Are you taking the right omega-3 for your mental health?

You probably already know about the important role omega-3 fatty acids play in mental health. A study earlier this year found a connection between omega-3 consumption and ADHD symptoms in children and two studies last year found connections between omega-3 consumption and depression and bipolar symptoms.

And you might even be taking omega-3 supplements yourself to boost your own mental health. But are you taking the right kind of omega-3 fatty acids?

The omega-3 fatty acid that seems to be the most essential to normal functioning of neural tissue is DHA (short for docosahexaenoic acid). It plays a role in cognitive performance, learning ability, memory, and so on. It actually comprises virtually all of the omega-3 fatty acid found in brain tissue. 

That being said, DHA isn’t consumed in anywhere near the same amount as we consume ALA (a-linolenic acid), a plant-based omega-3. In fact, while the average North American consumes 2–3 grams per day of ALA, we consume only 0.05–0.08 g of DHA (and its close relative EPA) per day.

DHA is naturally found in several foods. Here are the top 7, in order of highest to lowest concentration:

  1. Mackerel
  2. Caviar
  3. Salmon
  4. Herring
  5. Anchovies
  6. Whitefish
  7. Sardines

If you want to learn more about the importance of DHA in your diet, check out this research page on the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute website. Remember to check out the research articles listed at the bottom of the page.