Dietary Sources of Omega-3 DHA

 

Fish

Fish is the best dietary source for DHA.  The amount of DHA you eat directly influences the level of DHA in breast milk and blood.  “Fatty,” “oily,” and “cold-water” are terms used to describe fish with higher levels of EPA+DHA.  A list of these kinds of fish is included in the report.  Most fish are safe for you to eat; however, the FDA and EPA recommend that pregnant and lactating women avoid eating Swordfish, King Mackerel, Tilefish and limiting Albacore Tuna intake due to their higher mercury levels.

Supplements

Fish oil supplements are a safe and potent source of DHA.  The source and form of the omega-3s in the supplements affect how well you absorb the omega-3s, as well as whether or not you take them with food.  There are also vegan/vegetarian supplements in which omega-3 DHA is produced by algae.  It is also important to look at the label for the amount of DHA (rather than general “omega-3s”) that the supplement contains.  For example, many supplements are 1,000 mg of fish oil but only contain 120 mg of DHA.

Plant Omega-3s

Plant-sources of omega-3s, such as walnuts, flaxseed oil and chia or flaxseeds, contain the omega-3 ALA.  To a small extent, this omega-3 can be converted into EPA (and to an even smaller extent, DHA).  It is much more effective to consume pre-formed DHA to raise breast milk DHA levels.  Plant-based omega-3 sources are still healthy food choices, but they will not raise your breast milk DHA or your Omega-3 Index.

 

Recommendations

Pregnant women and breastfeeding moms are encouraged to eat 2 servings of fish per week or to take a prenatal supplement of DHA of at least 200 mg/day by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 2 servings of fish per week for the general public (see Table below), averaging out to 250 mg/day EPA+DHA.  Other countries, such as Canada and Australia, recommend 400-500 mg/day EPA+DHA.  The FDA has also ruled that intakes of up to 3,000 mg/day of EPA+DHA combined from foods is “Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS)” and may be consumed without concern of adverse effects by all adults.