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Non-Fishy Omega 3 Alternatives to Fish?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created May 19, 2012 at 8:44 PM

Was wondering what other good real food sources of Omega 3 oils were out there before turning to supplements? I know fresh fish (especially oily fish) are the best source (and then the supplements like fish oil / krill oil pills, and cod liver oil, with the plant based sources running a distant last (being ALA instead do EPA/DHA)). But I have never been a big seafood fan (the "fishiness" causes me the most problem), and managing even a couple meals a week of fish (much less the four meals of salmon that PHD recommends) seriously pushes my tolerances (and I certainly can't afford four meals a week of sashimi or butter poached lobster). I have no problems with the supplements, but I also understand the paleo preference for real foods getting preference, so any ideas for alternatives would be greatly appreciated.

5662d1262516ccbd70249e7aeaf58901

(681)

on May 21, 2012
at 06:15 AM

@cerement, it's hard for me to judge because I don't particularly mind fishiness, but I don't think CLO is too bad as far as fishiness goes. You just take a spoonful, so it's over quick. I chase it with a spoonful of yogurt so that it doesn't linger. As an experience, it's way, way less fishy than eating a can of sardines say. I suspect it has a bad rep from people taking rancid oil. Quality CLO has natural A and D, which I assume are balanced. The fermented butter oil/CLO blend from greenpasture.org has K2 as well. I haven't tried the fermented oil yet, so I can't comment on the taste.

5662d1262516ccbd70249e7aeaf58901

(681)

on May 21, 2012
at 06:15 AM

@cerement, it's hard for me to judge, I don't think CLO is too bad as far as fishiness goes. You just take a spoonful, so it's over quick. I chase it with a spoonful of yogurt so that it doesn't linger. As an experience, it's way, way less fishy than eating a can of sardines say. I suspect it has a bad rep from people taking rancid oil. Quality CLO has natural A and D, which I assume are balanced. The fermented butter oil/CLO blend from greenpasture.org has K2 as well. I haven't tried the fermented oil yet, so I can't comment on the taste.

Medium avatar

(2923)

on May 20, 2012
at 11:05 PM

I've had no problem replacing standard cooking oils with either saturated fat or monounsaturated oils and cutting out nuts. But it's more things along the lines of buying conventional meats because of budget. So, while I probably don't need to turbo-boost my n-3s, I would like to have a little better buffer. I'm willing to double up on the krill oil pills, I was just hoping for a more natural solution that didn't involve gagging at the smell of a freshly opened tin of sardines ...

Medium avatar

(2923)

on May 20, 2012
at 10:58 PM

So far I've been having good luck with Krill Oil -- just make sure the brand uses the low-temperature Neptune Krill Oil (NKO) process.

Medium avatar

(2923)

on May 20, 2012
at 10:56 PM

Also as Cordain points out, flax and chia have their own slew of anti-nutrients making these pseudo-grains not much better than regular grain.

Medium avatar

(2923)

on May 20, 2012
at 10:54 PM

There also seems to be a lot of back-and-forth "discussion" on the high levels of Vitamin A in cod liver oil and trying to balance Vitamin A and D ratios (not to mention balancing Vitamin D and K2 ratios).

Medium avatar

(2923)

on May 20, 2012
at 10:51 PM

I think if the fishy smell of day-old fish or canned herring gets to me, then drinking cod liver oil would be a whole other world ...

Medium avatar

(2923)

on May 20, 2012
at 10:48 PM

Other than they love that stuff raw when they can get it ... or there's kiviak which is supposedly a great source of Vitamin C ...

8496289baf18c2d3e210740614dc9082

(1867)

on May 20, 2012
at 05:45 PM

One of the best things about this diet/lifestyle movement is that it is both data-driven and willing to consider the individual supremacy of the n=1 approach: it doesn't matter what the numbers seem to say when our individual biochemistries determine what works for each of us. Let's not forget that what works for me or for you may not work for others and vice versa.

8496289baf18c2d3e210740614dc9082

(1867)

on May 20, 2012
at 05:39 PM

The question was about non-seafood sources of w3, and that's all I provided, with the caveat that none of them will be sufficient on their own. And while chia has slightly more w6 than w3, flax has a 4:1 w3:w6 ratio. Further, nobody suggested dried herbs as a source of oil: that's just silly. I happen to agree that ALA conversion is inefficient for the average human, but some folks (Seth Roberts, e.g.) find they do better consuming ALA than EPA/DHA.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on May 20, 2012
at 12:03 PM

Herbs, seriously? Think about it, how much of any herb are you going to have to eat to obtain a significant amount of omega-3? A sprinkle of dried herbs on your food is going to have next to nothing in it.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on May 20, 2012
at 11:58 AM

Given the prevalence of prion diseases, I'd avoid that.

