The subject of scientific studies around the world, omega-3 fatty acids’ role in heart health is one of the most researched topics in nutrition. While that connection has long been established, omega-3 fatty acids, or omega-3s, also offer a long list of additional health benefits that warrant a closer look.
Because omega-3 essential fatty acids cannot be made in the body, they must come from food. There are three types: eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexanoic acid, or DHA (found in marine sources); and alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA (found in plant sources).
Fatty fish, such as salmon, is one of the most concentrated sources of EPA and DHA. However, the amount of omega-3s varies in wild versus farm-raised and among varieties of fish, such as Chinook or sockeye salmon.
To limit long-term exposure to contaminants and to maintain healthy and sustainable fish populations, choose from a variety of fish. Bluefin and albacore tuna, bluefish, black cod, rainbow trout and mackerel all deliver omega-3 fatty acids. Although they are often overlooked, herring, sardines and anchovies are affordable and sustainably sourced options.
Grass-fed meat and dairy products also naturally deliver small doses of omega-3s. In fact, some cattle ranchers are increasing the amount of omega-3s in animals they raise by feeding them marine algae or flaxseed.
Although it is debated whether omega-3 needs can be met with ALA sources alone, including them in the diet is a good move.