We’ve all been told of the positive effects of taking omega 3 supplements for eye health, especially for the treatment of dry eye disease.
Studies have shown an improvement in tear osmolarity, tear break-up time, matrix metalloproteinase-9, and Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) symptom scores in patients adding omega 3s into their diet.
On a daily basis, I can find several patients who I believe would benefit from omega 3 supplements due to signs and symptoms associated with ocular surface disease. I have also found that at least a handful of patients each week are not interested in taking fish oils for one reason or another; either they are vegetarian or vegan, or they are just hesitant to take supplements in general.
Because this is such a common occurrence in my practice, I’ve done some research on other ways to get a good amount of omega 3s in your diet just by changing some of the foods you eat or cook with.
Below are some great foods that are rich in omega 3s that you can recommend to your patients who would rather not take fish oil supplements.
1. Flaxseeds (Omega-3 content: 2338mg per tablespoon of seeds, 7196mg per tablespoon of oil)
Flaxseeds are by far the richest whole food source of the omega-3 fat called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Flaxseeds are also very high in fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, and other nutrients. They also have a great omega-6:omega-3 ratio.
2. Chia Seeds (Omega-3 content: 4915mg per ounce)
Chia seeds are incredibly nutritious. They are not only rich in omega 3s, but also in manganese, calcium, phosphorus, and various other nutrients. A standard 1oz serving of chia seeds contains 4 grams of protein, including all with essential amino acids.
3. Walnuts (Omega-3 content: 2542mg per ounce, which amounts to about 7 walnuts)
Walnuts are very nutritious and are loaded with fiber. They also contain high amounts of copper, manganese, vitamin E and important plant compounds. Make sure to tell your patients to not remove the skin, as it contains most of the phenol antioxidants found in walnuts.
4. Soybeans (Omega-3 content: 1241mg in a half cup)
Soybeans are a good source of fiber and vegetable protein. They also contain high amounts of other nutrients such as riboflavin, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium. Soybeans are also very high in omega-6 fatty acids, so they should not be relied on as a sole omega-3 source as we need a certain ratio of omega-3:omega-6s.