A4216f1b1e1f5ab3815bd91700905081

(1646)

on May 20, 2012
at 05:31 AM

Off to Alaska to become an honorary Inuit!

5ef574d7893bc816ec52e04139e9bc09

(6097)

on May 20, 2012
at 02:06 AM

This. The root of the problem is not that we have particularly low n3, but that we have absurdly high n6.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on May 20, 2012
at 01:35 AM

Thank you for the info about herbs as an O-3 source. I'd had no idea!

9c8a6d20ee1db00a795709d6d2e2ce7a

(559)

on May 19, 2012
at 09:55 PM

Indeed. Walnuts have more than four times as much omega-6 as omega-3. Definitely something to keep in mind.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on May 19, 2012
at 09:03 PM

*"Flax and chia are mostly ALA, but they're better than nothing"* I respectfully disagree. I've seen people with high ALA levels in their body, and it takes a long time to solve that. Even if you think of Omega3 as purely beneficial, flax and chia and the other nuts/seeds are also high in Omega6.

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8 Answers

3
1407bd6152d9fdbc239250385159fea1

on May 19, 2012
at 09:54 PM

To echo Dr. Harris, it might be best to focus on limiting to the best of your ability your intake of n-6, particularly linoleic acid, rather than pumping the system full of n-3s, even if they are the long-chain DHA/EPA form. If you'd like to get some n-3s via fish, may I suggest a particular brand of canned salmon that is remarkably lacking in the grossness department: Black Top Wild Caught Salmon. It's the only form of canned salmon I can actually eat without the overwhelming fishiness that is all too often characteristic of canned fish. Beyond that, what can you get truly fresh in your area? I don't have any issues with fish as long as it's fresh--the fishiness isn't a potent tongue toxin as long as the fish hasn't been dead for millenia. Mackerel, trout, and herring are all rather omega-3-y, so if those are available at a local market, go for it.

5ef574d7893bc816ec52e04139e9bc09

(6097)

on May 20, 2012
at 02:06 AM

This. The root of the problem is not that we have particularly low n3, but that we have absurdly high n6.

Medium avatar

(2923)

on May 20, 2012
at 11:05 PM

I've had no problem replacing standard cooking oils with either saturated fat or monounsaturated oils and cutting out nuts. But it's more things along the lines of buying conventional meats because of budget. So, while I probably don't need to turbo-boost my n-3s, I would like to have a little better buffer. I'm willing to double up on the krill oil pills, I was just hoping for a more natural solution that didn't involve gagging at the smell of a freshly opened tin of sardines ...

1
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on May 20, 2012
at 12:11 PM

Omega-3 needs increase with greater omega-6 consumption. If you have cut omega-6 rich seed oils from your diet, you should have a decent enough ratio of O3 to O6 from real food alone. ALA does indeed convert to DHA/EPA in our bodies, albeit in low efficiency. That efficiency however is dependent on the consumption of DHA/EPA in our diets. Which suggests that our DHA/EPA needs are rather modest.

Most recently there's been an anti-fish oil supplement vibe going through paleo. Some gurus have revised their recommendations to take massive amounts of fish oil to balance out omegas. Instead, reducing omega-6s comes first. Eating real foods rich on omega-3s comes second. Supplementing comes third.

Just take a modest amount of fish oil daily, particularly if you're not a fan of fatty seafood.

1
B4e1fa6a8cf43d2b69d97a99dfca262c

(10255)

on May 19, 2012
at 11:51 PM

seal meat and blubber is high in omega 3 :)

Medium avatar

(2923)

on May 20, 2012
at 10:48 PM

Other than they love that stuff raw when they can get it ... or there's kiviak which is supposedly a great source of Vitamin C ...

A4216f1b1e1f5ab3815bd91700905081

(1646)

on May 20, 2012
at 05:31 AM

Off to Alaska to become an honorary Inuit!

1
Ead203d492b5da773074c0c5a6a8b305

on May 19, 2012
at 10:51 PM

In agreement re: the flax and chia for the reasons above by Korion. But also (omega-6 concentration aside) the human body typically doesn't do a good job of converting ALA to DHA and EPA. If you really want the anti-inflammatory of omega-3 you'll either need to eat the fish, or take (good quality) fish oil pills or algae sourced EPA/DHA (Nordic Naturals seems to have one, but it's liquid not pills.)

Disclaimer, I'm an ND.

Medium avatar

(2923)

on May 20, 2012
at 10:58 PM

So far I've been having good luck with Krill Oil -- just make sure the brand uses the low-temperature Neptune Krill Oil (NKO) process.

1
9c8a6d20ee1db00a795709d6d2e2ce7a

on May 19, 2012
at 09:53 PM

If you're looking for a source of omega-3 that isn't fish, but is still mostly DHA and EPA, then you're going to have to eat brain (preferably from a cow, but lamb brain has some omega-3 as well).

