Q. I’ve seen DHA on food labels. What is it and where do I find it?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Monday, 25 November 2013.
Tagged: healthy eating, lowfat

Q. I’ve seen DHA on food labels. What is it and where do I find it?

A. DHA stands for DocosaHexaenoic Acid and is a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that is a special component of our eyes, brain and nerve tissues. It is one of three key omega-3 fatty acids that are important in our health. I must admit I often get asked abut DHA as it's popping up on everyday food products from milks to breads.

The other two key fatty acids are:

  • EPA, usually found together with DHA in fish, seafood, algae and ultra-lean meats.
  • ALA, a simpler plant form of DHA that's in flaxseed, hempseed, walnuts, pecans, canola and dark-green vegetables.

DHA is a critical compound in our body's brain, nerve and eye structure and is the most important of these well-studied omega-3s. Everyone needs it throughout life but babies and toddlers whose bodies are growing have particularly high needs.

Many Australians don't like fish or don't eat enough, so manufacturers are now adding DHA (and other forms of fish oil) to foods like bread e.g. Tip Top Up sliced bread, eggs and low-fat milks.

DHA is found in oily fish, such as Atlantic and Australian salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, gemfish, canned sardines, canned salmon and some varieties of canned tuna (check the label to see if it claims to be  "High in omega-3"). It's extracted from such oily fish and added to other food products to boost the DHA content of supermarket foods.

It's part of your omega-3 intake so make sure you're getting enough of it in your daily diet.