For awhile now I've been trying to get my head around this business of taking Omega-3's. I know that these essential fatty acids are good for us - for brain health, heart health, joint pain, depression, immune support and even for better looking skin and hair - but I haven't been sure which type to take and why. So I decided to go "fishing" for some answers.
I discovered that there are 3 main ways to get your Omega 3's: through oils (typically taken as a supplement), from seeds (added to or sprinkled on foods) or by eating whole foods that naturally contain Omega 3's. If you dig deep there is a LOT more to know about Omega 3's but if you're looking for a basic primer on where to find them, here you go...
Fish oil supplements are a very popular way to get your Omega 3's. I have been taking them semi-regularly for a few years now both in pill and in liquid form. Fish oils are high in long-chain Omega 3's called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) that are readily used by the body. The brand I have used the most is Nordic Naturals. I take a teaspoon of Omega-3 Oil straight up or pop a couple of soft gel capsules.
Omega 3's are important for kids too! While I haven't had much luck getting my boys to take a teaspoon of fish oil, they are willing to eat the gummy varieties or flavored softgels.
Vegetarian options derived from algae are also available such as Algae Omega from Nordic Naturals. Another algae-based brand I have tried is Brainstrong, whose formula includes a proprietary blend of extracts that help support mental clarity and protect against cognitive decline - and who doesn't need that?! My kids are quite fond of their gummy version as well.
Eco Tip: Be sure to choose sustainably harvested, ocean friendly oils.
Another way to load up on Omega 3's is through seeds that you can sprinkle on yogurt, whirl up in a smoothie or bake into foods. These plant sources of Omega 3's are rich in ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), a short-chain Omega 3 that must be converted by the body into DHA and EPA.
- Flax Seeds - The health benefits of flax seeds have been celebrated since ancient times but this popular little plant has made a resurgence in the past decade, showing up in everything from crackers to waffles. Ground flaxseeds (also known as flaxseed meal) are more easily digestible, allowing a higher dose of the good stuff to get into your system. Flaxseed oil is another common form.
- Chia Seeds - Crazy popular right now, chia seeds pack a big punch of Omega 3's along with a good dose of protein, fiber, calcium and essential minerals. So far, I've just been mixing them into my morning oatmeal but they are also used in baking and even as a healthy pudding substitute.
- Hemp Seeds -Currently my favorite source of Omega 3's, hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts), have a nutty flavor and chewy texture, making them easy to eat straight from the bag. Hemp seeds are a nutritional power food, with 10 grams of protein as well as a good amount of fiber and folic acid in a 3 tablespoon serving.
Eco Tip: Look for certified organic versions of these seeds to ensure purity (no GMOs) and sustainability.
My preferred way to get essential nutrients is directly from whole foods. I'm a big fan of salmon so I'm happy to eat my Omega 3's that way any time I can! Other good food sources of Omega 3 fatty acids include:
- Cold water fish like halibut, tuna, herring, sardines and of course, salmon
- Dark green vegetables like kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, broccoli and parsley
- Pumpkin seeds
- Edamame (soybeans)
- Cooking oils such as rapeseed, soybean and canola
Eco Tip: Choose organic produce, GMO-free foods and sustainably harvested seafood whenever possible.
What are your favorite ways to get Omega 3's in your diet?
(Disclosure: I received free samples from Nordic Naturals and Brainstrong in exchange for my honest opinion. There are a few affiliate links in this post. Any purchase you make helps support this blog. Thank you!)
(Image credit: foodfreak via flickr)
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