Research indicates consuming Omega-3 fatty acids can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also play a role in brain development. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods like fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. There are 3 main types of omega-3 fatty acids:
There are 3 main types of omega-3 fatty acids (1):
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
ALA is found in plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils. Some ALA is converted into EPA and DHA, but only in small amounts. DHA and EPA are utilized easily by the body, which is why they are considered the best way to increase intake of Omega-3 (2). DHA and EPA are found in fish and other seafood. Algal oil is a comparable vegan source of DHA and EPA (3).
Experts recommend consuming at least 2 servings of fish each week to meet recommended intakes of Omega-3 fatty acids. Another way to increase Omega-3’s is to add walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds to your usual snacks or meals throughout the week. The daily adequate intake of ALA for men age 19-59 is 1.6 and 1.1 g for women (2). Recommended amounts of EPA and DHA have not been established. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian nutritionist if you are interested in taking a supplement.
Written by Kate Quick, RD