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You are here: Home / Nutrition / Questions from the Field / Omega-3 fatty acids in food

Omega-3 fatty acids in food

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in a wide variety of food sources.

From the Field

What is the best source of Omega 3's besides salmon?

HPRC's Answer

Omega-3 fatty acids in food

Omega-3 fatty acids make up a family of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a plant-based fatty acid that must be obtained from food, since the body cannot make it. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for ALA is 1.6 g/day for men and 1.1 g/day for women. ALA can be converted into the more unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The American Heart Association in 2010 urged governing bodies to make specific DRIs for the consumption of 250 to 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day. Because this has not happened, the DRI remains as noted above.

The most widely available dietary source of EPA and DHA is cold-water oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines. Other oily fish such as tuna also contain omega-3 fatty acids but in lesser amounts. Sources of ALA are walnuts, canola, soybean, flaxseed/linseed, and olive oils. For additional information, including health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, read this fact sheet; and for omega-3 content in various foods, try this resource.