Omega-3s can help lower your risk of heart disease. These healthy fats are being added to everything from eggs to peanut butter. You can also get them naturally in fish, including salmon and tuna.
There are different types of omega-3s: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
Your body can turn ALA into DHA and EPA, though not very efficiently. So, many dietitians recommend getting DHA and EPA. While there's no standard recommendation for how many omega-3s we need, suggestions range from 500 to 1,000 milligrams (mg) daily. You can find more than 500 mg in a can of tuna or a few ounces of salmon. Some fortified foods offer 100 mg or more.
Bring this shopping list the next time you go to the supermarket.
You'll likely find the following foods fortified with omega-3 fatty acids:
Grains and Nuts With Omega-3s
Bread and pasta are some of the foods most commonly enriched with omega-3s. You'll also find them in whole foods like seeds and nuts. When shopping, look for omega-3s in:
Fresh Produce With ALA Omega-3s
Vegetables, especially green leafy ones, are rich in ALA, one form of omega-3 fatty acids. Although ALA isn't as powerful as the other omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, these vegetables also have fiber and other nutrients, as well as omega-3s.
Oil With ALA Omega-3s
Oils can be a good source of ALA omega-3s, too, including:
Cod liver oil
Baby Food With Omega-3s
Research suggests that the omega-3 fatty acid DHA may help babies' brains develop, which is why you can find them in:
As with most nutrients, whole foods trump any enriched, fortified, or processed foods. Omega fatty acids can oxidize if overly processed or allowed to become stale, so fresh is best.
Getting more than 3 grams a day of omega-3s may make bleeding more likely. You're not likely to get that much from a typical diet. Talk with your doctor before taking high doses of omega-3 supplements.
Pereira, C. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, July 2001.
University of Maryland Medical Center: "Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)."
Peck, P. Medscape Medical News, Nov. 11, 2004.
Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute: "Essential Fatty Acids."
WebMD Medical Reference: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids."