It’s been all over the news; new research saying that omega 3 supplements don’t reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke or death. And this is in addition to fact that omega 3 is a vital part of our diet, and the studies that show that omega 3 from food sources is beneficial.
A new Cochrane systematic review, published yesterday in the Cochrane Library, combines the results of seventy-nine randomised trials involving 112,059 people.
Cochrane lead author, Dr Lee Hooper from the University of East Anglia, UK said: "We can be confident in the findings of this review which go against the popular belief that long-chain omega 3 supplements protect the heart. This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods. Despite all this information, we don't see protective effects.”
Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Sheffield University, said: “Previous experience has shown that although some types of diet are linked to lower risk of heart disease, when we try to identify the beneficial element of the diet and give it as a supplement it generally has little or no benefit,”
See a summary of the findings here and the whole study here.
So, what is the best source of Omega 3?
Omega 3 EPA/DHA is a fatty acid which is essential for human health and cannot be created by your body so must be obtained from your diet.
Omega 3EPA/DHA intake from eating fish may significantly reduce your risk of heart disease & stroke and protect your brain. Plus it's good for your skin!
Vegetarians need Omega 3 ALA which is found mainly in plant foods (there is some in animal foods) and you need to convert this to the more powerful DHA form.
How Much Omega 3 per Day?
The RDA (recommended daily amount) for omega 3 EPA/DHA is taken from the recommendation made by the World Health Organisation of 0.5g per day. Now, that’s all well and good but how much do average portions have and what should you be eating?
The top foods for EPA/DHA:
Smoked Mackerel – An average portion of smoked mackerel that’s 120g is packed with omega 3 ELA/DHA giving you a massive 800% of your RDA. A grilled mackerel fillet 110g will give you nearly 300% of your RDA.
Kippers – One kipper will give you over 700% of your RDA
Salmon – One portion of cooked salmon will give you over 600% of your RDA
Tinned fish – Tinned fish like sardines and pilchards (which are big sardines) will give you over 500%
Caviar – A tablespoon that’s 30g of caviar will give you over 400% of your RDA
Sardines – 2 fresh sardines grilled will give you over 400% of your RDA
To find out more about omega 3 EPA/DHA and which other foods are a good source click here.
So, you can see that you just need to eat fish a couple of times a week to get your recommended daily amount.
Nutrients like omega 3 EPA/DHA stay in your system for a little while so you don’t necessarily need to eat them every day to make you’re having enough. (Excess amounts of some vitamins, vitamin C for example, leave your system if you have too much, so you need to top them up every day)
The RDA for omega 3 ALA is only applicable if you have no source of omega 3 EPA/DPA as this would replace the need for omega 3 ALA in your diet, again it cannot be created by your body so must be obtained from your diet.
The RDA (recommended daily amount) is 1.6g.
Here’s what you need to eat:
Walnuts – An average portion 20g will give you 1.5g so that’s 94% of your RDA
Rapeseed oil – 15g will give you 1.44g 90% of your RDA.
Flaxseed/linseed – 5g will give you 1.14g, 71% of your RDA
Chia seeds - ½ teaspoon raw will give you 27% of your RDA
As you can see you’ll need to be eating these foods every day to reach your RDA. To find out more about omega 3 ALA and which other foods are a good source click here.
I’ve made a handy info graphic for you with the different foods
With all of the different foods that you eat in a day how can you be sure you’re getting enough of your essential omega 3’s and all of the other nutrients?
By keeping a food diary!
The food diary here at CheckYourFood lists not only the macronutrients you know, proteins, carbs etc. But all of the vitamins and minerals you need to keep you healthy, and you can use it out for free!
I'm our communications and marketing person, dealing with social media and copywriting. I also work with Matt and Ric overseeing the design and strategic management of the site.
I'm also the author of the Eva the Hungry Amoeba children's book series (only one so far). You can find it on Amazon.
My favourite foods, shepherds pie and smoked haddock!