Great Sources of Omega-3 if Fish is Not Your Thingby Amy Hendel, P.A. Health Writer
If you’ve been tracking the science, then you know that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help to prevent harmful inflammation in your body. Omega-3 fatty acids may help to prevent heart disease and strokes, and control lupus, eczema and rheumatoid arthritis. We can’t make these essential fatty acids, so we need to get them from food sources. Two crucial ones—EPA and DHA—are primarily found in fish. But, what to do if you don't like or eat fish?
DHA and EPA
These two essential fatty acids can be found in fish, fish oils and marine sources. DHA can also be sourced from specialty egg and dairy products that are fortified with DHA. If you are vegetarian or vegan and don’t eat dairy or eggs, your best bet is to take fish oil capsules which get their fish oil from menhaden, very small fish. Experts recommend targeting about 1000 to 1200 mg of omega-3 daily.
These do provide a small amount of DHA and EPA. One medium egg has 2 mg of EPA and 16 mg of DHA. You can now find eggs fortified with DHA and EPA on most supermarket shelves. Including an egg or two daily (if you have no serious cholesterol issues) also means you get the benefit of 6 grams of quality protein and a good dose of vitamin A, choline and folate, for about 77 calories per large size egg.
Go for sources of ALA
If you’re vegetarian or a vegan, you can still get another omega-3 fatty acid from foods. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found in plant foods. The body uses ALA for energy, so conversion to EPA and DHA is limited but it does occur if you eat ALA-rich foods. A diet that includes ALA-rich foods is associated with lowered risk of fatal heart disease, and it offers some protection against age-related macular degeneration.
A half cup of cooked soybeans has about 150 calories. It packs about 15 grams of protein, and is low in sugar and sodium. Soybeans are rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, folate and choline. Soybeans are also rich in fiber and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, with about 510 mg per half cup serving. Soymilk, tofu, bean curd, soy flour, tempeh, soy yogurt and many soy meat replacements are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Spinach is rich in fiber and a plant-based source of protein. One cup of raw spinach has about 7 calories, 2813 I.U. of vitamin A, 58.2 mcg of Folate and 41.4 mg of ALA. A cup of cooked spinach has 166 mg of ALA. Include this green, cooked or raw, in your daily lunch and dinner.
These omega-3 rich nuts are packed with nutrition and because of their high “healthy fat" content they really provide satiation. One quarter cup of chopped walnuts has less than 200 calories, and about 4 grams of protein. It also contains about 2600 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. Enjoy a measured handful or add walnuts to yogurt, cereal, salads, soups and use as a topping on a healthy meatloaf or fish.
The powerhouse seeds contain the highest amount of ALA compared to all other foods except for fish. One quarter cup of flaxseed has about 230 calories and just shy of 8 grams of protein. Flaxseed is also rich in folate and dietary fiber. You will also get a big dose of omega-3 fatty acids, more than 9,000 mg in that quarter cup!!
You may have adopted brown rice as your healthier habit, but wild rice actually has more anti-oxidants and it happens to be gluten-free, if that’s a concern. One cup has 7 grams of protein and 3 grams of dietary fiber, with only 1 gram of sugar. Wild rice is also rich in folic acid and choline and has 156 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Fortified peanut butter
A protein-rich spread, some peanut butters are now fortified with omega-3 fatty acids and can offer as much as 1000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per serving. One tablespoon has about 97 calories and about 4 grams of protein. Many health food stores and mainstream supermarkets carry brands fortified with excellent levels of omega-3s.
Probiotic-rich foods are now considered superstars when it comes to health benefits. One quarter cup of miso (fermented soybean) has about 160 calories, 8 grams of protein, and about 4 grams of fiber. With about 310 mg of omega-3, it should be high on your list of daily food options. You can easily make a soup with miso; just beware of the sodium levels. Miso can also be used as a spread on whole grain toast, or used in lieu of butter on corn-on-the-cob.