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Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Need More of This Nutrient

omega 3

Many people have heard about the heart healthy effects of omega-3 fats. but not everyone knows that they also play an important role in a baby’s brain and eye development. For this reason, it is suggested that pregnant and breastfeeding women consume more omega-3 fats than those who are not pregnant or lactating.

There are three kinds of omega-3 fats: ALA (alpha-linoleic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). ALA is found in plant foods including vegetable oils (such as flaxseed oil and canola oil), walnuts, flaxseeds, and soy products. Our bodies can make EPA and DHA from ALA, but the conversion rate is not very high. This is why the recommended intake level of ALA is much higher than that of EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are found in fish, seafood, and fish oils. Just two servings of fish per week (total 150 grams or 5 ounces) would provide 0.3-0.45 grams of EPA and DHA per day, which is the general recommendation given to adults. For those who don’t enjoy fish, however, make sure you get enough ALAs for your baby’s healthy brain and vision development.

Recommended Intake Levels of ALA Omega-3 Fats

  • Women 19 and older – 1.1 grams per day
  • Pregnant Women 19 and older – 1.4 grams per day
  • Breastfeeding Women 10 and older – 1.3 grams per day
  • There is no upper limit established for ALA. (i.e. there is no maximum dose limit that has been set)

Getting Enough Omega-3 Fats

As mentioned earlier, not everyone likes eating fish and seafood, so it’s helpful to know plant based omega-3 fats (ALA) are available in many foods, including:

  • Walnuts
  • Flax seeds (Grind whole flaxseed or buy it ground so you absorb more of the omega-3 fats in flax. The seed as a whole is very hard to digest by the body and as a result, very little omega-3 fat is actually absorbed.)
  • Chia seeds (doubles as a great source of soluble fibre that helps alleviate constipation, especially if you’re taking iron supplements during your pregnancy)
  • Soy products
  • Vegetable oils (such as canola and flaxseed oil)
  • Omega-3 fortified foods: margarine, eggs, yogurt, juice, soy beverage
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As with any nutrient that’s good for the  body, if you’re able to get it through food first, do so. Save supplements for when you absolutely cannot get it any other way. When nutrients, omega-3 fats included, are taken in it’s whole food form, it’s “packaged by nature” to contain other vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients that may play a synergistic role in improving overall health than what an isolated supplement can offer. Food first, supplement second.

Alligga Flaxseed Cooking Oil

Here’s a quick and simple way to add more omega-3s (ALA) into your diet.

 

Omega-3 Fat Content of Common Foods

(Courtesy of Dietitians of Canada website)

Food Serving size ALA (g) EPA/DHA (g)
Vegetables and Fruit Not a good source of omega-3 fats.
Edamame/baby soybeans, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 0.29-0.34
Radish seeds, sprouted, raw 125 mL (½ cup) 0.42
Winter squash, cooked 125 mL (½ cup) 0.18
Grain products Products made with flax, soybean or canola oil provide ALA. Some grain products are now enriched with EPA/DHA.  Check food labels for details.
Wheat germ cereal, toasted 30 g 0.24
Milk and Alternatives Some dairy products now provide omega-3 fat. Check food labels for details.
Milk, fortified with DHA * 250 mL (1 cup) 0.01
Omega-3 soy beverage with flax and algal* 250 mL (1 cup) 0.67 0.03
Omega-3 yogurt * 175 g (¾ cup) 0.46
Soy beverage 250 mL (1 cup) 0.19
 Meat and Alternatives
Egg Products
Eggs, cooked 2 eggs 0.06-0.28 0.07
Omega-3 eggs fortified with DHA* 2 eggs 0.50-0.54 0.16-0.27
Fish and Seafood
Anchovies, canned with oil 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.01 1.54
Arctic char, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.08 0.68
Carp, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.26 0.56
Caviar (black, red), granular 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.01 1.96
Clams, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.01 0.21
Cod, Atlantic, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.11
Cod, Pacific, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.04 0.79
Crab, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.01 0.36
Eel, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.42 0.14
Halibut, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.04-0.06 0.35-0.88
Herring, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.05-0.11 1.6
Lobster, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.01 0.42
Mackerel, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.03-0.08 0.90-1.39
Mackerel, salted 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.12 3.43
Mussels, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.03 0.59
Octopus, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.13
Oysters, Eastern/Blue point, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.04-0.05 0.33-0.41
Oysters, Pacific, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.05 1.04
Pollock, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.40
Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, raw or cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.08-0.11 1.48-1.61
Salmon, Atlantic, wild, raw or cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.22-0.28 1.08-1.38
Salmon, Chinook, raw or cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.06-0.08 1.31-1.47
Salmon, Coho, raw or cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.03-0.05 0.33-0.98
Salmon, pink/humpback, raw, cooked or canned 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.03-0.06 0.96-1.26
Salmon, sockeye/red, raw, cooked or canned 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.05-0.07 0.87-1.06
Sardines, canned 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.17-0.37 0.74-1.05
Scallops, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.27
Shrimp, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.01 0.24
Snapper, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.25
Sole or plaice, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.01 0.37
Tilapia, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.03 0.10
Trout, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.06-0.14 0.65-0.87
Tuna, light, canned with water 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.21
Tuna, white, canned with water 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.05 0.65
Whitefish, cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.17 1.20
Meat Alternatives
Beans (navy, pinto), cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 0.17-0.24
Peas, black-eyed, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 0.11
Soybeans, mature, cooked 175 mL (¾ cup) 0.76
Tofu, cooked 150 g (¾ cup) 0.27-0.48
Meatless (fish sticks, chicken, meatballs), cooked 75 g (2 ½ oz) 0.39-0.78
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Nuts and Seeds                  
Almonds, oil roasted, blanched 60 mL (¼ cup) 0.15
Chia seeds 15 mL (1 Tbsp) 1.9
Flaxseed, ground** 15 mL (1 Tbsp) 2.46
Hickory nuts 60 mL (¼ cup) 0.32
Pumpkin seeds, without shell 60 mL (¼ cup) 0.06
Pecans 60 mL (¼ cup) 0.25-0.29
Soy nuts 60 mL (¼ cup) 0.42
Walnuts, black 60 mL (¼ cup 0.64
Walnuts, English, Persian 60 mL (¼ cup) 2.30
Fats and Oils
Canola oil 5 mL (1 tsp) 0.42
DHA-enriched Omega-3 margarine made with fish oil 5 mL (1 tsp) 0.28 0.03
Flaxseed oil 5 mL (1 tsp) 2.58
Omega-3 margarine made with canola oil * 5 mL (1 tsp) 0.34
Soybean oil 5 mL (1 tsp) 0.31
Walnut oil 5 mL (1 tsp) 0.48
Other                                        
Herring oil supplement 5 mL (1 tsp) 0.04 0.48
Salmon oil supplement 5 mL (1 tsp) 0.05 1.44
Sardine oil supplement 5 mL (1 tsp) 0.06 0.96
Almond beverage 250 mL (1 cup) 0.10
Oat beverage 250 mL (1 cup) 0.30

Source: “Canadian Nutrient File 2010”

www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/fiche-nutri-data/index-eng.php    [Accessed Dec. 2012]