Omega-3 Fatty Acids

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

  • A type of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that must be obtained through the diet because it cannot be made by the human body

Why are omega-3 fatty acids important?

  • Omega-3 fatty acids may be important in preventing many health problems, including heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. They also play a role in improving mood and sharpening memory.

What foods are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids?

  • Cold water fish are the highest source of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids which have been shown to be the most effective in reducing cardiovascular disease risk. Other foods contain these fatty acids as well, however, in smaller amounts. The current recommendations are to have 7 to 11 grams of omega-3 fatty acids each week.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Content of Selected Foods
Fish
Portion
Total n-3 FA (g)
Salmon, cold water, fresh and frozen, cooked
4 oz.
1.7
Sardines, canned in oil, drained
4 oz.
1.8
Tuna, canned in water, drained
4 oz.
0.3
Tuna, canned in oil, drained
4 oz.
0.2
Cod, fresh and frozen, cooked
4 oz.
0.6
Mackerel, canned, drained
4 oz.
2.2
Swordfish, fresh and frozen, cooked
4 oz.
1.7
Crab, soft shell, cooked
4 oz
0.6
Lobster, cooked
4 oz.
0.1
Bluefish, fresh and frozen, cooked
4 oz.
1.7
Salmon, canned, drained
4 oz.
2.2
Smelt, rainbow
4 oz
0.5
Scallops, Maine, fresh and frozen, cooked
4 oz.
0.5
     
Nuts and Seeds
Portion
Total n-3 FA (g)
Almonds, dry roasted
1 oz.
0
Walnuts
1 oz.
2.6
Flax seeds
1 oz.
1.8
Pecans, dry roasted
1 oz.
0.3
Pistachios, roasted
1 oz.
0.1
Poppy seeds
1 oz.
0.1
Pumpkin seeds, shelled
1 oz.
0.1
Sesame seeds
1 oz.
0.1
     
Oils
Portion
Total n-3 FA (g)
Walnut oil
1 Tbsp.
1.4
Soybean oil, unhydrogenated
1 Tbsp.
0.9
Flax seed oil
1 Tbsp.
6.9
Canola oil
1 Tbsp.
1.3
Cod liver oil
1 Tbsp.
2.8
Olive oil
1 Tbsp.
0.1
Sardine oil
1 Tbsp.
3.7
     
Grains and Beans
Portion
Total n-3 FA (g)
Soybeans, dried, cooked
½ cup
0.5
Tofu, regular
4 oz.
0.3
     
Greens
Portion
Total n-3 FA (g)
Spinach, fresh, cooked
½ cup
0.1
Green leaf lettuce, fresh, raw
1 cup
Trace
Red leaf lettuce, fresh, raw
1 cup
Trace
Boston or Bibb lettuce, fresh, raw
1 cup
Trace
Chard, cooked
½ cup
0
Turnip greens, cooked
½ cup
Trace
Dandelion greens, cooked
½ cup
0.1
Kale, cooked
½ cup
0.1
Beet greens, cooked
½ cup
Trace
Collard greens, cooked
½ cup
0.1
Mustard greens, fresh, cooked
½ cup
Trace


* Values are rounded to the nearest tenth, with values less than 0.05 g given as “trace”

Source: Minnesota Nutrient Data Base 4.04, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
Revised 3/02


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