Omega 3: All you Need to Know

by Natalia Urdiales November 04, 2020

What is Omega 3 and how much should we consume daily?

Omega 3

Everybody talks about Omega-3 and fatty acids are generally given a lot of attention due to their health benefits. Fatty fish, nuts, and seeds are foods rich in amounts of omega-3s. Omega-3s are a type of fats that are an important part of the body's cell membranes and help us with the functioning of the heart, lungs, immune system and the hormonal system in general.

There are 3 types of Omega-3 fatty acids:

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

DHA levels are especially high in the tissues that make up our eyes, brain, and sperm cells. EPA may have certain benefits in reducing systemic inflammation. The body breaks down ALA into EPA and DHA, but the conversion rate is low. For this reason, people must include all three omega-3s in their diet.

Fatty fish are rich in DHA and EPA. Plant sources are high in ALA. If a person is not getting enough of each type of omega-3 from their diet, they might consider taking a supplement.

We will place more emphasis later on recommended omega-3 intakes for different people for optimal health.

How Much Omega-3 Should I Take?

Daily guidelines for omega-3 intake vary based on factors such as age.

Several national organizations have published guidelines for omega-3 intake, but they vary considerably.

As such, there is no definitive amount of how much omega-3 a person needs. What the science of nutrition suggests, however, is that different groups of people need different amounts, and a higher intake of omega-3s may be helpful for certain health conditions at specific times. We will discuss the dietary needs below.

Healthy Adults (Men and Women)

Requerimiento de omega 3 en adultos

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is not enough data available to calculate a recommended daily allowance of omega-3s for healthy adults. There are also no specific recommendations for EPA and DHA separately.

It is generally suggested that adult men and women should consume around 0.25 grams (g) of EPA and DHA per day to meet their recommended daily intake.

And according to the NIH, to meet the daily requirement for ALA, you should consume up to 1.6 g per day in men and 1.1 g in women.

During lactation and pregnancy:


Pregnant and lactating women should add more omega-3s to their diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as follows:

  • 0.3 g of EPA and DHA, of which at least 0.2 g must be DHA
  • 1.4 g of ALA during pregnancy
  • 1.3 g of ALA while breastfeeding

The FDA has recommended that women who are likely to become pregnant, those who are breastfeeding, and young children should include more sources of omega-3s in their diets each week.

Babies up to the age of 1 year should consume 0.5 g as total omega-3. Human milk contains ALA, DHA and EPA by nature and in addition to many nutrients that formulas, no matter how good they are, do not contain as immunoglobulins, that is why the consumption of breast milk is highly recommended.


Omega-3 for Cardiovascular Health

Omega 3 y salud cardiovascular

An updated scientific study reports that omega-3 may have benefits for heart disease, as a nutrient considered cardioprotective.

Other studies also recommend that people with cardiovascular disease consume about 1 g of EPA and DHA per day, preferably from oily fish. However, they can talk to their doctor or dietitian about taking supplements.

It has even been found that there have been modest decreases in the mortalities of people with coronary heart disease, as well as those with heart failure. However, on the other hand the results are mixed with those of another large study, which concluded that supplements of DHA and EPA may have little effect, while those of ALA could have a slightly noticeable effect. But more research is needed.

Omega-3 and Depression


Some studies have suggested that taking omega-3 supplements can help with symptoms of depression.

A small-scale study of young adults with depressive symptoms reported that a group that received 1.4 g of DHA and EPA every day had significantly less depressed status compared to a group that received placebo.


Omega-3 and Alzheimer


Omega-3 has become famous for having proven that its use in people with Alzheimer's disease improves their condition in some cases and can also prevent the disease. And it is that nutritional and nutraceutical supplements that contain Omega-3 may also have potential as a future treatment for Alzheimer's disease.

A 2018 review found that omega-3s may be beneficial in early Alzheimer's disease, when there is only a slight decline in brain function. However, there is not enough data to support the use of omega-3 supplements in more advanced cases of Alzheimer's disease.

Omega-3 and Cancer

Omega 3 y el cáncer

Many studies have examined the positive effects of omega-3 supplements on some specific types of cancer. One study reported that the combination of omega-3 and vitamin D supplements increased cell death in certain subtypes of breast cancer cells.

In another review study of omega-3s and prostate cancer, some researchers found a link between higher omega-3 intake and lower mortality from prostate cancer.

Is it good to exceed your consumption?

No. Despite the fact that there is no established upper limit of omega-3 intake as such. But the FDA has suggested that people should take no more than 3 g per day of DHA and EPA combined.


Omega-3 drug nutrient interaction

Omega 3 e interacción farmaco nutriente

Over long periods of consumption, scientists have concluded that omega-3 can reduce the function of the immune system by decreasing the body's inflammatory responses.

