What Oil Provides the Most Omega-3 Fatty Acids?


Omega-3 fatty acids provide many health benefits. Getting enough omega-3s from your diet is crucial. The three main types of omega-3s are ALA, DHA and EPA. Oils that contain omega-3s can be a nutritious addition to the diet. But which cooking oil is actually highest in omega-3?

Let's compare the omega-3 content of common oils to determine which offers the most omega-3 fatty acids.

What Oil Provides the Most Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Overview of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that are important for overall health. There are three main dietary omega-3 fatty acids:


  • Short for alpha-linolenic acid.
  • Found in plant foods and oils.
  • Offers cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits.


  • Docosahexaenoic acid.
  • Mainly found in seafood and fish oil.
  • Crucial for brain and eye health.


  • Eicosapentaenoic acid.
  • Also primarily from marine sources like fish.
  • Supports heart health and mental wellbeing.

Seafood provides EPA and DHA, while plant foods contain ALA. ALA can convert into EPA/DHA, but only in small amounts.

Getting ample omega-3s from both plant and marine sources is important for overall health.

Top Health Benefits of Omega-3s

Here is an overview of some of the ways omega-3 fatty acids benefit the body and mind:

  • Reduce inflammation and oxidative stress levels.
  • Support healthy aging of the brain and prevent mental decline.
  • Improve cardiovascular health and lower heart disease risk.
  • Promote eye health and visual development.
  • Enhance mental wellbeing and behavior.
  • Alleviate joint pain and improve mobility.
  • Support neurological and cognitive development in babies and children.
  • Help fight autoimmune diseases and reduce symptoms of arthritis.
  • Potentially lower risk for dementia, Alzheimer's disease and stroke.
  • May help prevent development of certain cancers.

Getting enough omega-3s either from seafood, plant sources like flaxseeds and oils, or supplements is crucial for these wide-ranging health benefits.

Authoritative dietary recommendations for minimum omega-3 intake include:

  • 1.1-1.6 grams ALA per day for adults.
  • 250–500 mg combined EPA + DHA per day for adults.
  • About 8–12 ounces of seafood weekly, providing at least 500 mg omega-3s.

However, many people fall short on getting adequate omega-3s in their diet. Using oils with omega-3s can help increase daily intake.

But which cooking oils actually offer meaningful amounts of omega-3 fatty acids? Let's analyze and compare common oils to find out.

Flaxseed Oil: Highest in Omega-3 ALA

Of all cooking oils, flaxseed oil stands out as by far the richest source of omega-3 ALA:

  • Total omega-3 content: Approximately 57% ALA (1).
  • Per 1 tablespoon (15ml): Provides ~7,350 mg omega-3 ALA (2).
  • Omega-3 benefits: Cardiovascular protection, anti-inflammatory effects.

In fact, flaxseed oil contains the highest percentage of ALA omega-3 fats of any food - over 50% of its fats come from ALA.

The 7 grams of plant-based omega-3 ALA supplied in just 1 tablespoon makes this the highest omega-3 cooking oil.

However, flaxseed oil is not suitable for high-heat cooking due to its low smoke point. Best uses are drizzled on foods or used in salad dressings.

Chia Seed Oil: Also Very High in Omega-3 ALA

While not as abundant as flaxseed oil, chia seed oil stands out for providing high amounts of ALA omega-3:

  • Total omega-3 content: Approximately 64% ALA (3).
  • Per 1 tablespoon (15ml): ~4,900 mg omega-3 ALA (4).
  • Omega-3 benefits: Cardioprotective and anti-inflammatory.

Chia oil provides over 4.5 grams of plant-based ALA omega-3 in just one tablespoon, making it second only to flaxseed oil in omega-3 content.

It has a relatively high smoke point so is suitable for light sautéing in addition to making dressings and drizzling.

Canola Oil: Moderate Omega-3 ALA Content

Compared to flaxseed and chia, canola oil is a moderate omega-3 source:

  • Total omega-3 content: About 8-10% ALA (5).
  • Per 1 tablespoon (15ml): Roughly 1,300 mg omega-3 ALA (6).
  • Omega-3 benefits: Mainly cardiovascular from ALA content.

With a decent omega-3 ALA content of about 10% of total fat, canola oil can add a moderate amount of plant-based omega-3 to dishes and dressings.

Other benefits of canola oil include its high smoke point for cooking, neutral taste, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) content.

