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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 02, 2008

Enough Omegas?

By Worker Bee
67 Comments

After much discussion some weeks ago about the importance of omegas, we thought it was time to get down and detailed. How exactly can you get enough omega-3s in your diet? We have some answers. As we mentioned earlier, the balance of omega-6 and omega-3 should partly determine your omega-3 needs, but we recommend 1-3 grams of omega-3 a day.

A big part of the nutritional breakdown relates to the type of omega-3. We’ll look at the three prominent members of the omega-3 group: EPA, DHA, ALA. Many of the food sources we’ve included are what we’d consider good or best sources, but we threw some commonly eaten but less beneficial sources in for comparison sake. The amounts are listed in grams per 100 grams (about 3.5 oz.) of food serving. You can find the full list of omega-3 content on the National Library of Medicine site.

Another source of omega-3s is eggs from chickens that are fed omega-3 fortified meal. The omega-3 content varies considerably depending on brand. (We’ve seen everywhere from 30 mg to 175 mg per egg.) Keep in mind that the fortified meal is usually flax fortified, which adds ALA omega-3s but does nothing in terms of EPA and DHA. You can occasionally find eggs from chickens that are fed meal fortified with beneficial algae (the initial source for fish EPA and DHA content) or fish itself. If you’re lucky enough to find them, we’re all jealous.

In terms of daily dose for omega-3s, consider the breakdown of EPA, DHA and ALA in your omega-3 sources. Definitely prioritize DHA and EPA. They are the most beneficial, and your body cannot efficiently convert enough ALA to compensate for a deficiency of DHA/EPA.

What does this mean for your daily diet? Considering a very minimum recommendation of 1 gram of omega-3 per day (more if you consume grain-fed meats and dairy), a good helping of mackerel or salmon certainly gives you a boost, but it likely doesn’t cover your daily needs. Most of us, while we don’t mind fish, aren’t about to eat it at every meal. (And with pollution concerns, it might not be a good idea anyway.) Ultimately, it makes sense for the majority of us to consider fish oil, which means a good, purified supplement of your choosing.

Feedback? Questions? Recipes to share? Let us know how you get your daily omega-3s.

Eva the Weaver Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

How to Eat More Fat

Dear Mark: Saturated Fat

fitsugar – Omega-3 Competition: Fish Oil vs. Flax Seed Oil

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

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TAGS:  omega 3s

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22 Comments on "Enough Omegas?"

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Art
Art
8 years 7 months ago

I heard a good ratio of EPA to DHA is 3 to 2 (3mg of EPA for every 2mg of DHA) but I don’t know how ALA fits in the picture.

Jostein
Jostein
8 years 7 months ago

I have a lot of trouble with birch allergy,I think I have been a little better this year because I have taiking Omega 3.

Scott
Scott
8 years 7 months ago

I understood (I think this was from Loren Cordain), that the O-3’s in chicken eggs include EPA and DHA. The chickens convert the ALA in flax to these, more beneficial O-3’s. Also, I’ve purchased Oakdell brand and the carton states 350mg Omega-3’s per egg, of which 75mg is DHA.

Barry
8 years 7 months ago

Mark, what do you think happens to the omega-3 fatty acids in those eggs when you throw them on the skillet and cook them? Hint: It’s not good!

gkadar
gkadar
8 years 7 months ago

You’ve left out Salvia hispanica. ‘Salba’.

Aside from having a high omega 3 content, there are a whole heap of claims for this seed. I have no information on the dietary availability of the calcium, for example. Is there anything in the seed, which behaves similarly to phytic acid?

Scott
Scott
8 years 7 months ago

Barry,

If broken down by heat, wouldn’t the same happen to the O-3’s in salmon and grass-fed meat? Any references on this idea?

Joe Matasic
Joe Matasic
8 years 6 months ago

Did I read the chart correctly? The farmed salmon was better for you than the wild in terms of omega-3s. Is there something else to this? Does this mean I can quit paying double for wild?

Ed
Ed
8 years 6 months ago

Mark – What are your thoughts on Barry’s suggestion that there is some sort of problem in cooking O-3 enhanced eggs? I’ve seen similar things related to flax seed oil and roasted & toasted walnuts, etc. What is the bottom line on cooking stuff with O-3? Mark? Anyone? Thanks.

Aaron
8 years 6 months ago

Thanks for the questions, Ed. We’ll be sure to address them in an upcoming post. Thanks again for the support and comments!

FitJerks Fitness Blog
7 years 16 days ago

Just straight up fish oils has enough for me. 5g/day

tom bard
6 years 11 months ago

thankyou for your comments:

would you comment of the omega-3 content of Hemp Oil, veg.powder, and shelled seeds.

thanks

April
April
6 years 7 months ago

Is it possible to get TOO much O-3? I know it’s bad to have too much O-6, but I don’t know about O-3.

Maurice
Maurice
6 years 6 months ago

If anyone needs the correct link to the National Library of Medicine site, here it is:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/bookshelf/br.fcgi?book=hserta&part=A184155&rendertype=table&id=A184301

Michelle
Michelle
5 years 3 months ago

I’ve heard that fish oil supplements have to have been processed at high temperatures.. which would destroy the O-3s. Is this true? Are there any supplements that weren’t made that way? What about the fact that it would go rancid quickly while sitting on the shelf?

Here’s a post that mentions it: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/2011/05/top-five-foods-to-never-buy-at-the-healthfood-store/

Mindy1986
Mindy1986
4 years 3 months ago

I would check the sources for that website. Pretty unreliable.

Peter
Peter
5 years 12 days ago

What about the DHA and EPA from microphytes?

Orielwen
4 years 5 months ago

I’m not sure about those numbers. My tin of sardines says that it has 3.3g of omega-3 fat per 100g of product, which is more than twice the value given in these tables. Does it depend where you get the sardines from?

Harmen
Harmen
4 years 5 months ago

The list misses herring. Herring is packed with Omega-3, about 2,2- 2,4 gr/ 100 gr.

It also gives you 2 gram of creatine.

Daniel H
Daniel H
4 years 1 month ago

Should I take fish oil supplements if I consume a couple oz of nuts per day, about a pound of wild salmon per week, along with pastured-raised chicken, grass-fed beef, and coconut/olive oils, and do 1hr high intensity workouts 3x per week?

Florin B.
Florin B.
3 years 4 months ago

Hi guys,

I read some about Omega 3 and me and my wife we are taking it each day.
What I m not sure about is WHEN to take it? Morning, lunch, evening?

Thank you!

Martin
Martin
3 years 1 month ago

When you say 1g of fish oil, do you mean 1g of EPA/DHA or 1g of whatever else is in the capsule? Typically EPA/DHA is some dozens of % only.

Thanks for clarifying!

Mike Piman
Mike Piman
2 years 7 months ago
I supplemented with fish oil for a long time. I’m very concerned about the amount of oxidation that may occur once fish oil is pulled from the whole fish, where it was protected by antioxidants like selenium and iodide ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish_oil ). Those are filtered out, and the oil is heated for some time (to some temperature) and probably exposed to light and more oxygen. Then these delicate fats sit at room temperature (at least) and in light during shipping and retail. The scientific literature on fish oil on the benefits of fish oil supplementation seem inconclusive, and there are… Read more »
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