Lesser Known Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the nutrients that most Americans are deficient in – yet they have countless health benefits! Lower cholesterol, reduced inflammation, improved mood, younger looking skin and healthy hair are just a few of the benefits of a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Historically, humans’ main source of Omega-3s was animal protein. When their diets consisted of food from their natural habitats (grass, greens, bugs, etc.), their bodies would automatically produce Omega-3s which we would then absorb upon eating their meat. Animals are now raised on soy and corn, so even though they may look similar on the outside, the composition of their fat is now very low in Omega-3s. Unfortunately, animal protein is no longer a great source of these fatty acids.
There are three types of Omega-3s fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA. ALA is typically found from plant sources, while EPA and DHA are found in marine animals. In some cases our bodies can synthesize EPA from ALA and then DHA from EPA, but as we get older this synthesis can be dramatically reduced. So it’s important to get a good combination of all three of these Omega-3s, either through the food that you eat or by taking supplements. Here are a few lesser-known sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.,
Grass-fed beef, while more expensive than the conventional beef, has the health benefit of significantly high levels of EPA and DHA fatty acids. You can find it at your local health food store and, in some cases, your larger grocery store chains. The good news is that as it increases in popularity, the cost is coming down. Even if you aren’t sold by the health benefits of the increased Omega-3s, you will be by the taste!
Eggs are another great source of the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. However, as with beef, their diets dramatically impact the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids are found in them. Eggs produced from hens that eat greens and insects have more Omega-3s fatty acids than those raised on corn or soy. Check the label to make sure that it clearly states that the eggs contain Omega-3s.
Chia seeds are an extremely dense source of ALA Omega-3 fatty acids by weight. They are also a great source of fiber and really easy to sprinkle on your salads, add to some water, or throw in a smoothie.
Along with other powerful nutrients like magnesium and zinc, pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) contain a great source of ALA Omega-3 fatty acids. These little seeds are often overlooked. The next time you are at the store, consider picking up some pumpkin seeds and enjoy them as an afternoon snack.
Krill are shrimp-like crustaceans that are the main source of food for whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Because they are at the bottom of the food chain they are considered more sustainable and have been found to be lower in toxins and metals than other fatty fish. The most common way to consume krill oil is through supplementation. Some studies have found that EPA and DHA Omega-3 fatty acids are better absorbed in this way than by consuming cold-water fish.
As we can no longer rely on farmed animal protein as a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids, consider switching to grass-fed beef, look for eggs with Omega 3s, and add pumpkin seeds or krill oil supplements to your diet.