Daily Consumption of Foods Rich in Omega 3 Can Benefit Your Mental Health

Dr. Karina Rosales Ortiz
About the Author

Dr. Karina Rosales Ortiz is a nutritionist who does research at the Department of Psychiatry, Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) in Barcelona, Spain. She is investigating the effects of food patterns on adults with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

You may have heard many times that you should follow a Mediterranean diet to maintain good health. The reason behind this recommendation is because of its dietary pattern, which consists of eating each day the following group of anti-inflammatory foods: legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and lean meats such as chicken, turkey, eggs, and fish.

Let me first explain what anti-inflammatory nutrients are and what they do. Anti-inflammatory nutrients are nutrients that, when eaten in the right amounts, can lead to a reduction of inflammation in our body. In previous posts, we have explained how inflammation can be bad for our brain. Not all foods have the same amount of anti-inflammatory nutrients, this greatly varies between foods. Omega 3-fatty acids are considered one of the most anti-inflammatory nutrients, due to their potential power to target and interfere in inflammation mechanisms,  including reducing the synthesis of proinflammatory cytokines (C-reactive protein and IL-6) and gene expression (1). Scientific studies have shown that consuming adequate amounts of omega-3 is critical for brain function (2). Specifically, omega-3 is important for regulating how easily proteins and lipids can cross the neuronal membrane, which is important for the communication between brain cells. Scientific evidence has shown that low consumption of foods rich in omega-3s like fish is associated with a higher prevalence of mental health disorders, including postnatal depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and schizophrenia (3).

You may now wonder whether you should take omega-3 supplements to make sure that you’re consuming enough of them. However, it is better to get these nutrients through a healthy diet. Although some clinical trials with omega-3 supplements have found improvements in cognitive functioning and behavior, there are still many inconclusive results. Right now it is not mandatory that everyone takes supplements of omega-3s. It’s preferable to acquire it from food. That’s why I created a list of foods rich in omega 3 so you can enhance the consumption and with it your mental health:

  • Healthy fats, including extra virgin olive, safflower, sunflower, peanut, and avocado oils. Add one teaspoon per meal of one of these oils daily.
  • Eat a good portion of fish (120-150 g): salmon mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines two to three times per week.
  • Always have nuts near you so you can eat them daily.
  • Don’t forget to add seeds (flaxseed, chia seeds, and hemp seeds) in your meals.