How to Choose Fish High in Omega 3

Two Parts:Selecting the Right FishMaximizing Your Omega-3 Intake

Many people have heard that they should eat more fish as part of a healthy diet, but may be less clear as to why. One of the main benefits of eating fish, especially certain varieties, is the amount of omega-3 they contain. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to brain development and overall health, so knowing how to maximize your intake through the proper selection of fish is an important component of improving your diet. This article provides information on why you should take in more omega-3, how to choose high omega-3 fish, and how to get the most out of your fish choices.

Part 1
Selecting the Right Fish

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    Know your omega-3 needs. In basic terms, omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that is essential to numerous functions throughout the body. It aids in brain development and functioning, and has overall anti-inflammatory properties. It helps lubricate your arteries to inhibit plaque buildup and can help treat or prevent conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and arrhythmia.[1][2]
    • The current recommended intake of omega-3 for women is 1.1 g / day, and 1.6 g / day for men. However, increased levels of 2-3 g / day seem to have additional benefits.[3]
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    Choose cold-water, fatty fish. The average amount of omega-3 in a variety of fish depends upon its physiology, diet, and environment. Fish that consume algae (or other fish that eat it), which is high in DHA (a component of omega-3), and store it in fat needed as insulation from cold waters, are the best storehouses of omega-3.[4]
    • All omega-3 amounts listed below come from this chart and refer to a standard 6 ounce serving. See the full chart for more examples.
    • wild salmon -- 3.2 g
    • anchovies -- 3.4 g
    • Pacific sardines -- 2.8 g
    • Pacific mackerel -- 3.2 g
    • Atlantic mackerel -- 2.0 g
    • whitefish -- 3.0 g
    • bluefin tuna -- 2.8 g
    • rainbow trout -- 2.0 g
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    Mix in other seafood as well. You should strive to eat 8-12 oz of high omega-3 fish a week. Adding in a variety of seafood will contribute additional omega-3 and help keep your dining experience from becoming too predictable and dull. Depending on calorie needs, one serving can be 4-6 oz.[5]
    • From the same chart as above:
    • canned albacore tuna in water -- 1.4 g
    • Blue crab or Alaskan King crab -- 0.8 g
    • halibut -- 1.0 g
    • shrimp or scallops -- 0.6 g
    • ocean perch or cod -- 0.4 g
    • lobster -- 0.2 g
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    Know how your fish is raised and caught. You are what you eat, and so are fish. (They also “are” where they live.) Fish that grow in a cleaner, healthier environment and are caught and prepared with care provide omega-3 without bringing along as many undesirable elements like toxins. Many people also think they taste better, which makes eating more easier.
    • If possible, buy your fish from someone who can tell you about where it came from and when and how it was caught. It doesn’t have to be a small, specialty shop; that person behind the mega-supermarket counter should be able to answer some of your questions.
    • Even if you aren’t as concerned about sustainable fishing practices as you probably should be, fish caught in this manner are more likely to have been examined individually to determine their quality.
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    Limit your ingestion of mercury and other toxins. One of the major reasons to know where your fish comes from is to arm yourself with better information about the potential for higher toxin levels. PCB, for instance, an industrial pollutant believed to be a carcinogen, is found in higher levels in farmed salmon than in wild-caught.[6]
    • Mercury is known to hamper brain development in fetuses and children and impact brain function in adults. Pregnant women in particular are advised to limit their intake of fish varieties with higher mercury levels, usually to 12 ounces (2-3 servings) per week -- and even less for highest-level fish like shark and swordfish.
    • Large predatory fish, those that eat large amounts of other fish that themselves consume smaller amounts of mercury, are the biggest culprits. Therefore, even though they are good sources of omega-3, you should be cautious about overconsumption of varieties like shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, and bluefin tuna. Canned albacore tuna is in the medium range of mercury amounts, while canned light tuna has low amounts.[7]

Part 2
Maximizing Your Omega-3 Intake

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    Bring your omega-3 and omega-6 into better balance. Omega-6 is another polyunsaturated fatty acid, found in vegetable oils like corn, cottonseed, soybean, safflower, and sunflower. Studies indicate that reducing consumption of omega-6 while increasing omega-3 produces health benefits, however.[8]
    • A 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 would be excellent, but even a 2-4:1 ratio is better than the average American’s diet.
    • To improve your ratio, eat more fish and less fried fast foods, potato chips, cookies, donuts, etc.
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    Prepare fish wisely. Choosing the right kind of fish is the first step. Preparing it in a way that preserves omega-3 amounts without introducing excessive unhealthy fats or sodium (while also tasting delicious) is an important next step for regular fish consumption.
    • Bake or grill your fish instead of frying, which adds undesirable omega-6 to your omega-3.
    • To reduce amounts of mercury and other toxins, remove the skin and outer fat of your fish, where such toxins tend to reside in higher concentrations.[9]
    • If you intend to drain your canned tuna, choose tuna packed in water. Omega-3 adheres to oils far better than water, so less of it will go down the drain when you empty the can.[10]
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    Sneak more fish into your diet. Maybe you’ve never been much of a fish person, or maybe you can’t get your kids to eat any fish that isn’t in the form of a frozen, fried stick. Get creative and you can slip more omega-3-rich fish into your dinner menu.
    • Try replacing meat in dishes with fish. Grilled kebabs, for instance, can easily be switched from beef or chicken to salmon or tuna.
    • Many people recoil at the thought of anchovies, but they are very high in omega-3 and blend easily into many dishes. Finely chopped anchovies practically melt into sauces, for instance, and impart a savory and umami -- not fishy -- flavor. Try adding them to your pasta sauce next time.[11]
    • Algae isn’t fish, but it is where much of the omega-3 in fish comes from. Edible algae like seaweed or kelp are high in DHA, one of the component parts of omega-3. Cut out the middleman every once in a while, or better yet, pair a high omega-3 fish with its favorite food on your plate.[12]
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    Eat other high omega-3 foods as well. Fish-based omega-3 contains DHA and EPA, both of which have demonstrated health benefits. The benefits of non-fish based omega-3 foods, which contain ALA, are less definitive but strongly indicative. 2.2-4.4 g of ALA is recommended for a 2,000 kcal/day diet.[13]
    • Good sources of ALA-based omega-3 include soybeans, canola, walnuts, flaxseeds, and ALA-enriched foods like eggs and occasionally peanut butter (among other foods).[14]
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    Consider omega-3 supplements. If you have difficulty consuming enough omega-3 rich foods, have medical conditions that would benefit from higher omega-3 consumption, are pregnant, or are just interested in increasing your omega-3, talk to your healthcare professional about supplements.
    • Omega-3 supplements most often come in the form of fish oil caplets. Some people complain that these have an unpleasant, fishy aftertaste, but there are a wide variety of fish oil options (with a wide variation in quality control), so do some research and find one that works for you.[15]
    • Most people have to worry about too little omega-3, but overconsumption of omega-3 can be a problem for some, as it can cause bleeding problems. Do not consume an average of more than 3 grams per day without consulting your physician.[16]


  • If you choose to complement your diet with a fish oil supplement, you should do so only under the supervision of your health care professional. Excessive intake of omega-3 supplements has been associated with an increased risk for excessive bleeding in some individuals.

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