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Plant-based lifestyles are becoming increasingly popular, and with this rise comes a heightened interest in plant-based omega-3.
Many people are making the switch to vegan and vegetarian diets for various motives ranging from ethics to the environment. However, following a plant-based diet comes with specific nutrition considerations – you have to make sure that even though you are not eating animal products, you are still getting all of the nutrients your body needs.
One of the most difficult nutrients to get from a plant-based diet are your Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s come from so few dietary sources already, with the most well-known source being fatty fish. Some plant-based dieters may feel like they are at a loss when it comes to getting enough of these healthy fats.
Luckily, there are several plant-based Omega-3 sources, and in the contest between plant-based Omega-3s vs. fish oils, the vegetarian and vegan sources can hold their own. From nuts and seeds to algae oil supplements, you can definitely get enough Omega-3s without having to eat any animal or fish products.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3s fall into the category of healthy fats called polyunsaturated fatty acids.
These polyunsaturated fatty acids (or PUFAs) are healthy fats, or lipids, that are important for several different bodily processes, including brain and central nervous system development. They have also been identified as essential nutrients for boosting heart health. Your body cannot make these PUFAs on its own, so you have to get them from your diet.
PUFAs are divided into Omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids, with Omega-3s being a primary focus because of the significant roles they play in your health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital nutrients since they help your body make hormones that play important roles in blood pressure, heart health, and inflammation. Having a higher ratio of Omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids has also been shown to be protective against inflammatory conditions and poor heart health, making it especially important to pay attention to your own Omega-3 intake.
There are several different kinds of Omega-3 fatty acids, but the most commonly studied acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
EPA and DHA are both key PUFAs that are implicated in various health benefits, especially when it comes to fighting off inflammation and combatting chronic diseases.
While ALA is more commonly found in vegetarian dietary sources, it is unfortunately not as effective as EPA and DHA in the body. If you get ALA from your food, it can be converted to EPA and DHA, but this only happens in very small amounts.
Why Is It Important To Get Enough Omega-3s In Your Diet?
Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, having enough dietary Omega-3s has been found to be important for a whole range of health issues, including:*
- Lowering blood pressure
- Lowering triglyceride levels
- Cognitive function
- Depression and anxiety
- Dry eye disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Omega-3s are also used to promote healthy muscles and bones and boost the life of skin, hair, and nails.*
Most of these active functions are dependent upon the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, rather than ALA, so it’s important to get all three in your diet so you can fully take advantage of the health benefits.
Sourcing Plant-Based Omega-3s: Best Foods and Tips
If you are following a plant-based diet, like veganism or vegetarianism, you’re more likely to come across sources of ALA in your diet than EPA or DHA.
ALA can be found in various healthy plant sources like:
These powerful seeds have become increasingly popular in recent years as a healthy dietary addition, and this is in part due to them being rich in Omega-3 ALA. Soak chia seeds in your favorite drinks, or sprinkle them into your baked goods to reap the benefits.
The small but mighty flax seed is one of the richest sources of ALA you’re likely to come across in your diet. Ground flax seeds can be added to various foods like cereals, baked goods, and smoothies.
In addition to ALAs, walnuts also have plenty of antioxidants to combat chronic health issues. Chop them up and sprinkle them onto your salad or eat them on their own as a snack for a good dose of healthy fat.
It’s no secret that kale has made a name for itself in recent years as one of the healthiest leafy greens out there. In addition to the vitamins and minerals that give kale its name in the health world, it also comes with a good serving of ALA. Replace your other leafy greens with kale to pack in the nutrition.
Roast, boil, or sautee these staple veggies to add more ALA into your daily meal plans.
Another popular dietary addition, hemp seeds can be added to your daily diet to boost your Omega-3 profile.
You can get plenty of ALA if you add more of these healthy nuts and vegetables to your weekly meal plan. However, you shouldn’t depend on this as the only source for your Omega-3s.
If you rely on the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA to get your full range of Omega-3 health benefits, you would have to eat plenty of these ALA-rich sources, and even then, the process is not as efficient as getting EPA and DHA directly.
DHA and EPA are most notably found in marine sources, with the most well-known source being fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Because many people don’t get enough fatty fish in their diet to meet their weekly Omega-3 recommendation, this has also spawned the increasing popularity of supplements like fish oil as a way to get your Omega-3s.
In a plant-based diet, though, these sources and supplements are incompatible.
Instead, your best bet for plant-based Omega-3s is to take algae oil supplements.
Plant-Based Omega-3 Solution: Why Algae Oil Supplements Shine
Algae oil is rising in popularity and is a particularly promising plant-based alternative for getting enough Omega-3s as a vegan or vegetarian. As the name suggests, these supplements get their Omega-3 nutrition profile from algae.
Fatty fishes are rich in EPA and DHA because they eat microalgae that are rich in both of these essential fatty acids. By taking algae oil supplements, you are essentially cutting out the middleman and getting your Omega-3s from the same rich plant-based source as fish, without actually having to eat animal products that compromise your dietary choices.
Benefits Of Using Algae Oil Supplements Get More DHA And EPA:
- Rich source of Omega-3s: In the aquatic food chain for fatty fish, microalgae are the initial producer of EPA and DHA, so when you take algae oil supplements, you are getting your Omega-3s straight from the source. Also, research is showing that the bioavailability of EPA and DHA from algae oil is comparable to fish oil, making them an adequate substitute for plant-based diets.
- Vegan and vegetarian friendly: Since there are no fish or other animals involved in the production of algae oils, vegans can rest easy when taking algae oil supplements. This is also great news for people with fish allergies or those who don’t like the taste of fish!
- Better for the environment than fish and fish oil: In addition to being more accessible for different diets, you don’t need fish to make algae oil supplements makes them more friendly for wild fish populations and natural aquatic habitats.
- May even help to induce weight loss: According to one study comparing algae oil to fish oil and their effects on weight loss in mice, the amount of PUFAs in algae oil exceeded the amount found in fish oil. In addition, the subject group that was given algae oil lost more weight than the group that was given fish oil!
The increasing interest in and production of algae oil supplements makes them a viable option for getting enough dietary Omega-3s without having to turn to animal products!
Calgee’s Vegan Omega-3 Supplement
While it has been historically difficult to get enough Omega-3s as a vegan or a vegetarian, this no longer has to be the case. With the algae oil supplement industry gaining traction, we now have a healthy, sustainable option for getting enough Omega-3s without compromising our lifestyles!
If you have a dietary deficiency and want to reap the benefits of adding Omega-3 fatty acids without compromising your plant-based diet, try our Vegan Omega-3 Supplement, which gets its nutrient-dense EPA and DHA from sustainably harvested algae oil.
In the evolving world of health and nutrition, understanding the benefits and sources of plant-based omega-3 is crucial for those adopting vegan or vegetarian diets. As we've explored, from chia seeds to algae oil supplements, there are ample ways to ensure you're getting your essential omega-3s from plant-based sources. Embrace these options and enjoy the myriad health benefits they offer.