Omega-3 Foods: 10 Foods With High Levels of Omega-3
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
Foods other than fish contain omega-3, but getting them into your diet may be difficult. Using an omega-3 supplement can ensure you get the proper amount of omega-3.
Omega-3 fish oil supplements have side effects and risks you should know about.
Taking a different essential fatty acid, like fatty15,may be a better way to support your long term health and wellness, while reducing unwanted side effects.
You want those omega-3s and know you can get them from food sources. Although fatty, oily fish are the go-to solution for obtaining this fatty acid, there are a plethora of other foods that contain omega-3 fats.
We’ll cover which foods are the best sources of omega-3 and also talk about using an omega-3 supplement. We’ll discuss all the information you need about omega-3 and introduce you to the newest essential fatty acid on the block, C15:0.
How Did Omega-3 Fatty Acids Become Health Supplement VIP?
Over 90 years ago, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids were discovered by a husband and wife research team. Since then, extensive research has been done about the potential benefits of omega-3s for cardiovascular health.
The claims are that the health benefits of omega-3 can support heart health, protects against heart arrhythmias, and at higher doses, could even lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of Americans, so a supplement that shows any promise of protection against it will become a household name. Protecting against the risk of heart disease is the main reason most people begin taking a fish oil supplement.
However, taking a fish oil supplement or eating omega-3 rich foods won’t solve the cardiovascular disease problem alone. Taking care of our bodies and guarding our hearts against disease and heart attacks takes a few other intentional changes.
The American Heart Association recommends that healthy and able adults get at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week. They also recommend tossing in a few resistance training workouts to further support heart health, build strong bones, and keep your muscles functioning properly.
An active lifestyle is consistently associated with lower risks for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and even Alzheimer’s disease. If you have physical limitations, talk to your healthcare provider and get their medical advice about starting a movement program that is right for you.
Sure, eating omega-3-rich foods will help you get more omega-3, but that’s only one piece of the heart-healthy puzzle. In addition, your body needs foods high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables. You also need fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and protects your heart health.
Avoid Certain Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits
Certain lifestyle habits aren’t good for your heart (or your body). Smoking, for instance, is detrimental to your health. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, speak to your doctor to learn how to quit.
While you’re making these lifestyle changes and focusing on healthier goals, you might be tempted to grab another fish oil capsule.
Before you swallow another fishy tablet, however, you should know that the FDA recommends you get your daily allowance of omega-3 from your diet first. Here, we’ll cover the top 10 sources of omega-3 fatty acids. That’s because omega-3 is more bioavailable to our bodies when consumed from dietary sources, and when we consume these food sources, we’ll also be getting other dietary nutrients that are good for our bodies.
10 Foods With High Levels of Omega-3
Are you looking for ways to increase your level of omega-3 naturally? Here are 10 ways to get it on your plate.
This fatty, oily fish is topping the list with over 4,000 mg of omega-3 per serving. A delicacy in many countries, you can enjoy them smoked or broiled. If you’re pregnant or nursing, it’s best to avoid king mackerel, which can contain high levels of mercury.
2. Flaxseed Oil
You’ll get over 2,300mg of omega-3 in one serving of these tiny seeds. Swapping out your traditional cooking oil for flaxseed oil may make it easier to get the omega-3 you want in your diet.
3. Chia Seeds
At over 5,000mg of omega-3 per serving, chia seeds are tiny, blackish-gray seeds that are also an excellent source of protein. They’re also known for their high content of magnesium, an important mineral that helps keep your muscles and nerves functioning properly. Toss them on salads, oatmeal, or yogurt, or blend them into shakes and smoothies.
Hear us out. These little canned fish pack a powerful amount of omega-3 and protein in a tiny serving. You’ll get over 1,000mg of omega-3 in the standard 3.5-ounce tin. If you’ve never tried sardines, give them a go. They make an excellent, healthy snack.
Rethink that unwanted pizza topping if you’re attempting to increase your omega-3 levels. Anchovies contain over 400mg of omega-3 per serving.
6. Canola Oil
Like flaxseed oil, canola oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. You’ll get over 1,000mg per serving and also get some omega-6 linolenic acid as well.
7. Soybean Oil
Soybeans are a good source of omega-3, registering a little over 600mg per serving. However, remember that they are also high in omega-6, which most experts agree isn’t healthful in large amounts.
Don't bypass the oyster bar the next time you head to the coast. Oysters themselves contain about 320 mg of omega-3 per serving.
