Omega-3. That’s the one with the fish oil, right? Yes, but that’s only part of the truth. There are several omega-3 fatty acids and you can get them from different foods. The three most important representatives are:
- the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- and the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
The consumer advice centre would therefore also like to point out that food packaging in particular is often only labelled “with Omega 3”. Since it is a food product, the exact dose and especially the exact fatty acid does not need to be labelled.
Especially foods enriched with omega-3 fatty acids are therefore fallacies. You do not need each of the fatty acids in the same amount.
That’s why we need to keep our eyes open when it comes to food. Here you will find a list of foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids. We will discuss which fatty acids these are and whether they are sufficient for the requirements. As a small bonus there are also recipe suggestions.
Omega-3 fatty acids in food. It doesn’t always have to be fish: The Omega-3 food table
The two fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are mainly available to us through fish.
This is because fatty sea fish in particular eat the omega-3-containing microalgae Ulkenia, Pavlova and Schizochytrium. Only a few other plant species contain these fatty acids in very small amounts.
It is therefore mainly fish that provide DHA and EPA.
With DHA, according to the current scientifically proven figures, you need 2 to 3 g a day for normal blood pressure and 250 mg a day for normal brain function, vision and heart function.
Wait a minute! What about alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)? Do you get that from fish?
That’s actually a good thought process. Although the body can convert DHAand EPA from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), it is essential and can only be supplied through food intake or supplements.
Anyone who now concludes that simply large quantities of ALA would suffice is unfortunately on the wrong track.
This is because the conversion rate is extremely low, as only 5-10% of ALA is converted into EPA – the conversion into DHA is half as efficient. Some studies even speak of significantly lower conversion rates. In 2016, scientists therefore pointed out that ALA is not a suitable substitute for DHA.
Nevertheless we need ALA: The German Society for Nutrition therefore recommends 1.3 g ALA per day. So if you need it, you can get ALA from the following vegetable oils:
|vegetable oil||DHA share in percent|
An unusual animal source is horse fat (30%).
According to the consumer advice centre, you should therefore choose the different oils for your salad according to taste.
The walnut oil also suggests that walnuts themselves also contain much of the alpha-linolenic acid. Their value is after all also 7.5 %. Compared to the highly concentrated oils, however, there is still a significant difference.
These fish are your omega-3 food for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
|Sea fish||ALA share in percent|
|Oil from the Iberian dragonhead||70|
Due to the fat content and the required DHA fatty acid, the consumer advice centre recommends a portion of high-fat sea fish at least once or twice a week.
And for the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)? You need these omega-3 foods.
With EPA, it’s not so easy to say. For it is still very controversial to what extent EPA is absolutely necessary for the body and actually develops the anti-inflammatory effect.
The German Society for Nutrition also confirms that you take in enough DHA from high-fat sea fish to ensure that you also take in enough EPA.
Nevertheless a short list of fish with the highest EPA content:
|Sea fish||EPA share in percent|
So this is good news: As far as we know, you don’t need to worry about having your own EPA.
However, in recent years there has been increasing research into whether EPA has a positive effect on depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. A meta-analysis of 28 studies already showed in 2009 that EPA works significantly better than DHA.
You eat vegan? These foods with omega-3 fatty acids help you.
In a vegan diet, in addition to the conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA, you must rely mainly on microalgae oils as dietary supplements.
Especially since ALA is considered unsuitable as a substitute for EPA and DHA, vegans and vegans cannot avoid taking omega-3 fatty acids via supplements containing microalgae.
Recipe suggestions for your Omega-3 cuisine
So how do you incorporate all these oils and fish into your recipes?
Here are a few simple ideas:
- Your salad dressing simply contains linseed oil in the future.
- If you feel like a snack, it’s walnuts.
- In the morning, mix some linseed, chia seed or chia oil into the muesli, yoghurt or fruit salad.
But now to the real recipe suggestions. In order to create a real holiday feeling, it is time to try the international cuisine.
Vienna herring feast
On to Vienna! For this you need for four servings:
- 300 g herring
- 300 g waxy potatoes
- 3 carrots
- 1 small apple
- 1 small egg
- 100 g peas
- 1 small onion
- 200 ml oil(e.g. linseed oil, walnut oil or canola oil for your pinch of ALA)
- 1 tsp mustard
- 3 gherkins
- 300 g yoghurt
Boil the potatoes in a pot of salted water for 20-25 minutes or until they are soft.
Meanwhile you wash the herrings (fresh fish is always preferable here, but of course it is not always possible) and cut them into bite-sized pieces.
Then cut the potatoes into slices and peel the carrots and cut them into small cubes – all bite-sized.
Peel and chop the onion. Add the pitted and likewise cut apple and the chopped gherkins.
Now you put everything into a bowl.
It comes with homemade mayonnaise. Beat the egg with a mixer and gradually add the oil, stirring constantly. Then season the mayonnaise with salt, pepper and mustard. Finally mix it with the yoghurt and put it into the bowl as well.
Everything is ready and the feast is perfect.
Mediterranean pollack fillet from the oven
The feeling like at the sea – very simple. You need for four servings:
- 1 cup of cream
- 2 onions
- 2 courgettes
- 8 saithe fillets
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons thyme
- 1 shot of white wine
Preheat the oven to 220°C. If you take frozen fillets, let them thaw first and then marinate them with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Peel the zucchinis and onions and cut them into slices or rings. Steam the vegetables in the hot butter for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, grease the baking dish with butter and then place the fish fillets in it. Spread the vegetables all around and pour whipped cream and white wine over them. Make sure you only get the vegetables and not the fish fillets.
Put the whole thing in the oven for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the fresh thyme on top shortly before serving.
The sea will greet you at dinner.
Are omega-3 fatty acids enough through food? Theoretically yes, practically no.
Especially in the European area, where fish is not part of the regular diet and also some of the mentioned oils are not common, the situation looks rather bad. We take up too little EPA and DHA.
This is why some pharmacies and the German Society for Nutrition now also recommend regular supplementation with food supplements – even with a balanced diet.
Whether vegan or a meat-based diet: Even the omega-3 fatty acid DHA known as “fish oil” is available as vegan algae oil.
The food can indeed cover much of the demand. In the European area, however, this is generally not the case.