ, Mozaffarian D; American Heart Association Nutrition Committee of the Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health; Council on Epidemiology and Prevention; Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; and Council on Clinical Cardiology. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (Fish Oil) Supplementation and the Prevention of Clinical Cardiovascular Disease: A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017 Apr 11;135(15):e867-e884. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000482. Epub 2017 Mar 13. PMID: 28289069; PMCID: PMC6903779.
- Lefort N, LeBlanc R, Giroux MA, Surette ME. Consumption of Buglossoides arvensis seed oil is safe and increases tissue long-chain n-3 fatty acid content more than flax seed oil – results of a phase I randomised clinical trial. J Nutr Sci. 2016;5:e2. Published 2016 Jan 8. doi:10.1017/jns.2015.34
- Lefort, N., LeBlanc, R., Giroux, M.-A., & Surette, M. (2015). Consumption of ® Oil Is Safe and Increases Tissue EPA Levels Compared to Flaxseed Oil – Results of a Phase I Clinical Trial. The FASEB Journal, 29(1_supplement), 401.7. https://doi.org/10.1096/fasebj.29.1_supplement.401.7