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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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67 thoughts on “Enough Omegas?”

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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?

  6. 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?

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

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

  10. thankyou for your comments:

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

    thanks

  11. 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.

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

  12. 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?

  13. 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.

  14. 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?

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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 some studies which indicate negative health affects from fish oil supplemention,
    http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jl/2014/495761/
    http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fish-oil-friend-or-foe-201307126467

    I would guess that the omega-3 enhanced eggs are probably protected by the natural antioxidants in the yolks ( http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110706093900.htm ), and also the yolks are kept chilled, dark, and unexposed to oxygen. Probably the same for whole fish and other meats.

    My conclusion for now is that I’ll just try to eat fresh (or frozen) and natural meats, low-temp cooked; and go for lower omega-6 foods.