Sources Of Omega-3

Sources Of Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 is naturally occurring, and can be sourced from the diet.

Marine based sources of omega-3 usually have higher levels of EPA and DHA. Botanical sources such as leafy green vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts tend to have higher levels of ALA.

ALA, a type of omega-3, is considered an essential fatty acid as it is required from the diet; the body cannot produce it.

EPA and DHA are non essential as they can be produced in the body, converted from ALA.

However, due to inefficiencies when the body converts ALA into EPA and DHA, the EPA and DHA fatty acids are sometimes viewed as being essential.


Fish is considered one of the best sources of omega-3 and is a well known food source of omega-3. Fish oils are also one of the most popular health supplements on the market.

Oily fish from cold waters contain a high ratio of omega-3 to omega-6. Oily fish of warmers waters may also contain omega-3 but in lesser amounts; one example is tuna.

Fish Rich Sources Of Omega 3 Include:

  • sardines
  • salmon
  • herring
  • lake trout
  • anchovies
  • mackerel

Other Dietary Sources & Foods Containing Omega-3 Fatty Acids Include:

  • Eggs - enriched omega-3 eggs may contain 3 times as much omega-3
  • Meat - red meat such as beef and lamb may have higher levels of omega-3 if the animal has been grass fed
  • Dairy - cheese and milk derived from cows fed on grass have higher levels of omega-3
  • Some Fruits, Vegetables Nuts & Seeds – e.g. walnuts, flaxseed, broccoli and strawberries
  • Oils – e.g. canola oil, flaxseed oil

Omega-3 Intake – Dietary Changes

There are differences in the dietary intake of omega 3 within and between populations.

In general, the modern western diet is quite deficient in omega 3 compared to the fish rich diets of earlier man. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 intake has also increased.

The change in the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 consumed is partly due to the increased consumption of processed foods, which tend to be devoid of omega-3 fatty acids but rich in omega-6.

The move towards commercial large scale rearing of fish, meat and crops has contributed to a drop in omega-3 levels within the modern western diet.

For example, wild caught fish consistently have greater levels of omega-3 compared to domestic reared fish.

This is due to commercial feeds being rich in omega-6 but low in omega-3 [5].

A diet with little or no fish, a primary source of omega-3 fatty acids, is now commonplace in the western world.

For example, NHANES III, a database of American nutrient consumption indicates that the average dietary intake of EPA & DHA is zero and ALA is less than 1 gram [4].

Such a statistic is of concern given the potential benefits of omega-3.