Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) including omega-3 have drawn much attention in this era of obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Fats, made up of glycerol and fatty acids, are absorbed into our body through intestines and are then stored in hypodermis (the layer of skin made up of connective tissue and fat), muscle, and liver of our body. They break down to provide energy.
Fatty acids are of two types - saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids. It is commonly known that saturated fatty acids are basically contained in animal oil such as beef, pork, and butter, except for fish oil; and unsaturated fatty acids are found in vegetable oils, except for coconut oil and palm oil.
There are several types of omega 3 fatty acids, but three of them are crucial – ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
ALA is primarily found in vegetables and vegetable oils such as Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, salad greens, and oils such as soybean, rapeseed (canola), and flaxseed, and in walnuts. The body partially converts ALA to EPA and DHA.
DHA is essential for the development of the brain, nerve and eye tissue, especially in infants, so DHA is abundantly found in breast milk. Fatty fish are rich sources of DHA.
EPA on the other hand acts as precursor for compounds that regulate the proper functioning of the heart and blood vessels and inhibit platelet aggregation. It is abundantly present in human milk, and seaweeds. It is also present in oily fish, occurring along with DHA.
DHA and EPA, found together only in fatty fish and algae, are considered to be more effective when they are working together rather than individually. For example, EPA and DHA together insulate the body against heat loss, and prevent skin from drying.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for various body functions such as-
• Muscle activity
• Blood clotting
• Brain development and brain function
Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important during the growth and development of fetus. That’s why pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding are advised to consume sufficient omega-3 foods.
Apart from the vegetable oils and fish oil, omega-3 is also found in shark liver oil, flaxseed oil. Omega-3 is also found in walnuts, pumpkin seeds, leafy vegetables and soy products such as tofu.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Food Chart
|Food Name||Omega-3 in mg (per 200-Calorie serving)|
|Fish oil, salmon||7828|
|Fish, caviar, black and red, granular||5388|
|Fish oil, sardine||5341|
|Fish oil, cod liver||4375|
|Fish, mackerel, salted||3367|
|Radish seeds, sprouted, raw||3358|
|Nuts, butternuts, dried||2850|
|Fish, salmon, Atlantic, wild, cooked, dry heat||2841|
|Spices, oregano, dried||2732|
|Spices, cloves, ground||2649|
|Fish oil, herring||2630|
|Fish, salmon, pink, canned, without salt, solids with bone and liquid||2528|
|Oil, vegetable, walnut||2353|
|Broccoli, chinese, cooked||2346|
|Fish, salmon, Atlantic, farmed, cooked, dry heat||2194|
|Fish, herring, Atlantic, cooked, dry heat||2185|
|Spinach, frozen, chopped or leaf, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt||2183|
|Oil, vegetable, canola [low erucic acid rapeseed oil]||2067|
|Fish, mackerel, Pacific and jack, mixed species, cooked, dry heat||2059|
|Spices, tarragon, dried||2004|
|Mollusks, oyster, eastern, wild, cooked, moist heat||1963|
|Spearmint, dried [mint]||1959|
|Fish, tuna, fresh, bluefin, cooked, dry heat||1809|
|Beef, variety meats and by-products, brain, cooked, simmered||1639|
|Fish, bass, striped, cooked, dry heat||1591|
|Fish, trout, rainbow, wild, cooked, dry heat||1567|
|Oil, wheat germ||1561|
|Oil, soybean, salad or cooking||1536|
|Mustard, prepared, yellow||1457|
|Cauliflower, cooked, boiled, drained, with salt||1452|
|Mayonnaise dressing, no cholesterol||1444|
|Salad dressing, caesar dressing, regular||1431|
|Margarine, regular, tub, unsalted, composite, 80% fat||1413|
|Vegetable oil, soybean lecithin||1346|
|Vegetable oil, mustard||1335|
|Beans, kidney, mature seeds, sprouted, cooked, boiled, drained, with salt||1176|
|Peppers, sweet, red, sauteed||1165|