Chia And Other Seeds Are Rich In Omega 3

Seeds and seed oils have the highest omega 3 (n-3) content of all vegetarian foods. Chia, flax and sacha inchi seeds are the richest in n-3. The following data were obtained from the USDA database:

Seeds ALA per 100g EPA per 100g DHA per 100g Total n-3 per 100g Total n-6 per 100g n-3 to n-6 ratio
Flax Seeds 22.81g None None 22.81g 5.91g 3.9 to 1
Chia Seeds 17.55g None None 17.55g 5.79g 3.0 to 1

Comparable data for sacha inchi could not be found but the sparse information currently available indicates an n-3 content of around 20%. This is assumed to comprise entirely ALA. Sacha inchi's n-3 to n-6 ratio is estimated to be between 1.2 to 1 and 1.3 to 1.

Which seeds are best?

Sacha inchi is only available for consumption as oil whereas both chia and flax seeds can be used as food.

Chia versus Flax: Both have their dedicated advocates. Flax seeds have harder coatings and therefore need to be ground or milled. They contain lignans, which are considered beneficial to health. Chia can demonstrate a stronger historical role in nutrition, albeit in South America only.

Awareness of the health benefits of chia has increased in recent years. These highly nutritious seeds are gradually gaining wider recognition as consumers discover that they are versatile and have no known drawbacks.

Flax has been used for thousands of years, primarily in the manufacture of industrial products. Its adoption as a food, both in seed form and as oil, has developed more recently.

Read a detailed comparison of chia, flax and sacha inchi

Which seed oils are worth considering?

Ready made oils intended to be used cold

Some ready made oils have a good n-3 to n-6 balance:

Seed Oils ALA per tbsp (14g) EPA per tbsp (14g) DHA per tbsp (14g) Total n-3 per tbsp (14g) Total n-6 per tbsp (14g) n-3 to n-6 ratio
Flaxseed Oil (USDA) 7.20g None None 7.20g 1.72g 4.2 to 1
Sacha Inchi Oil (Al Sears) 6.85g None None 6.85g 5.15g 1.3 to 1
Udo's 3 6 9 Oil (FloraHealth) No data No data No data 3.2g 6.4g 0.5 to 1
Data sources are quoted under the Seed Oils column.

All of these can be taken by the spoonful, directly from the bottle, or incorporated into cold dishes. Sacha inchi oil and Udo's 3 6 9 blend can be used as a dressing for salads or cooked vegetables.

Cooking oils

Here are some oils commonly used for frying:

Cooking Oils ALA % by weight of total Fatty Acids LA % by weight of total Fatty Acids n-3 to n-6 ratio
Canola Oil (Chow 2007) 9.2 18.7 1 to 2.0
Rapeseed Oil (Chow 2007) 7.3 14.6 1 to 2.0
Olive Oil (Chow 2007) 0.6 10.0 1 to 16.7
Palm Oil (Chow 2007) 0.3 9.4 1 to 31.3
Corn Oil (Chow 2007) 0.9 57.0 1 to 63.3
Cottonseed Oil (Chow 2007) 0.3 53.3 1 to 177.7
Peanut Oil (Chow 2007) None 31.4 NA
Safflower Oil (Chow 2007) None 77.7 NA
Data sources are quoted under the Cooking Oils column.

You can improve your n-3 to n-6 balance by using canola, rapeseed, olive or palm oil instead of other oils that have a much higher LA content.

Find out how cooking with oils affects the PUFA content of the food