The Best Sources of Omega 3 – Compare Omega 3-Rich Fish

best source of omega 3

If you’re looking to get the biggest Omega 3 health boost you can from your diet, you ought to be aware of the richest sources of these fatty acids. However, before we get into the best sources of Omega 3, remember that this term encompasses three types of long-chain fatty acids, all considered “Omega 3” fats: 1) alpha-linolenic acid (“ALA”), docosahexaenoic acid (“DHA”), and eicosapentaenoic acid (“EPA”).

While some may claim that the type of Omega 3 is immaterial, they’d be wrong. As we discuss, the distinction matters.

Plant vs. Animal Omega 3 Fats – i.e., ALA vs. EPA and DHA

Understandably there are many people who are, for one reason or another, averse to eating animal products of any kind, and prefer to get their Omega 3 through such vegetable sources, such as several types of leafy greens (e.g., kale and spinach) or superfood seeds, like flax or chia.

Sounds good…but there’s a wrinkle.

It’s true that both of these seeds provide a rich source of Omega 3; however, they, like all other plant sources, only provide ALA, not EPA or DHA. And while it’s also true that ALA is broken down by the body into EPA and DHA, the reality is that this conversion process is slow and extremely inefficient. In fact, once clinical study put the ultimate yield of EPA and DHA from ALA in the neighborhood of 6% and 3.8%, respectively. Furthermore, the study suggested that conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA was hampered even further, by roughly 45%, for those with a diet relatively rich in Omega 6 (which is typical for most people).

In other words, if you want the myriad of benefits associated with EPA and DHA, don’t look for Omega 3 in plant sources!

Compare Fish Sources of EPA & DHA: Use Our Comparison Matrix!

The most bang for your buck in terms of getting your EPA/DHA fix is to regularly consume fatty fish. It is generally recommended that adults (non-pregnant) consume a minimum of two (3 oz) servings of omega-3-rich fish each week.

To help you choose your fish wisely, we’ve prepared the following chart of fish species and their respective EPA and DHA content to help boost your Omega 3 levels in short order. Note that it is generally advised to avoid consuming swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark given their relatively high risk for mercury contamination.

This chart is sortable – just click on the column headings to sort by variable!

Lake trout0.571.25
Mackerel (Atlantic)0.101.81
Salmon (Atlantic, farmed)0.681.36
Herring (Pacific)1.130.79
Herring (Atlantic)0.791.02
Tuna (bluefin)0.451.36
Sturgeon (Altlantic)1.130.57
Salmon (chinook)0.910.68
Anchovy (European)0.571.02
Tuna (albacore)0.341.13
Salmon (coho, farmed)0.450.91
Bluefhish (Atlantic)0.450.91
Salmon (sockeye)0.570.79
Salmon (pink)0.450.68
Sardines (canned)0.450.68
Salmon (chum)0.450.68
Halibut (Greenland)0.570.45
Bass (striped)0.230.68
Trout (rainbow)0.110.45
Halibut (Pacific)0.110.34
Catfish (channel)0.110.23
Cod (Atlantic)0.230.34
Grouper (red)0.000.23
*EPA/DHA reported in grams per 4 ounce serving of edible fish.

Table data source:

Remember When Enjoying Omega Rich Fish…

Preparing fish is obviously a matter of taste; however, it’s a good idea to opt for grilled or baked fish, rather than fried. In addition, take care not to overdo it with the condiments – you don’t want to nullify the benefits of Omega 3 rich fish by consuming a ton of saturated fats!

Featured (top) image credit: “Salmon on Ice” by Sharon Mollerus under CC BY 2.0