Also high doses of omega-3s can also increase bleeding time. Therefore, people taking blood-thinning medications should exercise caution and speak with their physician and clinical nutritionist before beginning an omega-3 supplement intake.

Omega-3 deficiency symptoms

Piel seca síntoma de deficiencia de Omega 3

There are few known symptoms for omega-3 deficiencies. Doctors have found links between deficiency of essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6, in symptoms of dermatitis, rough and scaly skin.

Researchers do not know if there is a certain threshold for DHA and EPA in the body that can increase the risk of neurological or immune dysfunction.


Omega-3 supplements?

Flaxseed is a source of omega-3s that is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

If a person cannot get enough omega-3s in their diet, they might consider taking a supplement. This can be discussed more fully with a doctor or professional nutritionist before taking any new dietary supplements.


Are There Sources of Omega-3 from Plant Origin?

Linaza fuente de omega 3

Flaxseed (2,338 mg per serving)

Flaxseeds are small brown or yellow seeds. They are often ground or used to produce oils.

These seeds are by far the richest whole food source of omega-3 fatty alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Therefore, flaxseed oil is often used as an omega-3 supplement.

Flax seeds are also very rich in fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, and other nutrients.

They have an excellent omega-6 to omega-3 ratio compared to most oil plant seeds.

Omega-3 content: 2,338 mg per tablespoon (14.3 grams) of whole seeds, or 7,196 mg per tablespoon (14.3 grams) of oil.


Chía fuente de Omega 3

Chia (4,915 mg per serving)

Chia seeds are incredibly nutritious - they are rich in manganese, calcium, phosphorus, and other nutrients.

A standard 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of chia seeds contains 4 grams of protein, including all eight essential amino acids.

Omega-3 content: 4.915 mg per ounce (28 grams).


Nuez como fuente de omega 3

Walnuts (2,542 mg per serving)

Walnuts are very nutritious and loaded with fiber. They also contain high amounts of copper, manganese, vitamin E, and important plant compounds.

Make sure not to remove the skin, as it contains most of the phenolic antioxidants in walnuts, which offer significant health benefits.

Omega-3 content: 2,542 mg per ounce (28 grams), or about 7 nuts (23).


Soja fuente de omega 3

Soy (1,241 mg per serving)

Soy is a good source of fiber and plant protein.

They also contain high amounts of other nutrients, such as riboflavin, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium.

However, soy is also very rich in omega-6 fatty acids, so it should not be relied upon as the sole source of omega-3.

Omega-3 content: 1,241 mg in 1/2 cup (86 grams) of dry roasted soybeans, or 1,443 mg per 3.5 ounces (100 grams).


In conclusion

  • The amount of omega-3 that a person needs depends on their age, sex and health.
  • Health sources recommend that people should not exceed 3 g of omega-3s in a day, unless directed by a medical professional or professional nutritionist.
  • If a person is vegan or vegetarian and does not eat fish, it may be a good idea to take an omega-3 supplement. Be sure to read a supplement's labels carefully and talk to a doctor before taking any new supplements.


Now that you discovered that flaxseed and chia seed are an excellent source of Omegas, read this article to learn more about the benefits they have for our health and some recipes to integrate it into your daily life. Remember that you can find more health articles like this by exploring our Birdman Blog!

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  1. World Health Organization. (2008). Interim summary of conclusions and dietary recommendations on total fat & fatty acids. From the joint FAO/WHO expert consultation on fats and fatty acids in human nutrition, 10-14.
  2. Daviglus, M. L., Bell, C. C., Berrettini, W., Bowen, P. E., Connolly, J. E., Cox, N. J., ... & Patel, D. (2010). NIH State-of-the-Science Conference Statement: Preventing Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline. NIH consensus and state-of-the-science statements27(4), 1-30.
  3. Kris-Etherton, P. M., Harris, W. S., & Appel, L. J. (2002). Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. circulation106(21), 2747-2757.
  4. Carrero, J. J., Martín-Bautista, E., Baró, L., Fonollá, J., Jiménez, J., Boza, J. J., & López-Huertas, E. (2005). Efectos cardiovasculares de los ácidos grasos omega-3 y alternativas para incrementar su ingesta. Nutrición hospitalaria20(1), 63-69.
  5. Simopoulos, A. P. (1991). Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and in growth and development. The American journal of clinical nutrition54(3), 438-463.
  6. Yang, J., Zhu, S., Lin, G., Song, C., & He, Z. (2017). Vitamin D enhances omega‐3 polyunsaturated fatty acids‐induced apoptosis in breast cancer cells. Cell biology international41(8), 890-897.

Natalia Urdiales
Natalia Urdiales


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