How can I get more omega 3 fatty acids in my daily meals?

Walnuts, flaxseeds, beans, fish, olive oil and winter squash constitute part of the the cornucopia of foods that will provide you with concentrated sources of omega 3 fats.

Recommendations for omega 3 consumption
To date, the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences has not yet issued any Dietary Reference Intakes for omega 3 fats. Recently, however, the National Institutes of Health recommended that people consume at least 2% of their total daily calories as omega 3 fats. To meet this recommendation, a person consuming 2000 calories per day would have to eat at least 2 grams of omega 3 fats. Many nutrition experts believe that this recommendation is not high enough, and would suggest, instead, that people consume at least 4% of their total calories (approximately 4 grams) as omega 3 fats.

Food sources of omega 3 fats - flaxseeds and walnuts
At the top of our list for increasing omega 3s would be flaxseeds and walnuts. One-quarter cup of flaxseeds contains about 7 grams of omega 3 fatty acids while one-quarter cup of walnuts contains about 2.3 grams. In either case, the amount is pretty substantial. Therefore by combining one-quarter cup of walnuts with a tablespoon of flaxseeds you will add close to the recommended 4 grams of omega 3 fats to your diet.

Food sources of omega 3 fats - beans
Flax seeds and walnuts are not your only choices, of course! One cup?s worth of soybeans, navy beans, or kidney beans provides between 200 and 1,000 milligrams of omega 3s (0.2 to 1.0 grams). A four-ounce serving of tofu will provide about 0.4 grams of omega 3s. Therefore, these foods provide between 10% and 50% of the National Institutes of Health recommendation, and a substantial step up from the average U.S. adult intake.

Food sources of omega 3 fats - fish, winter squash and olive oil
Three other types of foods are important to mention as omega 3 boosters: fish, winter squash, and olive oil. In the case of fish, you'll get about 2 grams from every 4 ounce serving of chinook salmon; 0.6 grams from the same serving of halibut; and 0.4 grams from tuna. A cup of this winter squash will provide you approximately 0.3 grams. For extra virgin olive oil, the amount of omega 3s per ounce is about 0.2 grams (a word about using extra virgin olive oil - don't fry with it as you'll damage the omega 3s).

Practical tips
When it comes to increasing your omega 3 fatty acids intake, don't worry about bringing your calculator to the kitchen. All you have to do is to focus on bringing more omega 3 rich foods into your diet.

Eating fish and seafood such as salmon, halibut, tuna and scallops a few times a week is an easy way to increase your omega 3 intake. Plus you'll get all of the other nutritional benefits that these foods have to offer.

As noted, walnuts and flaxseeds can be important contributors to an omega 3 rich diet. To increase your intake of these foods, adding this nut-seed combination to salads, baked potatoes or granola are just three of the many ways to easily incorporate these foods into your meal plan. Additionally, if you grind nut butters at home, they could also be used in the above ratio as a nut-seed blend. (Although it is somewhat difficult to clean, a standard coffee bean grinder usually does fairly well as a nut-seed grinder than can produce a very creamy buttery blend.) If you like your nuts roasted, do so gently - in a 160-170 degree oven for 15-20 minutes - to preserve the omega-3 fats.

In addition, incorporating more beans, winter squash, and extra virgin olive oil to your meal plan is easy. And features on our website will make it even easier. Visit the "How to Use" sections in the articles on each of the particular foods to learn about delicious quick serving tips. Using our Recipe Assistant can also help you to find recipes that feature these omega 3-rich foods.

Table 1
Foods concentrated in Omega 3 fatty acids

Food Serving omega 3 fatty acids % DV Density Quality

Flax seeds 0.25 cups 7.0 g 156.4 17.6 Excellent
Walnuts C 0.25 cup 2.3 g 50.4 6.3 Very good

Chinook salmon, baked/broiled 4.0 oz-wt 2.1 g 46.4 3.6 Very good
Scallops, baked/broiled 4.0 oz-wt 1.1 g 24.4 3.3 Good

Soybeans, cooked 1 cup 1.0 g 22.9 1.6 Good
Halibut, baked/broiled 4.0 oz-wt 0.6 g 13.8 1.8 Good

Shrimp, steamed, boiled 4.0 oz-wt 0.4 g 8.2 1.5 Good
Snapper, baked 4.0 oz-wt 0.4 g 8.0 1.1 Good

Tofu, raw 4.0 oz-wt 0.4 g 8.0 1.9 Good
Winter squash 1 cup 0.3 g 7.6 1.9 Good

Tuna, yellowfin 4.0 oz-wt 0.3 g 7.3 0.9 -
Cod, baked 4.0 oz-wt 0.3 g 7.1 1.2 -

Kidney beans 1 cup 0.3 g 6.7 0.6 -