Is Chicken a Good Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids?


Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly beneficial for health. Getting enough omega-3s from your diet is crucial. The main omega-3s are ALA, DHA and EPA. Chicken is one of the most widely consumed meats. But can chicken provide meaningful amounts of the key omega-3 fatty acids?

Let's examine the omega-3 content of chicken and compare it to other dietary omega-3 sources.

Is Chicken a Good Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Overview of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fat vital for overall health. The three primary dietary omega-3s are:


  • Short for alpha-linolenic acid.
  • Found mainly in plant foods like flaxseeds and walnuts.
  • Offers cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits.


  • Docosahexaenoic acid.
  • Primarily from fatty fish and fish oil.
  • Critical for brain and eye health.


  • Eicosapentaenoic acid.
  • Also found mainly in seafood.
  • Supports heart health and mental wellbeing.

ALA comes from plants while EPA and DHA come from marine sources. ALA can convert into EPA/DHA but only minimally, so seafood intake is vital.

Adequate intake of all three omega-3s is key for overall health. But does chicken provide meaningful amounts of these key fatty acids?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Chicken

The omega-3 content of chicken depends heavily on the bird's diet.

Conventionally farmed chickens fed grain have very little omega-3s.

However, pasture-raised chickens allowed to eat plants, seeds and insects produce eggs and meat higher in omega-3s.

Here is how chicken's omega-3 content compares to daily recommendations:

  • ALA in chicken: Negligible amounts.
  • EPA/DHA in chicken: Around 20-200 mg per 6oz serving.
  • Daily recommendations: ALA 1.1-1.6 grams. EPA/DHA 250-500 mg.

While chicken may provide small traces of EPA and DHA, the amounts are low compared to recommended daily intakes.

Now let's examine how chicken's omega-3 profile compares to other high omega-3 foods.

Comparison of Omega-3s in Chicken vs. Seafood

Chicken generally contains far less omega-3s than most types of seafood.

For example:

  • 6 oz chicken breast: about 32 mg omega-3s
  • 6 oz salmon fillet: around 2,000 mg omega-3s
  • 6 oz canned tuna: approximately 1,000 mg omega-3s

The EPA and DHA quantities in a standard chicken serving are minimal compared to fatty fish like salmon, which has over 60 times more.

Even leaner seafood like tuna is far higher in omega-3 content than chicken.

Clearly fish and seafood contain significantly higher beneficial omega-3 fats than chicken.

Chicken vs. Plant-Based Omega-3 ALA Sources

How does chicken's omega-3 profile compare to plant-based ALA sources?

Again, chicken provides virtually no ALA.

Meanwhile, just 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil supplies over 7,000 mg omega-3 ALA.

And a 1 ounce serving of walnuts provides about 2,500 mg ALA.

So gram amounts of plant-based ALA omega-3 are found in common foods like flaxseeds or walnuts that chicken lacks.

Overall, chicken does not compare well to plant sources for providing omega-3 ALA either.

Potential Benefits of Omega-3s in Chicken

While amounts are low compared to seafood and plants, the modest EPA/DHA quantities in chicken may offer some benefits including:

  • Helping reduce inflammation levels.
  • Supporting brain and eye development in fetuses/infants.
  • Contributing to heart health.
  • Improving mental health and behavior.

However, to gain therapeutic, clinically meaningful benefits from omega-3s, much higher amounts are needed than chicken provides.

The omega-3 content from a few weekly chicken servings can contribute to total intake but is not highly significant.

How to Increase Omega-3s in Chicken

Here are some tips to increase the small omega-3 amounts found in chicken:

Choose Pasture-Raised Chicken

Chickens allowed to roam and eat plants, seeds and insects have far higher omega-3 content, up to 10 times more than conventionally farmed chickens.

Pasture-raised chicken provides 20-200 mg omega-3s per serving compared to 10-30 mg in conventional.

Add Omega-3 Fats to Chicken Dishes

Boost omega-3s in chicken recipes by adding:

  • Olive oil or avocado oil
  • Nuts like walnuts or pecans
  • Seeds such as flax, hemp or chia
  • Herbs like basil, oregano, dill

These all supply plant-based ALA.

Eat Chicken with Omega-3-Rich Sides

Round out chicken meals with higher omega-3 sides:

  • Salmon
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach salad with flaxseed dressing

Use Chicken in Omega-3 Recipes

Incorporate chicken in recipes along with omega-3-rich ingredients:

  • Chicken salad with mayo, nuts, seeds, avocado
  • Chicken stir fry with oils, veggies, herbs, spices, nuts
  • Chicken tacos with plant toppings and salsa

While chicken itself is low in omega-3s, preparing it with omega-3-boosting ingredients can somewhat raise total intake.

Healthiest Forms of Chicken for Omega-3s

These types of chicken provide higher omega-3 content:

  • Pasture-raised: Allowed to roam eating plants, insects and seeds. Highest in omega-3s.
  • Organic: Must have outdoor access and be fed organic, non-GMO feed. Moderate omega-3s.
  • Free-range: Some outdoor access but feed not regulated. Slightly more omega-3s than conventional.
  • Conventional: Grain-fed and indoor-raised. Very low omega-3 levels.

When possible, choose pasture-raised chicken for maximum omega-3 content. Otherwise opt for organic or free-range chicken.

Key Dietary Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

While chicken provides traces of omega-3s, rely on these foods for optimal omega-3 intake:

EPA/DHA Sources

  • Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines
  • Leaner fish: Tuna, cod, tilapia
  • Seafood: Oysters, mussels, crab
  • Fish oil and algal supplements
  • Grass-fed meat and dairy

ALA Sources

  • Seeds: Flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds
  • Oils: Flaxseed oil, soybean oil, canola oil
  • Nuts: Walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Herbs and spices: Basil, oregano, tarragon

Aim for 1-2 fatty fish servings weekly plus daily ALA sources like flaxseeds, walnuts or omega-3 oils.

Chicken and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

In summary:

  • Chicken provides only small omega-3 amounts, mainly 20-200 mg EPA/DHA per serving.
  • It is far lower in omega-3s than fatty fish, with over 60 times less per serving.
  • Chicken also has negligible omega-3 content compared to plant sources like flaxseeds, walnuts and oils.
  • Choosing pasture-raised chicken will provide the highest omega-3 amounts.
  • Boost omega-3s in chicken meals by pairing with high omega-3 sides and ingredients.

Is Chicken a Good Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids? Conclusion

While chicken contains tiny amounts of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, it cannot be considered a significant source compared to oily fish, plant oils, nuts and seeds.

To meet your daily omega-3 requirements, be sure to regularly eat fatty fish, flaxseeds, walnuts, oils and other omega-3-rich foods. Chicken can contribute modest traces as part of an overall diet adequate in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats for optimal health.

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