Omega-3 fatty acids are types of polyunsaturated fatty acid. One type of omega-3 fatty acid is alpha-linolenic acid, which the body converts into docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA. Alpha-linolenic acid is considered essential because it cannot be manufactured by the body and therefore must be obtained by diet or supplementation. EPA and DHA naturally occur in certain foods and are considered beneficial for good health. The brain uses DHA for signaling between cells; EPA dampens inflammatory responses by decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory compounds.
Flaxseed products are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. For example, 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil has 8.9 grams of total of essential fatty acids, 7.2 grams of which are omega-3 fatty acids. According to the Vegetarian Society, flaxseeds need to be ground before consumption to ensure that the nutrients are available. One tablespoon of ground flaxseeds has 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. An additional benefit of ground flaxseeds is that they contain fiber, as well as compounds called lignans, which may be beneficial to heart health.
Walnuts make a good snack because they are portable, delicious and nutritious. One ounce of walnuts has 13.2 grams of total essential fatty acids; 2.5 grams of the total are omega-3 fatty acids. One ounce of walnuts is equivalent to approximately 14 shelled walnut halves.
Tuna is a good source of EPA and DHA; however, the type and even how it is packed can have a large impact on nutrient content. For example, according to the International Omega-3 Learning and Education Consortium for Health and Medicine, 3 ounces of light tuna packed in water contains 40 milligrams of EPA and 190 milligrams of DHA, but the same tuna packed in oil has only has 23 milligrams of EPA and 86 milligrams of DHA. White tuna packed in water has 198 milligrams of EPA and 535 milligrams of DHA.
Salmon and Sardines
Salmon is rich in DHA and EPA. A 3-ounce portion of baked wild Atlantic salmon has 349 milligrams of EPA and 1,215 milligrams of DHA. The same size fillet of farmed Atlantic salmon has even more, with 587 milligrams of EPA and 1,238 milligrams of DHA. Sardines also contain omega-3 fatty acids. A 3-ounce serving of sardines packed in oil, bone-in, contains 402 milligrams of EPA and 433 milligrams of DHA.
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Healthrel="nofollow"
- The Vegetarian Society: Information Sheet: Omega 3 Fatsrel="nofollow"
- International Omega-3 Learning and Education Consortium for Health and Medicine: Omega-3 Fatty Acid Content of Food Productsrel="nofollow"
- salmon dish image by poGosha from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.