Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Food Sources
When possible, try to get omega-3 fatty acids from foods such as fish rather than supplements. Fish high in DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids include:
- salmon (wild has more omega-3s than farmed)
- lake trout
Many experts recommend eating these fish two to three times a week.
Good food sources of ALA -- which is converted into omega-3 fatty acids in the body -- include:
- flax and flaxseed oil
- canola oil
- olive oil
- soybean oil
While foods containing omega-3 fatty acids have health benefits, some -- like oils and nuts -- can be high in calories. So eat them in moderation.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Supplements
If you decide to use a supplement, discuss this treatment with your doctor first to make sure you are getting the benefits you need. Experts usually recommend 1 gram (1,000 milligrams) of DHA and EPA combined from fish oil daily for those with heart disease. People with certain health conditions may take doses of up to 4 grams a day -- but only under a doctor's supervision.
The most common side effect from fish oil is indigestion and gas. Getting a supplement with an enteric coating might help.
Omega-3 supplements (EPA/DHA) can increase the risk of bleeding. People with bleeding conditions -- or who take medicines that could increase bleeding, like Coumadin, Plavix, Effient, Brilinta, and some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs -- should talk to a doctor before using any omega-3 supplements.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Tips
- Choose the right fish. While eating more fatty fish is a good idea, some are more likely to have higher levels of mercury, PCBs, or other toxins. These include mackerel, wild swordfish, tilefish, and shark. Farm-raised fish of any type may also have higher levels of contaminants. Children and pregnant women should avoid these fish entirely. Everyone else should eat no more than 7 ounces of these fish a week. Smaller fish like wild trout and wild salmon are safer.
- Consider a supplement like fish oil capsules or algae oil. Fish oil contains both EPA and DHA. Algae oil contains DHA and may be a good option for people who don't eat fish or for vegetarians.
- Talk to your health care provider before using a supplement. Before you start using any supplement, you should always talk it over with your health care provider. He or she may have specific recommendations -- or warnings -- depending on your health and the other medicines you take.