Omega-3 fatty acid, an essential fatty acid the body needs but cannot produce, plays a vital role in brain function, controls blood clotting and helps reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acid belongs to the group of polyunsaturated fats and is in a variety of foods. The best sources include fatty fish like salmon, but vegetables may also contain some omega-3 fatty acid. Avocados do contain some omega-3 fatty acid, but salmon serves as a much richer source.
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Types of Omega-3
Foods contain three main forms of omega-3 fatty acid: elcosapentaenoic acid, known as EPA; docosahexaenoic acid, referred to as DHA; and alpha-linolenic acid, called ALA. DHA and EPA are only found in fatty fish like salmon. The body uses these two fatty acids to support vital functions. DHA helps to build brain, nerve and eye tissue while EPA supports a healthy cardiovascular system by reducing inflammation and the formation of blood clots. ALA occurs in a wider range of food sources but the body cannot use ALA in its current form so it converts ALA into DHA and EPA once ingested. Vegetable sources, like soybean oil, canola oil, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach and avocados only contain ALA.
Scientists know ALA provides health benefits but because the body must convert it into EPA and DHA, they do not know if all three types provide equal benefits, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Because fish contains all three types of omega-3 fatty acids, the American Heart Association recommends adults eat at least two 3.5-oz. servings of fatty fish, like salmon, per week to help meet the recommended omega-3 fatty acid intake. A 3-oz. serving of Atlantic salmon contains 0.126 g of ALA, 0.733 g of EPA and 0.938 g of DHA.
Fat in Avocados
Avocados contain a significant amount of fat, more than most other foods in the fruit and vegetable groups. One cup of sliced avocado contains 21.4 g of fat, but only 3.1 g of that fat is classified as saturated fat. The remaining is unsaturated fat with the majority, 14.4 g, classified as monounsaturated. With only a small portion of the fat classified as polyunsaturated, avocados are not considered a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Each cup of avocado contains .162 g of ALA, which converts to 0.094 g in a 3 oz. serving. Avocados contain less ALA than salmon and contain no EPA or DHA.
The National Institute of Medicine determines the daily recommended intake for all macronutrients, including carbohydrates, fat and protein, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. The IOM recommends adults consume 20 to 35 percent of their total calories in fat. Since omega-3 fatty acids are an important type of fat it also provides a recommendation for its daily intake. The adequate intake for omega-3 fatty acids is set at 1.6 g per day for males and 1.1 g per day for females. It also provides the acceptable macronutrient distribution range, which describes the range associated with a reduced risk for chronic disease. The AMDR for omega-3 fatty acids is 0.6 to 1.2 g per day for all adults. One 3-oz. serving of salmon provides more than the required amount for one day, while you would need to eat nearly 4 cups of avocados to approach the low end of the AMDR.