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7 Omega-3-Rich Foods You Can Easily Add to Your Diet

February 19, 2024

Experts tout omega-3 fatty acids as some of the most important nutrients for our bodies. You may already be eating certain foods, like salmon, just to get them. But have you ever wondered exactly what makes these healthy fats so important? And what foods are the best sources of them?

“Omega 3 fatty acids play many important roles in our bodies,” says Lauren Manaker, a registered dietitian and women’s health expert. “Omega-3 fatty acids provide anti-inflammatory benefits, and they’re linked to cognitive health, heart health, and other factors of our health.”

Omega-3s function in a few different ways. For one, they play an essential role in the physiology of our cells by providing structure within the cell membranes. They support healthy cellular activity, especially in our eyes and brains, where they’re highly concentrated. Omega-3 fatty acids are also an energy source, supporting healthy system function throughout the body in the form of calories. The cardiovascular system, in particular, benefits from these essential fats, which is why omega-3s are often recommended as part of a heart-healthy diet.

Because the body cannot produce its own omega-3 fatty acids, we have to get them in the foods we eat. Luckily, you can find them in an array of foods.

There are three main types of omega-3s: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). All three are essential to good health.

“DHA omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in oily coldwater fish and other seafood choices, [and] in smaller quantities in eggs,” Manaker says. For ALA omega-3s, which are a different form from DHA and EPA, she says to look for plant sources. “ALA omega-3 fatty acids are plant-based and are found in foods like walnuts.”

Though the body can convert some ALA into EPA and DHA, the conversion is very inefficient, with just a tiny fraction getting through the process. So, if possible, it’s best to eat a variety of omega 3-rich foods so you can get all three. Here are seven foods that are rich in omega-3s to include as part of a well-rounded diet.

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1. Salmon

Salmon is perhaps the most famous of the omega-3-rich foods. The fatty cold-water fish features high concentrations of omega-3s, and it’s a versatile and easily accessible ingredient.

Research shows that wild-caught salmon is higher in omega-3s, but it’s also more expensive. Canned wild salmon is a great budget-friendly option; add it to salads, or turn it into flavorful patties.

2. Hemp seeds

A balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is important for keeping inflammation at bay. Hemp seeds, which have a good ratio of 3:1 omega-3 to omega-6, can be a great addition to your diet to support cardiovascular health and general wellness. Add hemp protein powder to smoothies and sprinkle hemp seeds on salads or vegetable dishes.

You can also look for hemp-based snacks, like these Functional Protein Bars.

3. Avocado

Avocados are rich in omega-3s and folate, both of which support healthy brain function. Plus, there are so many ways to enjoy this fiber-rich, creamy green fruit.

Guacamole is always a crowd-pleaser. Avocados are also a fabulous topper for tacos, soups, and grain bowls. They also make a creamy base for desserts, smoothies, and more.

4. Nuts and nut butter

Walnuts are one of the richest plant sources of omega-3s, making them a great addition to a well-rounded diet. Keep walnuts on hand for topping yogurt or oatmeal, or for making homemade granola.

5. Seaweed, algae, and kelp

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, have a fish allergy, or just don’t care for it, good news: Algae and seaweed are good plant-based sources of omega-3. Bonus: Unlike other plant sources, algae and seaweed contain both DHA and EPA.

Aside from sushi, which uses nori, there are other simple ways to incorporate these foods into your diet. Seaweed snacks are convenient and tasty; be sure to look for brands that use olive oil or avocado oil instead of vegetable oils. You can also buy spirulina or chlorella powder and add it to smoothies.

6. Tahini

Tahini is a smooth, nutty paste made from omega-rich sesame seeds. Just one tablespoon of tahini has 1.5 grams of omega-3 fats, plus another 1.7 grams of omega-6 fats, making it a relatively balanced choice. Tahini is a primary ingredient in hummus and can be used for a variety of other dips, dressings, sauces, and treats.

7. Grass-fed milk

Switch your milk to 100% grass fed for an omega-3 boost. Research shows that cows raised in pasture-based feeding systems throughout their lives produced milk with elevated levels of omega-3 and CLA, creating a more ideal balance of nutritional fats.

Look for products that specify how the cows were raised, such as Organic Valley Grassmilk and Maple Hill.

Read next: Are Plant-Based Omega-3s as Good as Fish Oil?

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