Is Taking Omega-3 the Same as Eating Fish?

Medically Reviewed on 4/27/2022
Is taking omega-3 the same as eating fish?
While supplements and other food sources may provide omega-3 fatty acids, eating fish is still the best way to obtain these nutrients.

Fish is a rich source of omega-3 fats, however, you can get these fats through other sources as well.

The omega-3 fatty acid content of fish differs with the type of fish and the feed that it consumes. Farmed fish generally contain a greater quantity of omega-3 fatty acids than wild-caught fish although it may differ depending on the composition of the feed given to the fish.

Fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, and tuna) is particularly rich in omega-3 fats. Fish with low-fat content (cod, tilapia, bass, and shellfish) have relatively lower omega-3 fatty acid content.

Besides omega-3 fatty acids, fish provides various minerals, vitamins, and protein, which omega-3 supplements may not provide. Due to the various health benefits of eating fish, the American Heart Association recommends that you eat fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times a week.

However, check for the mercury levels in the caught fish. Avoid fish, such as bass and tuna, which may have high mercury content.

What are omega-3 fats?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). PUFAs contain two or more double bonds between the carbon atoms in the fatty acid chains. The other major type of PUFA is called omega-6 fatty acids (such as arachidonic acid and linoleic acid).

There are various types of omega-3 fatty acids, but studies are often done on the three most important types:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

The body cannot synthesize ALA and linoleic acid, thus they are called essential fatty acids. Some amounts of EPA and DHA can be produced in the body from ALA although it is generally not sufficient to meet the requirements of the body. Hence, all three types of omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained from food or supplements.

  • ALA is present in plant oils, such as canola, flaxseed, and soybean oil, whereas EPA and DHA can be mainly obtained from fish, fish oils, and krill oils.
  • Human milk contains all three types of omega-3 fats. Thus, it provides a baby’s needs for these nutrients.

Most health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids come from EPA and DHA rather than ALA.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

What are the health benefits of omega-3 fats?

Omega-3 fatty acids serve various health benefits, such as:

13 sources of omega-3 fats

  1. Fatty fish (such as salmon, sardines, trout, herring, and mackerel)
  2. Grass-fed beef
  3. Shrimp
  4. Oysters
  5. Lobster
  6. Scallops
  7. Eggs
  8. Chicken
  9. Milk
  10. Wholewheat bread
  11. Mayonnaise
  12. Dietary supplements
  13. Fortified foods (such as milk, yogurt, and eggs)

12 vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids

  1. Walnuts
  2. Flaxseeds
  3. Chia seeds
  4. Flaxseed oil
  5. Pumpkin seeds
  6. Canola oil
  7. Soybean oil
  8. Edamame
  9. Kidney beans
  10. Baked beans
  11. Fortified foods (such as soy milk, juices)
  12. Dietary supplements (vegan)

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 4/27/2022
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Penn Medicine. The Truth About Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Heart Health.

National Institutes of Health. Omega-3 Fatty Acids.