Foods High in Omega 3 (that are not fish)

  • By Becki Kesner
  • 10 minute read
Flaxseeds, kiwi, blueberries,walnuts. An array of foods to demonstrate Foods High in Omega 3 (that are not fish).
  • image of Kinga Jasiak, ANutr, BSc Nutrition and Health
  • Expert reviewed by Kinga Jasiak, ANutr, BSc Nutrition and Health

Did you know there’s an Oscars type award ceremony for diets?

Ok, it’s kind of like the Oscars.

It’s judged by a panel of leading medical and nutritional experts, and is announced every year by the U.S News & World Report.

This year, for the seventh year in a row, the Mediterranean diet has come out tops.

It beats, Atkins, Keto, MIND, WeightWatchers. The lot.

And it’s based on quite a simple principle: eat less red meat, sugar, saturated fat, and eat more whole grains, fruits vegetables and lean meat. Oh, and two portions of fish per week. One of those to be fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines.

And there it is: 'Fish'.

The reason for fish? As well as being a good source of protein, fish contain healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Which are believed to reduce inflammation, lower risk of heart disease and help prevent age-related cognitive decline.

But what if you don’t like fish?

The good news is there’s a type of omega 3 that comes from plants.

The bad news is, it’s really inefficiently converted by our bodies into the essential forms, EPA and DHA.

EPA and DHA are where most of the health benefits are at.

So what do we do?

If you're thinking of turning to plant based sources and dietary supplements, then you'll need to know your ALAs from your DHAs and EPAs. Let's get started.

The Three Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

omega 3 and fish oil capsules laid in a grid against a yellow background.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. This means they are necessary for normal bodily functions, but cannot be synthesized in the body in sufficient quantities.

We have to get these from our diet. There are three main types:

ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid)

Found in plant sources like flaxseeds and chia seeds, ALA is primarily used for energy and has to be converted into EPA and DHA to be useful for our body.

EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)

Mostly found in food sources like seafood and cold-water fatty fish and algae. EPA plays a critical role in reducing inflammation and supporting heart health.

DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)

Also abundant in fatty fish and algae, DHA is vital for brain health, eye health, and overall cognitive function.

Health Benefits of EPA and DHA

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are considered the best forms of omega-3 fatty acids because of their superior bioavailability and their critical roles in various bodily functions:

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

EPA is known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties. It can help to reduce inflammation by inhibiting the synthesis of inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines. (1)

Cardiovascular Health

Both EPA and DHA help lower triglyceride levels, (2) and may reduce blood pressure, decrease the risk of arrhythmias, and may slow the development of plaque in arteries, thereby lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Brain Health

DHA is a major structural component of the brain and retina. It is essential for cognitive function, mental health, and visual acuity. Higher DHA levels are associated with better memory and learning capabilities. (3)

Fetal and Infant Development

DHA is crucial for the development of the brain and eyes during pregnancy and infancy. (4) Adequate intake during these stages supports optimal growth and cognitive development.

Mental Health

EPA has been shown to benefit mental health by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. (5) DHA also supports overall mental well-being.

Anti-Thrombotic Effects

EPA and DHA may help to reduce blood clot formation, (6) thereby lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The Problem With ALA

Flax seeds spilling from a jar. Seeds are healthy food sources for ALA.

As you can see, EPA and DHA are the heavy hitters when it comes to omega-3 benefits.

They directly support brain health, cognitive function, immune response, and much more. In contrast, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) falls short because it needs to be converted into EPA and DHA to be effective.

Here's the catch: the conversion process from ALA to EPA and DHA is highly inefficient.

Only about 6% of ALA converts to EPA, and a mere 3.8% makes it to DHA. (7) This inefficiency is further hampered by the presence of LA (linoleic acid) in the diet, which competes with ALA for conversion. (8)

Due to these limitations, relying on ALA-rich foods won't significantly boost your EPA and DHA levels. Instead, focus on sources that provide EPA and DHA directly, such as algae-based dietary supplements.

A lot of people assume that EPA and DHA omega 3 fatty acids can only be found in oily fish.

But the fish are just the middlemen.

The source they get their omega 3 from, is algae.

The Problem With Fish Oil Supplements

You might be starting to realize, we're not the biggest fan of fish oil supplements.

And for good reason.

Krill oil, cod liver oil, or just plain old generic 'fish oil', compared to other sources, these fish oil supplements may have more downsides than they do upsides.


Bulging fishing net with 1000s of fish spilling out.

Overfishing: Fish consumption and the demand for fish oil contributes to overfishing, which can deplete fish populations and disrupt marine ecosystems.

Environmental Impact: The fishing industry often has significant environmental footprints, including habitat destruction and bycatch (unintended capture of other marine species).

