Advice On Healthy Eating – All About Omega-3

advice on healthy eating -omega 3

Want to know the value of Omega-3 to healthy eating?

It’s surprising to find just how many organs and bodily systems are affected by such an innocuous seeming nutrient as Omega-3.

Many of us have heard how it can benefit heart health because that’s not only where the research began, but is also still the most researched area. But since the earliest studies and the resulting advisory published by the American Heart Association (AHA) in 1996, research into Omega-3 has shown the most amazingly diverse range of potential benefits. Everything from brain health with potential protective benefits against Alzheimer’s disease, right through to joint health and reduction of inflammation.

But Just What Is Omega-3?

There are a range of substances our bodies need called Essential Fatty Acids (or EFA). These are called essential for a reason – our bodies not only require them, they can’t get them via any other method than from the food we eat. And ALA (or alpha-linolenic acid) is one of those key essential substances, which is known as an Omega-3 fatty acid.

One of the great things about ALA is that it can also be used by our bodies to make DHA (or docosahexaenoic acid), which is another important Omega-3 fatty acid. This is not therefore considered an EFA as the body can make it, but that certainly doesn’t make it any less important. The studies actually show it to be even more important than ALA.

There is a minor hiccup here though. Our bodies conversion mechanism for making DHA is not particularly good. It loses anywhere up to 98% of the ALA it uses to make DHA. So you need plenty of that ALA to start with to ensure you have not only enough of that, but also have plenty left over to make enough DHA too.

How Do You Get Enough Omega-3?

Eat a very healthy wholefood diet. I know, you were hoping I was going to say daily fried chicken and cookies would be ideal, but I’m afraid that just won’t do the trick.

Experts mostly now agree we should be aiming for around 1,000mg of ALA and 300mg of DHA per day. Ideally from your normal daily food.

Most fresh foods have at least some Omega-3 content. The best sources are fresh fish, leafy green vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds. Which is why a well balanced and varied wholefoods diet should give you enough.

It is tricky however as amounts of Omega-3 in those foods varies a lot. Some foods are also rich in ALA but not in DHA. Fresh bluefin tuna is particularly good for example, whilst light canned tuna isn’t so good. The bluefin is about 10 times higher in DHA levels.

If you’re concerned that you may not be getting enough, it can be worth looking into a supplement. You can get supplements made from fish sources, but also those sourced from seaweed or algae which are suitable for people on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Just be careful if buying a supplement to check the label closely to see that you are getting a decent level of DHA and not just ALA. You absolutely don’t have to pay premium prices to get a good supplement.

Learning to cook with a greater variety of foods can however greatly improve your Omega-3 intake. Use walnuts and cold-pressed seed oils in your salads. Eat fresh sardines, mackerel and salmon instead of your usual fish. Eat more cauliflower, broccoli, collards, kale and spinach. Choose higher quality grass fed beef.

Cooking also reduces the levels of Omega-3. So whilst I’m not going to recommend you eat raw sardines, try not to overcook your food. It will taste better and be healthier too. You can also use many greens such as spinach and kale raw and uncooked in salads – either use the smaller tender leaves or chop larger leaves finely. And don’t heat quality seed oils, save them for salad dressings where they add maximum flavor and nutrition.

About The Author

Pierce is a big fan of healthy eating and getting as much nutrition as possible just from the daily food on our plates. He runs a website at which focuses specifically on how Omega-3 affects our bodies and the ongoing research into these important dietary fatty acids.


Kris-Etherton, Penny M., et al. “Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease.” circulation 106.21 (2002): 2747-2757.

Simopoulos, Artemis P. “Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and in growth and development.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 54.3 (1991): 438-463.

Wu, Shunquan, et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids intake and risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease: A meta-analysis.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 48 (2015): 1-9.