4 Alternative Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Step aside, salmon—these lesser-known foods and supplements are great sources of the essential fatty acids, which a new study suggests help prevent brain deterioration.

A new study suggests that a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in our diets may cause our brains to age faster, impeding our ability to remember things.

The study, published in Neurology, found that people who had low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential nutrients that the body does not produce, scored lower on tests of visual memory and executive function. They also had trouble with problem solving, multitasking, and abstract thinking.

The takeaway is clear: Eat more omega-3-heavy foods. It’s common knowledge that oily fish such as salmon and sardines are some of the best sources of these nutrients, but factors like allergies and plain old taste preferences mean they aren’t an option for everyone. We rounded up some of the lesser-known foods and supplements that can serve as alternate sources of omega-3s.

Mung Beans

Here in the US, people are probably more familiar with eating the sprouts of mung beans in sandwiches and salads, but the beans themselves contains a wealth of fatty acids. One cup contains 603 milligrams of omega-3s. The beans have a sweet flavor, cook quickly, and are easy to digest.
Also try: Kidney and pinto beans

Krill Oil

Krill oil has recently become a popular source of omega-3s, but chances are you may not even know what krill are. They’re small ocean creatures related to shrimp, crabs, and lobsters. Krill oil is easily absorbed, making it a good substitute for fish oil, which isn’t always easily digested (think fishy burps or aftertaste). Of course, if you’re allergic to seafood, stay away from this stuff.

Flax Seeds

They’re popular among vegetarians as an alternative to fish, thanks to their extremely high omega-3 content—just two tablespoons contain double the recommended daily value. While you can eat the seeds raw, it may be best to grind them to enhance nutrient absorption.
Also try: Chia seeds and walnuts 


Winter Squash

While not as high in omega-3s as walnuts, winter squash is still a good source of the fatty acids. One cup of baked squash contains about 340 milligrams of omega-3s and won’t blow your total fat intake. There are a wide variety of winter squashes, but butternut, pumpkin, or acorn squash are easy to find at any grocery store. 

Photographs courtesy of Flickr users HealthAliciousNess, vixyao, and adactio.