Edamame is an immature soybean. These beans contain about 280 mg of omega-3 per half cup. Enjoy them boiled or steamed for an omega-3 plant-based alternative.
10. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds or hemp seed oil contains 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per tablespoon. However, hemp seeds only contain one specific omega-3, ALA.
11. Brussels Sprouts
If you’re on the search for more plant-based sources of omega-3, look no further than Brussels sprouts. Just one cooked cup of these tiny cabbages contains 135 mg of ALA omega-3. In addition, you’ll also get plenty of vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, calcium, and folate. Not to mention, Brussels sprouts are absolutely loaded with potassium, coming in with 342 mg of this important electrolyte per cup.
While many grains contain omega-3 fatty acids, the problem is the processing. When grains are processed and made into breads and cereals, they lose much of their nutritional content. This is why you’ll often find cereals and other grain foods that have been fortified, which means the nutrients have been added back in during manufacturing.
The problem with fortification is that our bodies may not absorb the nutrients as well. If you want to get the most omega-3 as possible in grain form, try wheat germ. You can add this to yogurts, cereals, or add it into a smoothie. It contains about 55 grams of omega-3 per 100 grams.
Unless you’re a Mediterranean diet devotee, you might find it challenging to incorporate three servings of fatty fish into your weekly diet. Even if you switch your cooking oil, you still might not get enough omega-3. That’s because the requirement for obtaining the benefits of omega-3 is high, and even eating foods high in omega-3 still might not net you the omega-3 benefits you want. In addition, there could be risks of getting too much omega-3.
How Much Omega-3 Do I Need?
Research has continually suggested that for optimum omega-3 benefits, you must take at least 2,000 mg daily. Most people will need between 2,000-3,000 mg per day. It is often difficult to get that much from dietary sources of omega-3, which is why fish oil supplements are now one of the top 10 most popular supplements in the United States. And this is where omega-3 gets a little tricky.
What Should I Know About Omega-3 Supplements?
The popularity of fish oil supplements makes you feel confident that they’re safe to take, and for the most part, they are. The problem is that omega-3 and fish oil supplements have their own Achilles heel.
Which Omega-3 Fatty Acid Do You Need?
There are three different omega-3 fatty acids, and it’s easy to imagine that all of them are essential. The truth is, they aren’t.
The only essential type of omega-3 that your body needs is alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. This is the only omega-3 considered essential, meaning our bodies need it to thrive but cannot readily make it on their own.
This is interesting because, in the vast majority of studies of omega-3, the most promising heart-health benefits didn’t come from ALA but from eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA. And then, only the purest, most highly concentrated form of EPA (without the inclusion of DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, the third form of omega-3) showed protective heart benefits in adults.
Little known fact, fish oil supplements can go rancid, as in, even more rancid than they smell when you first peel off that protective coating under the cap.
Omega-3 is a type of unsaturated fat, which means it is a liquid at room temperature. This means it is subject to lipid peroxidation. Like cooking oil that goes bad when it’s been in your pantry for too long, omega-3 fish oil supplements that have been sitting on a store shelf can go bad, too.
Independent researchers discovered that as many as one in 10 bottles of omega-3 supplements on store shelves are rancid before they’re purchased. The worst part? You probably won’t know if those cod liver oilsupplements are rancid or not. The only indication they could be bad? A fishy odor, which is common with virtually all fish oil supplements.
Research is ongoing as to the impact of rancid fish oil supplements on the human body. A few studies have suggested that taking rancid fish oil supplements could have a negative impact on cholesterol levels. In animal studies, high doses of rancid fish oil was shown to be toxic.
Side Effects of Omega-3
Taking extremely high amounts of omega-3 can produce side effects that may be dangerous for your health. Excessive consumption of omega-3 fatty acids could lead to low blood pressure, thinning of blood, excessive bleeding if an injury occurs, or increased risk of bruising.
Considering that you likely need between 2,000-3,000 mg daily, it could be possible to experience these side effects.
Omega-3 fatty acidsEPA and DHA are integral parts of building cell membranes, but the problem is that they aren’t effective at keeping them strong. Because omega-3 is an unsaturated fatty acid liquid at room temperature, it’s also very pliable. This allows your cells to remain pliable and flimsy, too.
In recent studies, omega-3 was found to be toxic to four out of 12 cell-based systems at the highest doses. Specifically, higher doses of omega-3 were toxic to lung and blood vessel cells.