If you’re not purchasing certified sustainably sourced fish oils, chances are they aren’t, and they are contributing to the overfishing and sustainability problem.

Contamination Risks

Sewer pipes at shore, stain of oil or fuel on water surface.

Heavy Metals: Fish oils can be contaminated with heavy metals like mercury, lead, and cadmium, which accumulate in fish from polluted waters. These metals can cause serious health issues, including neurological damage, kidney problems, and developmental delays in children.

PCBs and Dioxins: These industrial pollutants can also be present in fish oil and pose health risks. Exposure to PCBs and dioxins can lead to cancer, immune system suppression, reproductive and developmental problems, and endocrine disruption.

Chemical Contaminants: Microplastics and chemical additives from plastics can contaminate fish oil. Ingestion of these microplastics and exposure to chemicals like BPA and phthalates can disrupt endocrine function and cause other health issues.

Pesticides: Pesticides used in agriculture can runoff into water bodies, contaminating fish. Exposure to pesticides can cause acute poisoning, cancer, neurological disorders, and reproductive issues.


A pile of rancid looking fish

Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly delicate oils and are prone to oxidation when not processed and stored correctly. If exposed to high heat and light during processing, these oils become rancid and thus toxic to your body.


Washed up smelly fish

The stinky fish smell is a huge reason many people turn their noses up at fish oils (capsules or liquid). Not only do they have an odour, but they can also leave a nasty taste in your mouth.

Best Foods for Omega-3s That Aren’t Fish

If you follow a plant based diet, you might struggle to get all your omega-3 essential fatty acids from food sources alone.

That said, whilst we've previously mentioned why ALA needs to be supplemented with DHA and EPA, plant sources of ALA do fit very will with the Oscar winning Mediterranean diet. Which calls for more whole grains, beans, nuts and legumes. These food types also come with extra nutritional benefits such as fiber, protein and antioxidants.

So whilst it you will still need to supplement with a plant based EPA and DHA supplement, getting more of these foods into your diet, is not going to be a bad thing. And some of the following do contain those non-negotiable EPA and DHA omega 3s.

1. Algae Oil

watercolour image of green algae chlorella spirulina with large cells single-cells with lipid droplets under a microscope

We talk a lot about algae oil, so naturally, it’s #1 on our list (even though it isn’t really a “food” source). Fish don’t actually synthesize omega-3s in significant quantities but rather obtain them by consuming algae.

Marine algae are the primary producers of omega-3 fatty acids, making algae oil a vegan-friendly alternative to fish oils. It's a cleaner, safer, and more sustainable source of EPA and DHA, free from contamination, heavy metals, and other toxins.

Algae-derived supplements, like Performance Lab Omega 3, offer a potent and environmentally friendly option.

Shop Performance Lab® Omega-3

2. Seaweed

Golden seaweed in the ocean backlit by sunlight.

Seaweed is another excellent source of omega-3s that often gets overlooked. Varieties like spirulina, nori, and wakame contain both ALA and small amounts of EPA and DHA. Incorporating seaweed into your diet can enhance your omega-3 intake while also providing essential minerals and vitamins.

  • Spirulina: Known for its high protein content and rich nutrient profile, spirulina contains omega-3s and antioxidants.
  • Nori: Commonly used in sushi, nori is a tasty way to boost your omega-3 intake along with iodine and other nutrients.
  • Wakame: Often found in miso soup, wakame offers a good amount of omega-3s, fiber, and essential minerals.

3. Nuts

Top view of a mixture of nuts and dried fruits including pecans, pistachios, almonds, peanuts, cashews, and pine nuts.

Nuts are a common food source for monounsaturated fatty acids and also provide a good amount of ALA, an essential fatty acid. While they don’t contain EPA and DHA, they are still beneficial for overall health. Here's the ALA content in some varieties of nuts (per ounce, 28g):

  • Walnuts: 2,570mg
  • Pecans: 986mg
  • Macadamia Nuts: 206mg
  • Pistachios: 289mg
  • Pine Nuts: 112mg

4. Seeds

mixture of flax seeds, sesame seeds and chia seeds.

Seeds offer another excellent source of ALA and other nutrients like fiber, amino acids, copper, zinc, and iron. Here’s the omega-3 fatty acid content in some varieties of seeds:

  • Flax: 2,350mg (per 1 tbsp.)
  • Flaxseed Oil: 7,260mg (per 1 tbsp.)
  • Chia: 5,060mg (per 1 oz.)
  • Hemp: 2,600mg (per 3 tbsp.)

5. Plant Oils

Tall glass bottles with different kinds of plant oils such as olive oil and sunflower oil.

Plant oils are another great way to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). They can be easily incorporated into your diet through cooking, dressings, or supplements.

