Omega-3 refers to a set of three naturally occurring fatty acids (ALA, EPA and DHA), each of which is vital to human health in varying degrees. Doctors recommend a dose of 280–500 milligrams per day, but some foods will give you way more than that in one go.
MACKEREL: Fatty fish is the best way to maximise your omega-3 hit – grill a whole smoked fillet for breakfast the way they do in many northern European countries, and you’ll ingest more than 4g of the good stuff in one sitting. Smaller oily fish, often served in cans, will also do the trick – sardines and anchovies in particular.
SALMON: The mighty salmon is one nutrient-rich fish, absolutely packed with proteins, minerals and B-vitamins, as well as enough fatty omega-3 to help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. DHA is the active acid here, which plays a part in our brain growth as infants. (Which is why pregnant women are advised to get plenty of it.) Later in life it can also help mitigate anxiety and depression, keep skin cells smooth and supple and prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
FLAXSEEDS: These small brown and yellow seeds are actually the richest whole-food source of ALA, and are often ground or milled for their oil. This, in turn, is often used as an omega-3 supplement. Consuming the seeds or oil will also give you a boost of fibre, vitamin E and minerals such as magnesium.
CHIA SEEDS: Just two tablespoons of these little babies will administer all eight vital amino acids into your system – and more omega-3 than salmon, gram for gram. Although this is principally ALA, which is not quite as beneficial as other acids.
WALNUTS: Of all the nuts, these wrinkly suckers are pretty close to being a superfood, packed with fibre, copper, vitamin E and high-quality plant compounds. Plus, of course, those heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s better to eat them with the skin on, which is where the best phenol antioxidants are apparently stored.
AVOCADO: While it may well be one of the hippest foods on the planet, the omega-3 value of avocado has been slightly overstated by enthusiasts. Tasty and wholesome as it may be, the average serving spread on your toast will contain far less ALA than salmon, and no EPA or DHA at all.
OMEGA-3 SUPPLEMENTS: If you literally can’t get enough of the above – because of your location, or budget, or your because you can’t stand any of those foods omega-3 supplements will do in a pinch. These most often take the form of fish oil capsules, which deliver a straight shot of those vital acids. Relatively few consumers suffer side effects.