Sources of Omega-3 fats Besides Fish Oil
I am allergic to fish. How can I get enough Omega 3 as needed for good heart health? Is there another way to take it in a capsule form?
This is an excellent question, and one I have some personal experience with, since I don't eat fish either, and, like you, I am concerned about getting enough Omega-3 fats.
There are some other sources of Omega-3 fats that you can include in your diet. These include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, chia seed and Omega-3 eggs. There is also a slight amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, which, although they can contribute to your total intake, are not enough in themselves to provide the amount you could get if you were able to eat fish.
You can take a supplement of flaxseed oil that comes in capsules, but since I generally recommend "whole" foods, I think it is a better to freshly grind the seeds yourself. In this way, you will receive the additional benefits of the whole flax seed that is not found in the oil. You can use a small coffee grinder and freshly grind about 2-3 tablespoons each day to add to cereal, yogurt or any food you choose. The important thing is to freshly grind the seeds right before you use them, since they will start to deteriorate as soon as the seed case is crushed. It is for this reason that I do not recommend the pre-ground flax meals that you can buy.
I should also mention that flax seed comes in a brown variety and a golden variety, but the golden tastes better, so may be a better choice.
For more information on flaxseed, click on this link.
Chia seed is also a wonderful choice to get Omega-3 fats along with a host of other nutritional benefits. It is milder tasting than flax and does not have to be ground, but it also is more expensive and harder to find. It is available online and in some health food stores, but I don't think it has hit the mainstream yet.
For more information on chia seed, click on this link.
Some egg companies are producing "Omega-3" eggs by feeding their hens a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Including these eggs in your diet can help add to your overall intake of Omega-3's, but, by themselves, are not sufficiently high in Omega-3 to be the only source of these important fatty acids in a healthy diet.
There is no established RDA for Omega-3's, but it has been suggested that 4-5 grams should be adequate for the average diet. This amount will easily be supplied by 1 Tbsp. flax oil, 2-3 T. ground flax seed, or 2 oz. of walnuts or a combination of these foods in smaller amounts.
You may have heard that you need to get your Omega-3's from animal sources, but vegetarians can get their essential Omega-3 fats from walnuts, flaxseed and chia seed. These foods are sources of linolenic acid and not DHA another important Omega-3 fat. Since linolenic acid is the essential fatty acid, as long as you are getting enough of this one, your body can produce the other Omega-3 fats that it needs. However, there is algae that can provide a vegetarian source of DHA, a non-essential fatty acid, and this is available in supplement form, if you are concerned.
Thanks, Marilyn, for submitting your great question, and I hope this helps you reach your healthy eating goals!