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A simple overview of omega-3

It has been well established that diets rich in omega-3 are beneficial to health and can be preventative for disease. Consumers, increasingly more informed and interested in healthy foods, are now actively seeking out omega-3s to include in their diets. However, what exactly are omega-3s, what kinds of foods are they in and how much do we reallyneed? It is easy for consumers to get lost in advertising and promotion efforts, so below find a quick lesson on the beneficial omega-3.

What are omega-3s?

Omega-3s are a group of long-chain fatty acids. Though they are necessary for our health, we cannot produce them ourselves. Rather, we have to get them through food.

There are a variety of omega-3 fatty acids and not are equal. The most well known are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

Where are omega-3s hidden?

In nut and plant sources, omega-3s are available in walnuts, soybeans, flaxseeds, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Higher levels of these fatty acids are available from fish and seafood.

In its highest dose, omega-3 is available in fish such as sardines, tuna, salmon and herring. It is also in less common seafood, such as eels, krill and algae.

How much omega-3 do we need?

A daily intake of 250 mg EPA+DHA per adult gives optimal protection against diseases. For example, research has shown that this amount is protective against coronary heart disease. For children, research suggests that 150 mg per day is enough for optimal brain development.

With the relatively recent increased focus and knowledge on the beneficial properties of these fatty acids, demand for omega-3 supplements has sky rocketed. However, supplements may not be the optimal way to obtain your omega-3 intake as supplements can provide much more than the recommended daily intake. Several recent studies also suggest that the regular intake of omega-3 supplements has limited benefits compared with the benefits of regular fish consumption.

Which fish should you eat to get your intake of this valuable nutrient?

The table below shows the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in several seafood species. 

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