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Fatty15 is 3X better than omega-3. Read the science.

What Foods Have DHA? Three With the Highest Amounts of DHA

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights

Omega-3 fatty acids have been a popular supplement for years. Their intake is associated with reducing risks of heart disease, supporting brain development, and helping you get a healthier lipid panel (lowering triglycerides). 

It’s common to get your omegas in the form of an oily fishsupplement, like cod liver oil, but if you’re in the no-fish zone because of dietary restrictions or other reasons, we’ll give you some options other than sardines and anchovies. 

Let’s talk about the different omega-3s, including the role of DHA. We’ll talk about what it is, why it’s necessary, and where you can get it. We’ll also tell you about an alternative to your fish oil supplement that won’t leave you with fish burps. 

The Omegas at a Glance

There are three omega-3 fatty acids. They are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), alpha linolenic acid (ALA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). All three are important, but only one (ALA) is considered an essential fatty acid. This is because your body can make EPA and DHA from ALA, although it’s worth noting the conversion process isn’t very efficient. 

Why Is DHA Important?

DHAis an important fatty acid that is important for the brain development of infants. In fact, pregnant women are usually encouraged to take an omega-3 supplement with DHA to ensure their babies get the amount of DHA they need in utero. 

In adults, DHA is also important. It helps support healthy brain function, including cognition and the ability to learn and retain new information. Someone who is DHA deficient may have learning disabilities. 

While almost all supplementsources of omega-3 will contain DHA, it can be a little trickier to find it in foods.

What Foods Contain DHA?

While foods like soybeans, some cooking oils, nuts, and seeds all contain EPA or ALA, many don’t contain DHA. Although the body can use ALA to make DHA, the conversion process makes it virtually impossible to get enough of this omega-3 fat from those sources. 

There are two main sources of omega-3 fatty acidDHA. 

1. Fish

The best and most abundant sources of DHA are fish. Particularly cold-water, fatty fish like mackerel, albacore, anchovies, salmon, tuna, shellfish, sardines, and herring. Salmon contains the most DHA, weighing in at 2,477 mg of DHA per six-ounce filet. If you choose tuna, choose bluefin, which contains about five times more DHA than other types of tuna. 

The problem with fish is that some of it can contain mercury in levels that are not safe for consumption. This is especially true for pregnant and nursing women. It can be hard to get enough omega-3s when you’re avoiding mercury. Thankfully, there are a few other options.

2. Algae

Algal oil is a relatively new supplement that can be taken in lieu of a fish oil capsule. Algae is one of the few plant foods that contain both EPA and DHA. The oil contains about 350 mg of DHA per gram of oil.

Algae is a good source of DHA because it’s the source of the DHA contained in fish. By consuming algae oil, you’re essentially cutting out the middleman. The American Heart Association recognizes algae oil as an alternative to omega-3 fish oil supplements for people who do not want to consume fish oil products.

Foods That Convert ALA to DHA

You're admittedly pretty limited in getting your DHA from food sources. Aside from algae and fish, you will have to choose plants that contain ALA and EPA and depend on the conversion to DHA. 

Both flaxseed oil and chia seeds are good sources of EPA and ALA, but not DHA. You can consume these foods to help support your heart health and get the first two types of omega-3, but your DHA levels may require supplementation. 

In addition, using flaxseeds instead of flaxseed oil would be a better option because these seeds contain lignans which have been studied for their connection to lowered risks of some types of cancers. 

What Supplements Contain DHA?

Getting the DHA you need from food sources can be difficult, especially if you’re avoiding fish. You can get your daily amount of omega-3DHA as a dietary supplement, like fish oil. 

If you haven’t taken a fish oil supplement before or are currently taking one, there are some risk factors you should know about.

Side Effects of Omega-3

Yes, there can be too much of a good thing. Even though there are benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, taking too much of them can lead to some negative health effects like:

  • Thinning of the blood
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased bleeding if an injury were to occur
  • Bruising easily
  • Fishy aftertaste
  • Gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea or upset stomach

While an omega-3 supplement might be the best option for getting the amount of DHA you need, the DHA-rich foods (like fish) listed above aren’t likely to give you these side effects. If you feel caught between a rock and a hard place of not eating fish and needing DHA, you should know there’s another fatty acid solution.

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  • Strengthening cell membranes. Weak cell membranes can leave cells susceptible to damage. C15:0 helps by integrating into cell membranes to keep them strong.

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  • Increasing ATP. Your cells rely on ATP as their energy currency. In studies, C15:0 was shown to increase ATP levels by up to 350%, so your cells can have the energy they need to carry out cellular functions. 

C15:0 also supports metabolic, immune, heart, and liver health by activating PPARɑ and PPARẟ receptors.* These receptors also support healthy mood regulation and deeper sleep. 

How can you get C15:0? By taking fatty15

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Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)|PubMed

Foods High in Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)|My Food Data.com

Flaxseed oil Information | Mount Sinai - New York

Algal Oils - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Consuming about 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids a day may lower blood pressure | American Heart Association

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

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.

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