Omega-3 fatty acids are critical during all stages of life, but they are especially important during pregnancy. In fact, studies suggest that increased consumption of omega-3 during pregnancy could reduce an infant’s risk of allergies. But omega-3 goes much further than that. You see, it only takes a little omega-3 to ensure you get your daily intake.
What pregnant women really have to be concerned about is ensuring they get enough EPA and DHA, which have been linked to improved visual and cognitive development in babies. The body creates these nutrients through the consumption of omega-3. As such, it is important to ensure you consume more than the necessary intake of omega-3 while pregnant. But with all the concerns over mercury, this can leave women uncertain of where to get it.
Thankfully, it is possible to get omega-3 through other sources. Walnuts are a prime example. The real trick, though, is to not cancel out your omega-3 with too much omega-6, which can actually block the conversion of omega-3 to DHA and EPA. So walnuts, which have more omega-6 than omega-3, are not an optimal source of omega-3 either. The following tips can help you balance out those omega-3s and omega-6s without consuming more fish.
Those that remember the chia pet commercials probably never thought about actually eating them . . . but these tiny seeds contain some serious nutrients! High in omega-3 without overdoing the omega-6, they are also great sources of iron, fiber, calcium, and manganese. They work great in smoothies, yogurt parfaits, oatmeal, smoothies, and even tasty drinks.
Flax seeds aren’t quite as new as chia seeds on the health food front, but one ounce contains almost six times your RDA of omega-3. Add them to oatmeal, breads, sauces, or even breading for your favorite meals. Just remember to grind them up first. The body does not absorb them in their whole seed state.
Nutty and slightly sweet in taste, hemp seeds work great as a salad topping and they go great in cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, or granola. If you’re super ambitious, you can even add them to a batch of almonds and make a hemp-almond milk blend for smoothies or cereal. They’re not quite as powerful as chia or flax on the omega-3, but they still have a good ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, which makes them a wonderful but tasty source of omega-3.
If you happen to love sushi or Asian food, you’ve probably had seaweed more times than you can count. If you’re new to this green food, then just the thought of eating it might put you off. You don’t have to eat it, though. You can add just a few flakes to your favorite stir fry, or you can take it in supplement form (just make sure you talk to your doctor). On the other hand, if you do love seaweed, you can actually buy seaweed snacks. They’re nothing more than dried seaweed and some seasoning, but they are absolutely delicious!
Winter squash may not seem like the most likely source of omega-3, but it actually contains about 338 milligrams per cooked cup. It also has a good ratio of omega-6 and is surprisingly easy to incorporate into meals. It can be pureed into sauces or soups, added in chunks in casseroles and chilis, and even be used in place of pasta for things like spaghetti.
Though far from the richest omega-3 food, beans are an easy and versatile option for pushing your intake up just a tad. Beans also happen to be high in other nutrients you need, such as fiber and protein. Try adding them to your favorite dishes or get really creative and make a couple of meatless dishes each week.
Cabbages and Leafy Greens
Cabbages (brussels, broccoli, napa, etc.) and leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, collard greens, and grape leaves all provide omega-3 with a low omega-6 ratio. They’re also super easy to incorporate into your daily diet. Eat salads or add them to soups, casseroles, and sauces. Throw a little on pizza or make sure you add a little spinach to your favorite sandwich.
Wild rice offers a wonderful change for those that are tired of the same-old rice dish. Wild rices also have a great balance of omega-3 and omega-6, and they offer a lot of other nutrients you need, including iron, protein, and fiber.
Not all fruits contain omega-3, but some do! Berries are the richest source (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc.), but you can also find it in mangoes and honeydew melon. Add these fruits to salads or make a smoothie. Toss in some chia seed and spinach or kale to increase the overall omega-3 content.
Herbs and Spices
Most herbs and spices have a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6, but you’re certainly not going to get your RDA with them alone. Still, they offer a great way to up your intake just a little more. Cloves, tarragon, and marjoram have the highest content.