These studies also found that another fatty acid, however, was better, broader and safer at protecting our cells, supporting our heart health, and keeping our cell membranes sturdy.
C15:0 — An Upgrade From Omega-3
Although we have been told for decades that all saturated fats are bad for us, science now supports that that is not the case.
C15:0, an odd-chain saturated fatty acid, was recently discovered as being essential for our health. It is important to note that an essential fatty acid is one that our bodies cannot make and thus, we must get from our diet. This discovery was published in Nature Scientific Reports in 2020 and makes C15:0 the first essential fatty acid to be discovered since the omegas, 90 years earlier.
How C15:0 Was Discovered
Like the omegas, a husband and wife research team also discovered C15:0. While studying longevity in two populations of bottlenose dolphins, research revealed that one population of the animals had significantly lower occurrences of age-related illness. This population of dolphins had access to fish that contained C15:0, which led the researchers to dive into the benefits of including this fatty acid in humans.
They furthered their research and discovered that, like bottlenose dolphins, C15:0 was also beneficial and absolutely necessary for the protection and longevity of human cells.
Science supports that higher levels of odd-chain saturated fatty acids, and specifically C15:0, are associated with better heart and overall body health. There are now calls to action to update current dietary guidelines to differentiate between good and bad saturated fats.
Further, higher levels of C15:0 has been associated with healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels and improved heart health.*
What C15:0 Does
There are some important benefits of C15:0 you should know:*
- C15:0 is a sturdy fatty acid that integrates into cell membranes, keeping them fortified and strong. As we age, cell membranes can get weaker and increasing our intake of C15:0 can keep our cell membranes functioning properly.
- Cellular homeostasis. C15:0 naturally binds to receptors found throughout our bodies, called PPARs (pronounced pee-pars), that help to regulate our metabolism, including cholesterol and glucose homeostasis.
- Increased mitochondria support. Our mitochondria don't function as well as we age, resulting in increased production of reactive oxygen species. Keeping our mitochondria healthy makes us healthier. C15:0 reduces reactive oxygen species and repairs mitochondrial function for a healthier you!
- Clearing damaged cells. When cells are damaged through oxidative stress, they can replicate the damage when new cells are created. By activating a molecule known as AMPK, C15:0 helps ensure damaged cells are cleared.
- AMPK activation also helps C15:0 modulate functions like glucose uptake and immunity, helping recalibrate these functions and bring them back into alignment.
- C15:0 also helps regulate the body’s inflammatory response. In studies, it calmed and lowered pro-inflammatory cytokines, a key driver in aging. Ensuring the body’s inflammatory response is well maintained is important because an unhealthy inflammatory response is linked with multiple chronic illnesses.
- Increasing cellular energy. ATP is the energy molecule that cells use for energy currency. When ATP levels are low, cellular function slows, and it creates a ripple effect throughout the entire body. C15:0 increases cellular ATP levels. In one study, it was shown to increase cellular ATP levels by 350%.
C15:0 effectively reverses cellular aging, letting you enjoy a healthier, happier life no matter your age. In addition to healthy eating and plenty of exercise, taking it is one of the easiest and smartest things you can do to support your overall health.
Skip the Fishy Pills and Get Fatty
You can find C15:0 in a pure, vegan form in one supplement.
Introducing fatty15: the first and only supplement to contain FA15, the pure-powder, vegan-friendly, sustainably-produced, award-winning version of C15:0, the fatty acid that is better at supporting your cellular health than the purest form of omega-3 (EPA).*
Unlike most types of omega-3fish oil supplements that leave you with fishy indigestion, the only known side effect of taking fatty15 is less snacking between meals. That’s something dietitians and weight loss experts can both get behind.
Ready to get fatty? Learn more about the science behind this new essential fatty acid here, or dive right in and get started with your fatty15 trial kit here.
Broader and safer clinically-relevant activities of pentadecanoic acid compared to omega-3: Evaluation of an emerging essential fatty acid across twelve primary human cell-based disease systems | PLOS ONE
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
You May Also Like...
How To Stay Motivated To Eat Healthy: Complete Guide
If your January goal of eating healthy has started to take a backseat to life, that’s completely normal. Even the most determined and self-driven among us struggle to stay on track.
Summer barbecues, work events, birthdays, and holidays...
Alcohol’s Impact on the Liver: What You Should Know
More than 29 million Americans suffer from alcohol use disorder, which can lead to serious, negative health impacts. For others, the occasional use of alcohol is widely accepted for celebrations, social events, or even to...