Best Natural Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

by Demetri on February 27, 2010

Omega-3 CapsulesTurn on the news and, within half an hour, you’re likely to see a report on the health benefits of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Unlike many food fads, the hype surrounding omega-3s is backed up by solid, decades-long research. These nutrients, sometimes referred to as “Vitamin F”, streamline your metabolism, increase brain function and decrease inflammation. While this may seem too good to be true, omega-3s have been found to make you thinner, quicker-thinking and less likely to develop heart disease and arthritis.

Unfortunately, the Western food supply is deficient in these nutrients. While meat, poultry and fish used to be excellent sources, they are now high in omega-6s, which are found in high concentrations in corn-based feeds. Omega-6s not only increase inflammation and fat-storage but, when eaten in improper balance, prevent the absorption of omega-3s.

The easiest way to add omega-3s to a Western diet is a fish-oil supplement. These capsules contain purified oils that are high in the essential fatty acid. Although they provide the most effective way to quickly increase your omega-3 intake, for the maximum benefit you should also alter your diet to include more omega-3s and fewer omega-6s.

Many nuts and seeds contain high quantities of omega-3s. Walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed are all excellent, omega-3 rich foods to add to your diet. However, these sources do not contain a complete fatty acid, which is comprised of ALA, DHA and EPA. Fruit and vegetable sources only contain ALA, which your body can convert to DHA and EPA, with some difficulty.

Omega-3 EggsTo consume a complete fatty acid, you should include protein sources that have been grass-fed or exclusively grazed. Grass-fed animals consume the ALA and convert it to DHA and ARA, saving your body the trouble. It can often be difficult, and expensive, to find grass-fed beef or poultry. Fortunately, there are many varieties of free-range eggs that are very high in omega-3s. If you live in a rural area, contact local egg farms to find out if their chickens are fed corn-feed or are free-range.

Dark-green, leafy vegetables, like spinach and romaine lettuce, are high in omega-3s and low in omega-6s. Many experts believe this is because omega-6s are responsible for fat storage, while omega-3s increase metabolism. Omega-6s are found often in plant seeds, like corn and wheat, while rarely found in high quantities in the leaves.

Fruits are also an excellent source of omega-3s. High-water fruits, such as melons and blackberries, contain very high concentrations. Pomegranates, which are believed to have anti-cancer properties, also contain much omega-3.

As you begin to change your diet, you should research your favorite foods to compare the concentrations of omega-6s to omega-3s. Omega-6s are the most common and found in nearly every food, so don’t worry about not consuming enough. By substituting foods high in omega-3s for those laden with omega-6s and taking a daily omega-3 supplement, you can reap all the health benefits of this essential fatty acid.

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