Omega-3 fatty acids have gotten a lot of media attention in recent years. At the mention of omega-3, most people automatically think of fish. While it is indeed true that fish and fish oil supplements are a prime source of omega-3, fortunately for the fishing industry, as well as the health of our oceans, there are plant-based options from which to choose. Please read on for specific suggestions to get you on the road to better health and well-being.
1. Omega-3 Rich Leafy Greens
While it may sound contradictory to think of greens as a source of fatty acids, it is important to realize that most foods we eat contain more omega-6 than omega-3. Ideally, we need a pretty even balance of these two nutrients. Therefore, foods that contain a higher level of omega-3 are an important part of a healthy diet. Green vegetables such as romaine lettuce, spinach, and arugula not only supply omega-3, but, eaten raw, they also provide the roughage we need for digestive health.
2. Omega-3 Rich Cabbages
Cabbage is another valuable source of omega-3. Within the cabbage family, cauliflower provides the most. Other nutrient-rich options include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy. Plain garden-variety (pun intended) cabbage is not quite as rich in omega-3, but still a valuable source to be considered. If you are a fan of coleslaw, all the more reason to indulge yourself.
3. Omega-3 Rich Beans
While beans in and of themselves are not particularly rich in omega-3, as in the case of leafy greens the proportionate amount of omega-3 to omega-6 makes beans a highly beneficial addition to a balanced diet. Mung beans are by far the best choice, providing 15 time more omega-3 than omega-6. Other smart choices are kidney beans, navy beans, and soybeans. In addition to the advantage of high levels of omega-3, beans are rich in fiber and protein making them a fantastic addition to a wholesome diet, especially if you happen to be a vegetarian.
4. Nuts and Seeds
The outstanding choice for omega-3 consumption in the seed family is flaxseeds, which also are a good source of fiber. Chia seeds and hemps seeds are likewise great choices. Chia seeds also provide calcium, and hemp seeds provide protein. Flax seeds can be added to almost any dish. Chia and hemp can be incorporated into many recipes. Walnuts and pecans are also good choices in that they contain a high level of omega-3, but they contain far more omega-6. These are not only good for your overall health, they can also promote good oral health. According to a dental specialist from SouthTempleDental.com, consuming omega-3 fatty acids found in olive oil and nuts can reduce the inflammation that leads to gum disease.
5. Winter Squash
Acorn and butternut squash are great sources of omega-3. They are delicious simply roasted with butter and salt. Pumpkins are another delectable source. There are a plethora of ways to incorporate pumpkin into recipes. Pumpkin pie, anyone?
Omega-3 is not a single nutrient. Rather it is a “family” of fatty acids. The simplest structure of omega-3 is known as ALA, which is an abbreviation of alpha-linolenic acid. The most critical thing to know about ALA is that our bodies cannot manufacture it. If we do not get it from external sources, we simply do not have enough of it. Since it is critical for heart health, it is well worth ensuring that we include foods in our diet that are rich in omega-3.
While this article has focused on plant-based foods, fish is an excellent choice for a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It would seem that white fish would be the best choice, but in fact oily fish is much richer in omega-3. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that the health benefits of eating oily fish far outweigh any risk of pollutants. Don’t like fish? In addition to the above suggestions, grape seed oil, vegetable oil, and linseed oil are also good sources of omega-3.