Omega 3 Foods & Recipes

Omega-3s are a family of essential, unsaturated fatty acids found readily in fish and seafood.

They are omega ‘3s’ because there is a double bond between the third and second carbons from the end of the fatty acid chain.

This article will help you find foods and recipes that contain the most Omega 3 using the tools and charts used by Optimisers in our Micros Masterclass.

Omega 3 Food Chart

The chart below shows a range of popular foods in terms of omega 3 (per calorie) vs omega 3 (per serve).  Foods towards the right will provide more omega 3 per calorie, while the foods towards the top will provide more omega 3 in the serving sizes we typically eat them. 

For more detail, you can dive into the interactive Tableau version of this chart (on your computer), check out the food lists of popular foods below or download longer lists in our Optimising Nutrition Community here.

Omega 3 Rich Foods (Per Serving)

Foods that contain more omega-3 fatty acids are typically oily fish.  The popular foods listed below will give you more omega-3 in the typical serving sizes we consume them in. 

  • salmon 
  • flax seeds
  • walnuts
  • salmon
  • mackerel
  • hemp seeds
  • mussels
  • tuna
  • chicken thigh (skin eaten)
  • chicken wing
  • beef steak
  • shrimp
  • pecans
  • chicken drumstick
  • gouda cheese
  • Camembert cheese
  • brie cheese
  • brussels sprouts

Omega 3 Rich Foods (Per Calorie)

Foods highest in Omega 3 per calorie are listed below.

  • flax seeds
  • chia pudding
  • hemp seeds
  • salmon 
  • walnuts
  • mackerel
  • arugula
  • lettuce
  • zucchini
  • dill pickles
  • kale
  • sour pickles
  • mussels
  • kimchi
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • bok choy
  • tuna
  • shrimp
  • raspberries

It’s important to remember that animal foods source, the bioavailable omega-3 fatty acids are DHA and EPA.  While plant foods may contain some omega-3 fatty acids, they are in their inactive alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) form.  Thus, they are not bioavailable.

Omega 3-Rich Recipes

The chart below shows our 1400+ NutriBooster recipes that we use in the Micros Masterclass plotted in terms of omega-3 vs protein %.  Recipes towards the right will help you boost your omega-3 with fewer calories.  

Omega-3 is one nutrient that doesn’t correlate with protein.  Leaner fish and meat contain less fat and hence less omega 3.  So, once you ensure you’re getting adequate protein, it might be worth reviewing the omega-3 in your diet.  

To dive into the detail, you can open the interactive Tableau version of this chart (on your computer).  Then, click on each recipe to learn more about it and view a picture of the recipe. 

A selection of NutriBooster recipes that contain the most Omega 3 is shown below. 

Why is Omega 3 Important? 

  • Heart Health: Omega-3 has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure, reducing triglycerides, and preventing the formation of blood clots.
  • Brain Health: Omega-3 plays a crucial role in brain development and function.  Studies have shown that it can improve cognitive performance, memory, and mood.
  • Inflammation: Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation in the body.  Chronic inflammation has been linked to a variety of health problems, including arthritis, cancer, and heart disease.
  • Eye Health: Omega-3 is important for maintaining healthy vision, and may help prevent age-related macular degeneration, which is a leading cause of blindness in older adults.
  • Pregnancy and Infant Development: Omega-3 is essential for the development of the brain and nervous system in infants and has been shown to reduce the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.

Roles of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in The Body

This family of essential fatty acids helps to:

Bioavailability of Omega-3s

The three most well-known omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).  

ALA is the inactive form of omega-3s found in plant oils, whereas DHA and EPA are the active forms of omega-3s and are predominantly found in animal foods.

The body can synthesise some EPA and DHA from ALA.  However, the conversion is relatively inefficient, similar to beta carotene and retinol (vitamin A).  Thus, consuming EPA and DHA from foods is extremely important.  Essentially, we are allowing the animal to convert omega-3s for us. 

Omega-3 is a nutrient that strict vegans and some vegetarians struggle to obtain in adequate quantities, in a bioavailable form, because there is no complete plant-based supplement.

It seems women can convert more ALA to DHA and EPA for use in the body.  Healthy men can convert 8% of ALA to EPA and 0-4% to DHA.  On the other hand, healthy women can convert up to 21% of ALA to EPA and 9% to DHA. 

Given these low conversion rates from plant-based ALA to the bioavailable DHA and EPA, most people will need to find a way to get DHA and EPA from fish-based sources to get enough bioavailable omega-3. 