Walnut Oil: Lower in Omega-3 ALA

Walnut oil contains less omega-3 ALA than canola oil but still provides a small amount:

  • Total omega-3 content: Approximately 10-15% ALA (7).
  • Per 1 tablespoon (15ml): Roughly 500 mg omega-3 ALA (8).
  • Omega-3 benefits: Mainly cardiovascular from ALA.

Walnut oil has one of the highest smoke points of plant oils, so it can be used in light cooking methods.

While not rich in omega-3s, it makes a nice salad oil dressing for a small ALA boost.

Olive Oil: No Significant Omega-3s

Olive oil contains only trace amounts of omega-3 ALA that are negligible:

  • Total omega-3 content: Less than 1% (9).
  • Per 1 tablespoon (15ml): About 60 mg omega-3 ALA (10).
  • Omega-3 benefits: None significant.

The predominant type of fat in olive oil is monounsaturated fat, mostly oleic acid. So it does not contribute any meaningful omega-3 content.

Olive oil is best for its antioxidant and monounsaturated fat content rather than for omega-3s.

Coconut Oil: No Omega-3s

Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides but does not provide any omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Total omega-3 content: 0% (11).
  • Per 1 tablespoon (15ml): 0 mg omega-3s.
  • Omega-3 benefits: None.

Coconut oil consists almost entirely of saturated fats. While it provides benefits like antimicrobial effects, coconut oil cannot be counted on for any omega-3s.

Overall, flaxseed oil clearly stands above other oils for supplying the most abundant omega-3 ALA content.

Omega-3 Content Comparison of Oils

Here is a summary comparison of omega-3 ALA content per tablespoon (15ml) serving of the top cooking oils:

Oil Omega-3 ALA Content
Flaxseed Oil ~7,350mg
Chia Seed Oil ~4,900mg
Canola Oil ~1,300mg
Walnut Oil ~500mg
Olive Oil ~60mg
Coconut Oil 0mg

Top Sources for EPA and DHA Omega-3s

The above oils provide the plant-based omega-3 ALA. However, ALA is not as powerful as EPA and DHA found in seafood.

Here are the best dietary sources for getting beneficial EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, trout.
  • Other seafood: Oysters, mussels, squid.
  • Fish oil supplements.
  • Algal oil supplements.
  • Grass-fed beef and dairy.
  • Pasture-raised eggs.

Aim to eat fatty fish like salmon 1-2 times per week and consider an algal oil supplement for a combined EPA + DHA intake around 250-500 mg daily for optimal health benefits.

Omega-3 Oils Recipes and Uses

Here are some simple ways to incorporate oils with omega-3s into your diet:

Flaxseed Oil

  • Salad dressings
  • Dips and sauces
  • Smoothies
  • Supplements

Chia Seed Oil

  • Dressings and dips
  • Mayonnaise
  • Baked goods
  • Light sautéing

Canola Oil

  • Sautéing
  • Frying and roasting
  • Salad dressings
  • Baking

Walnut Oil

  • Salad dressings
  • Marinades
  • Drizzled over fish, toast, etc.
  • Light sautéing

Potential Side Effects of High Omega-3 Intake

While omega-3s are extremely beneficial, very high doses from supplements may cause side effects like:

  • Digestive issues: Stomach pains, heartburn, nausea.
  • Bleeding risks: Higher at combined doses over 3 grams per day.
  • Elevated LDL cholesterol.
  • Worsening symptoms of autoimmunity.

Moderation with both diet and supplements is key. Upper limits for supplemental omega-3s are 3 grams combined EPA + DHA daily, with lower amounts suggested for children.

Stick within these conservative upper limits for optimal safety unless medically advised otherwise.

Highest Omega-3 Oils

In summary:

  • Flaxseed oil has the highest omega-3 content, providing over 7,000 mg plant-based ALA per serving.
  • Chia seed oil is second highest at almost 5,000 mg ALA per serving.
  • Canola and walnut oils provide smaller but decent omega-3 ALA amounts.
  • Olive oil and coconut oil do not offer meaningful omega-3s.
  • For EPA and DHA, eat fatty fish or take marine or algal oil supplements.
  • Include omega-3 oils in recipes like dressings, marinades and light sautéing.

What Oil Provides the Most Omega-3 Fatty Acids? Conclusion

Getting enough anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids is important for overall health and wellbeing. Use oils like flaxseed and chia at moderate doses to add extra heart-healthy omega-3 ALA to your diet.

Combine with fatty fish or supplements a few times a week for EPA and DHA omega-3s as well. This combination helps ensure you meet daily omega-3 intake recommendations for gaining their extensive benefits.

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