Think You're Eating Enough Fish? Don't Be So Sure + What To Do About It
Even if you can't rattle what "EPA" and "DHA" stand for off the top of your head (it's "eicosapentaenoic acid" and "docosahexaenoic acid," by the way), you know that these omega-3s are good for you.
In fact, these fatty acids are so important that they're found in cell membranes throughout the entire body—and the depth of research on their cardiovascular health benefits is so robust that comprehensive reviews and meta-analyses exist to compile numerous epidemiologic and clinical trial studies.
Furthermore, the FDA has approved a qualified health claim (which is a big deal) about the roles of EPA and DHA in blood pressure and heart health. (This basically means that though the science on omega-3s and cardiovascular well-being is still growing, it is supportive and robust enough to deserve a special statement linking EPA and DHA to blood pressure.)*
And though cardiovascular function and wellness remain these omega-3s' biggest claim to fame, the powerful fats have also been studied for a variety of other health areas, ranging from healthy pregnancy and development of the eyes and brain to immune function and joint health.*
So, yeah, you could say that the incentive for getting your fair share of EPA and DHA is pretty significant. Still, though, plenty of people just don't make it happen.
Eating our omega-3s.
Do you associate the omega-3s EPA and DHA with slabs of salmon and golden fish oil gelcaps? That's because although they get their omega-3s by eating algae, fish (i.e., key species of fish) are the best sources of EPA and DHA humans can eat.
Which is exactly why the American Heart Association's Strategic Impact Goal Through 2020 and Beyond recommends adults eat at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish (and preferably oily fish, like salmon) per week.
Some of the most omega-3-rich fish you can put on your plate:
- sardines (980-1,700 milligrams of EPA+DHA per 3-ounce serving)
- white canned tuna, drained (730 milligrams of EPA+DHA per 3-ounce serving)
- wild Atlantic salmon (900-1,560 milligrams of EPA+DHA per 3-ounce serving)
- farmed rainbow trout (980 milligrams of EPA+DHA per 3-ounce serving)
- Pacific herring (1,810 milligrams of EPA+DHA per 3-ounce serving)
- anchovies (1,230 milligrams of EPA+DHA per 3-ounce serving)
Similarly, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommend the average person eat at least 8 ounces of fish per week to achieve what comes out to about 250 to 500 milligrams (depending on the fish species) of these omega-3s per day.
The issue, though, is that most people just don't get those two servings per week in—or even come close. While, based on these recommendations, American adults should log between 7 and 8 ounces of fish per week, the average intake is really just about 0.6 ounces per day, which comes out to about 4 total ounces per week. In fact, that statistic reflects all types of fish. When you consider fish that are actually rich in omega-3s, Americans are only consuming 0.15 ounce per day, or 1 ounce weekly.
When it comes to EPA and DHA specifically, most American adults are only eating 86 milligrams on average each day—pretty far off from that recommended range of 250 to 500 milligrams. A little quick math reveals we need to up our daily EPA and DHA intake by three to six times. Talk about a nutrient gap!
And, keep in mind that this advice is for the average person. The American Heart Association recommends that those with heart-health considerations consume 1,000 milligrams (i.e., 1 gram) or more of combined EPA and DHA per day.*
Getting more EPA & DHA.
The fix the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and American Heart Association suggest here is simple: Eat two fish-forward meals per week.
Of course, though, there are plenty of reasons people just don't make this happen, whether it's a vegan or vegetarian eating pattern that doesn't involve fish, or lack of access to affordable quality seafood. Heck, maybe you just don't like the stuff! (Don't beat yourself up about it; if there's anything the data makes clear, it's that you're not the only one falling short in the fish and EPA+DHA departments.)
Interestingly, that same data shows that when you account for our EPA+DHA consumption from food and supplements, the daily average goes up from about 86 milligrams per day to about 112 milligrams per day. So, while supplements certainly help move the needle, the average person would need to supplement more (or simply with a well-designed, potent supplement) in order to achieve reliable, targeted doses of omega-3s, which is why mbg formulated omega-3 potency+ with 1,500 milligrams of EPA and DHA from sustainable, wild-caught anchovies.*
Despite well-established recommendations, most Americans don't eat nearly enough fish to get the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, both of which play a variety of important roles in our health. (Try these delicious and simple pescatarian recipes to make getting in those two weekly servings easier.)
If eating more fish just isn't in the cards for you (for whatever reason!), taking a quality, high-potency fish oil supplement—like mbg's omega-3 potency+—is a simple way to supply your body with the good stuff on a daily basis.*
Lauren Del Turco, CPT is a freelance health and wellness writer, editor, and content strategist who covers everything from nutrition to mental health to spirituality. Del Turco is also an ACE-certified personal trainer. She graduated from The College of New Jersey with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing. When she’s not on deadline, you’ll find Del Turco hiking with her dogs, experimenting with new plant-based recipes, or curled up with a book and tea.