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on May 20, 2012
at 11:58 AM

Given the prevalence of prion diseases, I'd avoid that.

0
5662d1262516ccbd70249e7aeaf58901

(681)

on May 20, 2012
at 05:01 AM

You could take cod liver oil. I know you said you'd prefer not to take supplements, but CLO is a real food, or at least it is somewhere between a supplement and real food. It also contains vitamins A and D and other good stuff. Vitamin D is crucial but most of us don't get enough of it.

Weston A Price: Cod Liver Oil Basics and Recommendations

Medium avatar

(2923)

on May 20, 2012
at 10:54 PM

There also seems to be a lot of back-and-forth "discussion" on the high levels of Vitamin A in cod liver oil and trying to balance Vitamin A and D ratios (not to mention balancing Vitamin D and K2 ratios).

5662d1262516ccbd70249e7aeaf58901

(681)

on May 21, 2012
at 06:15 AM

@cerement, it's hard for me to judge because I don't particularly mind fishiness, but I don't think CLO is too bad as far as fishiness goes. You just take a spoonful, so it's over quick. I chase it with a spoonful of yogurt so that it doesn't linger. As an experience, it's way, way less fishy than eating a can of sardines say. I suspect it has a bad rep from people taking rancid oil. Quality CLO has natural A and D, which I assume are balanced. The fermented butter oil/CLO blend from greenpasture.org has K2 as well. I haven't tried the fermented oil yet, so I can't comment on the taste.

Medium avatar

(2923)

on May 20, 2012
at 10:51 PM

I think if the fishy smell of day-old fish or canned herring gets to me, then drinking cod liver oil would be a whole other world ...

5662d1262516ccbd70249e7aeaf58901

(681)

on May 21, 2012
at 06:15 AM

@cerement, it's hard for me to judge, I don't think CLO is too bad as far as fishiness goes. You just take a spoonful, so it's over quick. I chase it with a spoonful of yogurt so that it doesn't linger. As an experience, it's way, way less fishy than eating a can of sardines say. I suspect it has a bad rep from people taking rancid oil. Quality CLO has natural A and D, which I assume are balanced. The fermented butter oil/CLO blend from greenpasture.org has K2 as well. I haven't tried the fermented oil yet, so I can't comment on the taste.

0
8496289baf18c2d3e210740614dc9082

on May 19, 2012
at 08:59 PM

Flax and chia are mostly ALA, but they're better than nothing and you can toss them into yogurt, smoothies, or pretty much anything.

Walnuts are your go-to for nuts with omega 3.

Basil, oregano, and cloves all have good amounts of omega 3, so you can cook more often with those.

Pastured eggs and pastured dairy/meats will have higher omega 3 content, too. But you might just need to suck it up and do fish at least once a week.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on May 20, 2012
at 12:03 PM

Herbs, seriously? Think about it, how much of any herb are you going to have to eat to obtain a significant amount of omega-3? A sprinkle of dried herbs on your food is going to have next to nothing in it.

8496289baf18c2d3e210740614dc9082

(1867)

on May 20, 2012
at 05:39 PM

The question was about non-seafood sources of w3, and that's all I provided, with the caveat that none of them will be sufficient on their own. And while chia has slightly more w6 than w3, flax has a 4:1 w3:w6 ratio. Further, nobody suggested dried herbs as a source of oil: that's just silly. I happen to agree that ALA conversion is inefficient for the average human, but some folks (Seth Roberts, e.g.) find they do better consuming ALA than EPA/DHA.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on May 20, 2012
at 01:35 AM

Thank you for the info about herbs as an O-3 source. I'd had no idea!

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on May 19, 2012
at 09:03 PM

*"Flax and chia are mostly ALA, but they're better than nothing"* I respectfully disagree. I've seen people with high ALA levels in their body, and it takes a long time to solve that. Even if you think of Omega3 as purely beneficial, flax and chia and the other nuts/seeds are also high in Omega6.

9c8a6d20ee1db00a795709d6d2e2ce7a

(559)

on May 19, 2012
at 09:55 PM

Indeed. Walnuts have more than four times as much omega-6 as omega-3. Definitely something to keep in mind.

Medium avatar

(2923)

on May 20, 2012
at 10:56 PM

Also as Cordain points out, flax and chia have their own slew of anti-nutrients making these pseudo-grains not much better than regular grain.

8496289baf18c2d3e210740614dc9082

(1867)

on May 20, 2012
at 05:45 PM

One of the best things about this diet/lifestyle movement is that it is both data-driven and willing to consider the individual supremacy of the n=1 approach: it doesn't matter what the numbers seem to say when our individual biochemistries determine what works for each of us. Let's not forget that what works for me or for you may not work for others and vice versa.

0
B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on May 19, 2012
at 08:47 PM

Omega-3 enriched eggs?

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