However, it’s important to be mindful of the omega-6 content in some plant oils to maintain a healthy balance of fatty acids. Some notable plant oils include:

  • Flaxseed Oil: Extremely high in ALA, with about 7,260mg per tablespoon. Flaxseed oil is an excellent choice for boosting omega-3 intake while keeping omega-6 levels low.
  • Canola Oil: A versatile cooking oil that provides a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Canola oil contains around 1,300mg of ALA per tablespoon, making it a good option for maintaining a healthier omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.
  • Soybean Oil: Commonly used in many processed foods, it’s also a source of ALA. However, soybean oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids, so it should be used in moderation to avoid an imbalance that can lead to increased inflammation.

6. Veggies

Composition with broccoli florets scattered on a white background.

Omega-3 may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about vegetables, but in fact, they do contain them!

Keep in mind that while some vegetables do contain omega-3s, the amounts are not substantial, so you shouldn’t rely on them as your only source. Here are the top omega-3 containing veggies that should be on your plate at every meal (per 1 cup):

  • Broccoli (raw): 53mg
  • Broccoli Rabe (cooked): 486mg
  • Spinach (raw): 35mg
  • Brussels Sprouts (boiled): 270mg

7. Beans and Legumes

Hessian sacks filled with chickpeas, lentils, pulses and legumes.

Whether you’re looking for protein, fiber, folate, manganese, copper, or vitamin K, beans and legumes tick just about all the boxes.

They’re a highly nutrient-dense food that is an excellent addition to any diet but are also a superb source of omega-3s. Here are some good options (per 1 cup):

  • Kidney Beans: 301mg
  • Black Beans: 187mg
  • Mung Beans: 625mg
  • Fava Beans: 631mg

8. Avocados

Fresh avocado pattern on a green background flat lay

Avocados are known for their incredible health benefits due to their high content of monounsaturated fatty acids, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins, but did you know they also contain omega-3 fatty acids? Per 100 grams, avocados contain around 125mg of ALA.

By including these ALA-rich foods and plant oils in your diet, you’re supporting your overall omega-3 intake. However, for a more direct and efficient source of EPA and DHA, consider algae-based supplements, which offer the essential benefits of omega-3s without the downsides of fish oils.

Where To Get Your Omega-3s

If you're following a plant based diet, you'll be able to tick off most of those fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds with ease.

If you’re looking to get the complete spectrum of vegan-friendly omega-3s—EPA, DHA, and ALA—your best bet is to combine an algae oil supplement like Performance Lab® Omega 3 with an abundance of ALA-rich foods in your diet.

A bottle of Performance Lab Omega-3 supplement in a bottle against a sandy beach background at the water's edge.

Aim to include a healthy amount of fats at each meal and pop your omega-3 capsule each morning to ensure you meet your body’s needs.

Shop Performance Lab® Omega-3

  1. AP Simopoulos. Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002 Dec; 21(6): 495-505.
  2. Shearer GC, Savinova OV, Harris WS. Fish oil -- how does it reduce plasma triglycerides? Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 May;1821(5):843-51. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2011.10.011. Epub 2011 Oct 25. PMID: 22041134; PMCID: PMC3563284.
  3. Schaefer EJ, Bongard V, Beiser AS, Lamon-Fava S, Robins SJ, Au R, Tucker KL, Kyle DJ, Wilson PW, Wolf PA. Plasma phosphatidylcholine docosahexaenoic acid content and risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease: the Framingham Heart Study. Arch Neurol. 2006 Nov;63(11):1545-50. doi: 10.1001/archneur.63.11.1545. PMID: 17101822.
  4. Lauritzen L, Brambilla P, Mazzocchi A, Harsløf LB, Ciappolino V, Agostoni C. DHA Effects in Brain Development and Function. Nutrients. 2016 Jan 4;8(1):6. doi: 10.3390/nu8010006. PMID: 26742060; PMCID: PMC4728620.
  5. Borsini, A., Nicolaou, A., Camacho-Muñoz, D. et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids protect against inflammation through production of LOX and CYP450 lipid mediators: relevance for major depression and for human hippocampal neurogenesis. Mol Psychiatry 26, 6773–6788 (2021).
  6. Adili R, Hawley M, Holinstat M. Regulation of platelet function and thrombosis by omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. Prostaglandins Other Lipid Mediat. 2018 Nov;139:10-18. doi: 10.1016/j.prostaglandins.2018.09.005. Epub 2018 Sep 25. PMID: 30266534; PMCID: PMC6242736.
  7. H Gerster. Can adults adequately convert alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3)? Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1998; 68(3): 159-73.
  8. PLL Goyens, ME Spilker, PL Zock, MB Katan, RP Mensink. Conversion of α-linolenic acid in humans is influenced by the absolute amounts of α-linolenic acid and linoleic acid in the diet and not by their ratio. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2006 Jul; 84(1): 44–53.