When looking at foods, there are several places where we can get Omega-3s. The first and most common ones that come to mind are fish, oysters, algae, chia seeds, flax, and hemp oil. Now let we're going to take a second to break these down so that you can understand what you are getting when consuming these foods.
Let's begin with fish, which is the most obvious source. For the most part, when consuming fish, we are not consuming the entire fish. Instead, we are eating the muscle of the fish. Now, this is a fantastic source of light protein, unfortunately there likely isn't nearly as much Omega-3s as you would expect. In fact, in most species of fish, you are only getting between 200 to 500mg of Omega-3s per 3oz cooked portion of fish.
That 200 to 500mg of omega-3s is the total amount of Omega-3s and not necessarily the EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are the essential fatty acids your body needs. To obtain your daily therapeutic dose of EPA and DHA from fish, you would need to be consuming 15 to 40oz per day. We wouldn't recommend this it could likely result in mercury poisoning.
Plant-Based Omega-3s like chia, hemp, and flax are all great sources of Omega-3s. Unfortunately, these are all alpha-linolenic acids, also known as ALA. ALA is not as active in the body, therefore, to bestow the same health benefits, ALA must be converted to two other forms of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.
Our body’s ability to convert ALA is quite limited. Only about 5% of ALA is converted to EPA, while less than 0.5% is converted to DHA. It is hard to fathom how much ALA you would need to be consuming to achieve a beneficial dose of Omega-3s.
Fish oils are made up of the entire fish. This means that from the start, you are getting more of the essential fatty acids because of the inclusion of the tissues, skin, and organs which all contain the most healthy fats.
Good quality Omega-3s will take the crude oil made from whole granulated fish concentrate and molecularly distill it in order to eliminate and drastically reduced the presence of any contaminants and heavy metals.
If you're looking to supplement with quality omega-3s, be sure to check out our findings on why not all omega-3s are created equal.