You hear a lot about the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids, but which foods have them, and how do they benefit your healthy low-carb or keto diet? In this post, I share the top omega 3 foods that are low in carbs and how they support your health as you lose weight.
List of Low-Carb Foods High In Omega 3s
- Grass-fed Meat
- Grass-fed Dairy
- Eggs enriched with Omega 3s
- Chia Seeds
- Hemp Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Flaxseed Oil
Top Omega 3 Foods for Your Low Carb Diet [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- A list of Omega 3 low carb foods.
- How Omega 3s support health and weight loss.
- The ways in which Omega 3s affect various parts of the body.
3 Important Omega 3s
There are several types of omega 3 fatty acids, but the most important for your body and health are DHA, EPA, and ALA. We mainly get DHA and EPA from animal-based foods, and ALA comes mostly from plant foods.
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
Low Carb Foods High in DHA and EPA
The top foods that supply our bodies with DHA and EPA are found in seafood, which includes fatty fish and shellfish. The great thing is that these foods fit seamlessly into a healthy low carb diet.
Some examples of low carb foods to include are low-mercury, fatty fish:
Shellfish choices include:
Additional sources of DHA & EPA:
- high-quality meat (i.e. grass-fed)
- high-quality dairy (i.e. grass-fed)
- eggs that are enriched with omega 3s (check the label)
Because fish is such a good source of omega 3s, you see a lot of fish oil omega 3 supplements. In fact, if you are currently taking a fish oil supplement, you should see DHA and EPA listed on the label.
Low Carb Foods High in ALA
The top foods that supply our bodies with ALA are nuts, with walnuts being particularly high. We also get it from seeds like chia, hemp, and flax seeds or flaxseed oil.
Seaweed and algae are plant-based sources of EPA and DHA, and you can get an algae oil supplement if you prefer a plant-based diet.
Dark leafy greens, like spinach and kale are additional sources of ALA.
Again, these foods all naturally low in carbs, so a well-formulated low-carb diet is a great way to supply your body with omega 3s.
Vegetable oils, like soybean oil, are also high in ALA but not recommended as I have mentioned in my post on the best cooking oils for low-carb or keto diets.
Differences between DHA, EPA, and ALA
Here’s where it gets a little tricky. DHA and EPA are the types of Omega 3s that your body thrives on.
For your body to fully benefit from ALA, it needs to be converted to the active forms inside your body.
If you are getting your omega 3s from plant foods only, your body needs to go through a conversion step before you reap the benefits. That doesn’t sound like a major barrier. Unfortunately, many of us are very bad at making this conversion (1) (2).
Some of the ALA that we take in gets used up as energy like other dietary fats, and we don’t get to reap the benefits, which are many.
Omega 3 Benefits
Omega 3s are called essential fatty acids. When you put the word “essential” before a nutrient, it indicates that your body can’t make it, but it is essential to your health and, therefore, must be obtained from your diet.
While this is a bit of an oversimplification, to remember the benefits of DHA think of the “H” as standing for your head and your heart. Studies show that DHA is beneficial for things in your head, particularly the health of your eyes and your brain.
The brain health connection spans a lifetime. These fats are vital for the growth and development of an infant’s brain. There is also evidence pointing to the fact that adequate DHA leads to improved learning and decreased symptoms of ADHD in children (5).
Also, according to Harvard’s School of Public Health, omega 3s have been shown to reduce arrhythmias, which are problems with the rate or rhythm of your heartbeat.
The Harvard website shared the results of a large study, which showed that “heart attack survivors who took a 1-gram capsule of omega-3 fats every day for three years were less likely to have a repeat heart attack, stroke, or die of sudden death than those who took a placebo.”
Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
DHA along with EPA have also been the focus of research looking for the potential treatment of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, which is considered to be the most common liver disease in western societies (15).
Symptoms are typically hidden, so most people have no idea that they have a fatty liver. Yet, it is estimated to be present in up to 85% of the obese populations. Additionally, it is closely linked to insulin resistance, which is a common barrier to weight loss (16).
Supplementing with omega 3s has been shown to be beneficial for the reduction of fat in the liver and the inflammation of the liver that is associated with this condition (17).
This is a very important benefit because chronic inflammation affects many of us due to poor diet and lifestyle habits and has been strongly linked to your risk of heart disease and stroke and many other major disorders as well as aches and pains.
If there is one thing that you want to improve on your bloodwork, inflammation is that thing, and you can find out your level by asking your doctor to run a high-sensitivity C reactive protein (hs-CRP) test the next time you go in for bloodwork.
The bottom line is that a well-formulated low-carb diet is a perfect foundation for getting omega 3s into your body. By having a daily salad that includes dark leafy greens and walnuts, and having seafood with dinner a couple of days a week, you naturally boost your intake of omega 3s.
A salad a day is one of my four daily habits for weight loss. If you’d like to learn the other three, you can download a copy of my 4 daily habits. Have a wonderful week!
(1) Gerster, Helga. “Can adults adequately convert a-linolenic acid (18: 3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20: 5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22: 6n-3)?.” International journal for vitamin and nutrition research 68.3 (1998): 159-173.
(2) Plourde, Mélanie, and Stephen C. Cunnane. “Extremely limited synthesis of long chain polyunsaturates in adults: implications for their dietary essentiality and use as supplements.” Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism 32.4 (2007): 619-634.
(3) Wu, Juan, et al. “Dietary intakes of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid and risk of age-related macular degeneration.” Ophthalmology 124.5 (2017): 634-643.
(4) Hodge, William, et al. “Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on eye health.” Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet]. Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK), 2005.
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(9) Shidfar, F., et al. “Effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplements on serum lipids, apolipoproteins and malondialdehyde in type 2 diabetes patients.” EMHJ-Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal, 14 (2), 305-313, 2008 (2008).
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(11) Ueshima, Hirotsugu, et al. “Food omega-3 fatty acid intake of individuals (total, linolenic acid, long-chain) and their blood pressure: INTERMAP study.” Hypertension 50.2 (2007): 313-319.
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(13) Cabo, Jorge, Rodrigo Alonso, and Pedro Mata. “Omega-3 fatty acids and blood pressure.” British Journal of Nutrition 107.S2 (2012): S195-S200.
(14) Hu, Yang, Frank B. Hu, and JoAnn E. Manson. “Marine omega‐3 supplementation and cardiovascular disease: An updated meta‐analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials involving 127 477 participants.” Journal of the American Heart Association 8.19 (2019): e013543.
(15) Ahmed, Monjur. “Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in 2015.” World journal of hepatology 7.11 (2015): 1450.
(16) Parker, Helen M., et al. “Omega-3 supplementation and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Journal of hepatology 56.4 (2012): 944-951.
(17) Bouzianas, Dimitrios G., Stella D. Bouziana, and Apostolos I. Hatzitolios. “Potential treatment of human nonalcoholic fatty liver disease with long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.” Nutrition reviews 71.11 (2013): 753-771.
(18) Rizza, Stefano, et al. “Fish oil supplementation improves endothelial function in normoglycemic offspring of patients with type 2 diabetes.” Atherosclerosis 206.2 (2009): 569-574.
(19) Veselinovic, Mirjana, et al. “Clinical benefits of n-3 PUFA and ɤ-linolenic acid in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.” Nutrients 9.4 (2017): 325.
(20) Ciubotaru, Irina, Ye-Sun Lee, and Rosemary C. Wander. “Dietary fish oil decreases C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and triacylglycerol to HDL-cholesterol ratio in postmenopausal women on HRT.” The Journal of nutritional biochemistry 14.9 (2003): 513-521.
About the Author:
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.