Symptoms of Omega-3 Deficiency

Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can mask themselves as commonplace signs and symptoms.  You may need more omega-3s if you experience:

Satiety Response to Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Although omega-3s are essential, we only have a relatively weak satiety response to foods and meals that contain more of them, based on our satiety analysis

People consuming more omega-3-rich foods tend to consume around 5% fewer calories than those who consume less foods high in omega-3s. 

While omega-3s are essential and beneficial, it’s not just the omega-3s that provide the satiety benefit but also the other nutrients, particularly protein, that come with seafood.   

How Much Omega-3 Do You Need?

The US Dietary Guidelines set a minimum intake of omega-3s at 1.1 g per day for women and 1.6 g per day for men. 

Meanwhile, the Australian guidelines are much lower and only recommend 0.16 g per day of omega-3 fatty acids. 

For reference, the average Optimiser intake is well above this, with 3.1 g of omega-3 fatty acids per 2000 calories. 

Can You Overdose on Fish Oil and Omega-3s?

While it is difficult to overdose on omega-3 fatty acids from food alone, some mild side effects can occur if supplementing omega-3s.  

Although flaxseed oil is generally well-tolerated, high doses may cause diarrhea.  In addition, allergic and anaphylactic reactions have been reported with flaxseed and flaxseed oil ingestion.

No severe adverse reactions have been reported in those using fish oil or other EPA and DHA supplements.  However, it can cause a risk of nosebleeds and uncontrolled bleeding if consumed in high amounts because of its blood-thinning effect.  

A more common side effect of EPA and DHA supplements is a fishy aftertaste, depending on the product.

Optimal Omega 3 Intake 

Based on the robust satiety response data, we have set a stretch target of 6.0 mg/2000 calories for omega 3. 

Once you start to get the hang of nutrient density, you could ‘level up’ by working to achieve these stretch targets to optimise your nutrition.  For more details, see:

Omega-3:Omega-6 Ratio

Rather than worrying about your omega-3 fatty acid intake, it may be more critical to manage the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids because omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids compete to use the same conversion enzymes.

The satiety response chart below shows that people who consume foods with an omega 6:3 ratio of 0.5 consume 24% fewer calories than those with an omega 6:3 ratio of 3.0.  

In practice, a low omega 6:3 ratio is challenging to achieve.  The median omega 6:3 ratio from our Optimiser data is 5.1, and few people are consuming less than 3:1.   

Omega 6

While you need some omega-6 fatty acids, excessive amounts can cause inflammation and overwhelm the anti-inflammatory omega-3s in the body.  A diet with excess omega-6 and little omega-3 will increase inflammation.  

Conversely, a diet with a lot of omega-3 and sparse omega-6 will reduce inflammation.

As shown in the chart below, over the past hundred years, our intake of omega-6 oils like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated seed oils has been booming! 

Before the advent of agriculture, we would likely have obtained more omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6.  However, the typical omega-6:omega-3 ratio is between 12:1 to 25:1 today.

Even if you avoid bread and vegetable oils, the omega-6: omega-3 ratio in the food system is still high.  Foods from animals fed on grains, including farmed fatty fish, also contain elevated amounts of omega-6s.  

For more details, see Too Much Omega 6: Are You Getting Too Much of a ‘Good Thing’?

Synergistic Nutrients

Omega-3 fatty acids work synergistically with vitamins A, B3, B6, E, gamma-tocopherol, bioflavonoids, magnesium, methionine, quercetin, selenium, and zinc.   For this reason, we recommend consuming nutrient-dense foods to get a complete spectrum of nutrients.  This ensures that the body has the full array of vitamins and minerals that work in tandem to allow omega-3s to do their job.

How Can I Calculate if I am Getting Enough Omega 3? 

If you’re interested in determining if you’re getting the right amount of omega-3 in your diet, you can check your nutrient profile using our Free 7-Day Nutrient Clarity Challenge

After a week of tracking your current diet in Cronometer, Nutrient Optimiser will give you a prioritised list of foods and NutriBooster recipes that will help you plug your current nutritional gaps, including selenium. 

Nutrient Density Starter Pack

We’re eager to make the process of Nutritional Optimisation as simple as possible.  So, to help you increase your intake of all the essential nutrients, including omega 3, when you join our free Optimising Nutrition Community, you’ll get a starter pack that includes:

Nutrient Series



Fatty acids

Leave a Comment