8 Easy Ways to Load Up on Healthy Omega-3 Fats

Food choices you make every day can boost your omega-3 intake.

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Slide Show: How to Get Extra Omega-3s

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Filling up on omega-3 fatty acids does a body good. These polyunsaturated fats, which play a crucial role in how your body's cells function, have been shown to reduce harmful inflammation that could lead to heart disease, decrease triglyceride levels and blood pressure, and prevent fatal heart arrhythmias. Your body can't produce omega-3s, though, so you've got to be diligent about making sure your diet provides them. The good news is the fatty acids hide in tons of foods, like beans, certain oils and veggies, and—as you probably know—seafood. Take a look at these favorite sources.

Seafood

You should eat fish a couple times a week. The federal government's latest dietary guidelines, released in early 2011, suggest a specific amount—8 ounces a week—to get an average total daily intake of 250 mg. of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two main types of omega-3s. Here's a look at some popular fish and shellfish and their approximate total content of those two fatty acids per 4-ounce portion:

  • Salmon (Atlantic, Chinook, Coho): 1,200-2,400 mg.
  • Anchovies: 2,300-2,400 mg.
  • Bluefin tuna: 1,700 mg; yellowfin tuna: 150-350; canned: 150-300 mg.
  • Sardines: 1,100-1,600 mg.
  • Trout: 1,000-1,100 mg.
  • Crab: 200-550 mg.
  • Cod: 200 mg.
  • Scallops: 200 mg.
  • Lobsters: 200 mg.
  • Tilapia: 150 mg.
  • Shrimp: 100 mg.

[See Eating Fish During Pregnancy: What's the Right Approach?]

Oils

Throw a dash of flaxseed oil onto salad and start cooking with canola or soybean oil for a nice hit of omega-3. These carry alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the type of omega-3 found in some vegetable oils, which the body partially converts to EPA and DHA.

[See Butter or Margarine? Experts Reveal What's in Their Grocery Cart.]

Beans

Kidney, pinto, and mungo beans will do you right.

Nuts and seeds

Add a nutty flavor to salad, yogurt, or morning muesli with walnuts or flaxseed. A small handful of either will up your omega-3 intake.

[See Are All Nut Butters Created Equal?]

Spinach

Popeye was on to something. Serve up this leafy green in a salad, or sauté it and add it to a whole-grain pasta dish.

Winter squash

This veggie makes an interesting side dish that boosts your omega-3 intake.

Broccoli and cauliflower

These cruciferous veggies are on your side when it comes to omega-3s.

[See 6 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Eating Fruits and Veggies.]

Dietary supplements

If you don't get enough of any of these sources of omega-3s, you might want to consider taking a supplement, especially if you have heart disease or high triglycerides.

[See Vitamins and Supplements: Do They Work?]