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Which Foods Contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

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Updated September 28, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Which Foods Contain Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
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Omega-3 fatty acids are considered to be “good’ fats that can support heart health and modestly lower your triglyceride levels. There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Although they are commonly found in the form of supplements, there are also a variety of foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids. If you are looking to include more omega-3 fats in your cholesterol-lowering diet, try these healthy tips and recipes:

Include Fish in Your Diet

Fish are probably one of the more well-known foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids – especially DHA and EPA. However, not all fish are created equally when it comes to their omega-3 fatty acid content. Salmon, anchovies, tuna, and herring are examples of fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acid content, whereas other types of fish, such as tilapia, halibut, and catfish, contain lower amounts of this healthy fat. Luckily, these fish can be prepared in a variety of ways, giving you a flavorful dish that is low in cholesterol and saturated fat:

The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two 3.5 ounce servings of fish per week, preferably fattier fish, such as salmon. Although healthy, the fattier fish can add additional calories to your diet, so you should still moderate your intake. Additionally, the manner in which you prepare the fish also makes a huge difference – and can potentially be a source of added fat if you are not careful. Baking or grilling fish is more cholesterol-friendly compared to frying your fish. Additionally, using low-fat seasonings and juices (such as lemon juice) is preferable to using cream-based sauces and butter – both which could increase the amount of calories and fat added to your meal.

Consume a Handful of Nuts or Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain varying amounts of the omega-3 fatty acid, ALA. These versatile foods can be used in a variety of ways in your healthy diet – including using them as a quick snack or as part of a large meal. As with other omega-3 fatty acid products, you should be careful to consume nuts and seeds in moderation, as these can also add extra calories to your diet. Whether preparing your own nuts and seeds - or purchasing them from the store - also avoid nuts and seeds that have extra butter, oils, or salt added to them. Try some of these healthy ways to include nuts and seeds in your next meal or snack:

Use Soybean Products

Soybeans also contain the omega-3 fatty acid, ALA. Their high protein, low fat content also makes this food an excellent alternative for meat in a cholesterol-lowering diet. Soy can be prepared in a variety of ways, making it a very versatile and cholesterol-friendly ingredient. Again, take care to not add fattening sides or ingredients to this lean protein. Here are some delicious recipes that include soybean products:

Supplemented Foods

Many food manufacturers have taken a cue from studies examining the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and heart health, and have now began to supplement some of their foods with this healthy fat. However, not all foods have been supplemented, so you would need to consult the labeling on the food package in order to determine whether or not omega-3 fatty acids have been added. Examples of some of these supplemented foods include:

  • Spreads
  • Dressings
  • Milk – including dairy and soy milk
  • Egg substitutes
  • Certain breads, crackers and cereals

When consulting food labels, you should also check for carbohydrate, cholesterol, and saturated fat content . If the content of either or all of the ingredients is high, this could potentially cause your cholesterol – and your waistline – to increase.

Sources:

Rolfes SR, Whitney E. Understanding Nutrition, 13th ed, 2011.

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