When it comes to omega-3, most of us probably think of the fish oil capsules we have sitting in the back of the kitchen cupboard from 2013, but new research shows we should probably be taking said capsules, as nearly all of us aren’t getting anywhere near as much of the essential vitamin as we should be.
The body can’t produce adequate levels of omega-3 on its own, and it’s hard to tell when you have a deficiency, as the symptoms – fatigue, trouble sleeping, and problems with hair, skin and nails – can be similar to having low iron or calcium levels.
Bart Ratus from supplement company Osavi, sheds some light on why it can be difficult to reach optimum levels of omega-3 without supplementation or planning your meals accordingly: “The main source of EPA and DHA are fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring and seafood, as well as linseed oil, linseed, algae and walnuts.
“These foods can be expensive for customers to buy if they are to consume the large recommended weekly quantity and it can be difficult to source high-quality fish and seafood in areas which are not close to the sea.
“For people who are fussy eaters or dislike fish or seafood, it can be difficult to consume two portions of fish per week as it is a large quantity, particularly for children.
“Dietary restrictions such as veganism and allergies such as fish allergies, seafood allergies and nut allergies, which are all common, can also prevent people from reaching optimum levels of EPA and DHA through their diet.”
How much omega-3 should I get a day?
“Nutrition standards recommend to adults a minimum amount of omega-3 fatty acids at the level of 250 mg a day, preferably in the form of two portions of fish a week, including at least one oily fish,” explains Ratus.
“Many people aren’t aware of the benefits of consuming omega-3s, and so don’t consider it necessary to incorporate omega-3s into their diet or supplement them. There are two important active compounds in omega-3s: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and everyone needs both.”
EPA has anti-inflammatory effects on the body, while DHA is known for boosting brain health. Both are omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, and bluefish. See our list below for the best fish to eat to boost your omega-3 levels.
What to look for in a supplement
“The most important indicator to determine the quality of fish oil is the Totox index, which is a number indicating the total degree of oxidation of the oil,” says Ratus. “Osavi’s Daily Omega Oil and Cod Liver Oil both have a very low Totox index, which demonstrates their quality, as the lower the Totox index value, the higher the quality of the oil.”
As well as the Totox index, you should look for a supplement that offers at least 250-500mg a day, according to health experts.
How to get omega-3 through your diet
Two portions (140g) of any of the below fish are great options for boosting your levels.
- Herring (Kippers)
And if you’re a veggie or vegan, you can’t try:
- Some oils including flax (also known as flaxseed oil and linseed oil), walnut, soya or pumpkin
- Green leafy vegetables
- Nuts, especially walnuts
- Seeds, especially flax (linseed), pumpkin, chia and hemp seeds