Omega-3s aren’t the latest must-have tech invention or the “Transformers” character that you’ve long forgotten about. In fact, they’re fatty acids found in a plethora of foods that can be a major boon to your health.
“As far as the health benefits, the list is virtually limitless,” Evan DeMarco, nutrition expert and product innovator at Omax Health, said. DHA, a type of omega-3 found in fish, has been found to be essential for healthy brain and eye development, while EPA, another omega-3 found in seafood, supports a healthy cardiovascular system and optimal inflammatory response.
Omega-3s have also been found to mitigate inflammation, decrease LDL cholesterol, and their support of brain health has proven to be effective in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and the moderate the effects of anxiety and depression, according to Moe Schlachter, M.S. R.D.N. L.D. C.D.E. president of Houston Family Nutrition.
Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are some of the best sources of omega-3s like DHA, EPA and DPA, according to DeMarco. ALA, meanwhile, is a plant source of the essential fatty acids, which means the body cannot produce them on its own.
So what can you do if you want to get omega-3s, but you want to avoid seafood? Well, first you have to get a bit science-y to understand the type of omega-3s you can actually find in plant sources. Your body must convert ALA, the type of omega-3 found in plant sources, to EPA and DHA in order to get the fats’ health benefits, says Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., author of the upcoming “Smart Meal Prep for Beginners.” Unfortunately, this is an inefficient process, and you’d have to eat unrealistic amounts of ALA food sources to get the same health benefits, Amidor says.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t options for those who want to steer clear of seafood. Read ahead for five foods that can provide you with omega-3s, besides fish.
Your grandma was right all along: liver is good for you. An ounce of beef liver can provide around 175 mg of an estimated daily target of 300-500 mg combined EPA and DHA omega-3, says. “While liver can be an acquired taste, there is no doubt that it is jam-packed with vitamins and minerals including zinc, iron, B12, vitamin A, D, E, and K, and many more,” he says.
You can feel a bit better about your favorite Sunday morning omelette. “Egg yolks won’t break the omega-3 bank per se, but they can provide around 3-4 percent of our daily needs,” says Schlachter. Who knew?
There’s no need to be grossed out. Yes, edible algae does exist. Not only is it a source of omega-3s, but algae contain protein, fiber, monounsaturated fat, and a variety of micronutrients, and they’re free of the top eight allergens, says Amidor.
Don’t just walk by these little guys the next time you’re in a health food store. Throwing them into a salad or oatmeal can pack quite a punch, and not just for the omega-3s they contain. “The seeds also contain substances called lignans that pack potent antioxidant powers,” says Amidor.
Your go-to trail mix just got a little more appealing. “Walnuts are packed with copper, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus,” says Amidor. “Walnuts are also high in an antioxidant compound called ellagitannins, which has been shown to help fight cancer.”
Bottom line? Fish is still the O.G. of the omega-3 world, but there are other options for non-seafood lovers or those who have allergies.
“We should aim for [300-500 mg] of omega-3 fatty acids that are comprised of EPA and DHA (names for specific omega 3 types) to support heart, brain, liver, and overall health,” Schlachter says. “Fish is an excellent source of this important nutrient but there are others that the public should be aware of that come from plants, animals and eggs.”
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