Omega 3 essential fatty acids are truly powerful. Millions now sprinkle chia seeds on their morning porridge thanks to their famed healthful effects and they’ve made all kinds of oily fish fashionable, even boring old trout. But what exactly do they do? And are all Omega 3 sources really equal?

Firstly, what’s not hype: they call them essential fatty acids because they really are vital to human health. There are three forms of Omega 3s, which (for an easy life) we’ll simply call EPA, DHA and ALA. Once in the body, EPA and DHA are converted into prostaglandins which help regulate the activity in every cell in the body. DHA is also a structural component of the brain, retina and skin; studies show that they contribute to brain, heart and eye health. We can’t live without Omega 3s.

So, what then are the best sources of Omega 3s? Oily fish are top of the list. Think salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, anchovies or sardines. Canned oily fish have significantly less Omega 3s but they can still contribute towards a daily total. Oily fish and seafood contain the full suite of EPA, DHA and ALA.

omega 3 sources in food

What, then, can vegetarians and vegans eat? This is where things get slightly more complicated. Flaxseeds, walnuts and that Instagram megastar, chia seeds, are all rich sources of the ALA form of Omega 3. And the human body can make both DHA and EPA from ALA (jazz hands!) – but – the body is simply not very efficient at this function, and the conversion rate can be low, especially if we are older (sad face). So, if you are a young, healthy and very committed vegan, you may be fine if you eat lots and lots of seeds. Otherwise, you may need to look elsewhere, such as a vegan-friendly Omega 3 oil.

Dairy from grass fed cattle, chicken, turkey and eggs all naturally contain very small amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids. Choose only free-range stock that has been fed a good diet, as intensively farming methods mean less Omega 3s. The supermarkets also stock specially fortified eggs, dairy, orange juice and other products. None of these equal oily fish and seafood, but again, they can contribute towards a daily total.

Omega 3s are too important to miss out on so if your diet is in any way compromised or if you are older, stressed, busy or simply feeling a bit under the weather, consider a good quality supplement. Cleanmarine for Women is made using sustainable krill from the pristine, icy waters of the Antarctic. Krill are tiny shrimp-like creatures. Remarkably, the Omega 3 fatty acids are more bioavailable to humans than those in oily fish and they also come in the perfect 3:6:9 fatty acid ratio. And Cleanmarine for Women doesn’t have an aftertaste like you get from fish-oil! Win-win.

Alternatively, how about pan-fried trout swimming in butter, garlic and lemon? Hmm.