15 Best Sources of Omega-3 Fats for Vegans
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that our body cannot produce. The only way to get them is diet. Remember, foods of plant origin provide you only with one type of omega-3 fatty acids – alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), NOT with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The human body can produce EPA out of ALA but the conversion rate is very low. That fact is of a great concern for vegans.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that our body cannot produce. The only way to get them is diet.
It is important to have the proper ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 (another essential fatty acid) in the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and most omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. The typical American diet contains 14 to 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, which many nutritionally-oriented physicians consider to be way too high on the omega-6 side. Indeed, studies suggest that higher dietary omega-6 to omega-3 ratios appear to be associated with worsening inflammation over time and a higher risk of death among hemodialysis patients.
The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, has a healthier balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Many studies have shown that people who follow this diet are less likely to develop heart disease. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, garlic, and moderate wine consumption.
Flaxseeds are probably the best and definitely the most well-known plant-based source of omega-3 for vegans that tops our list: 100g of raw edible portion contains about 23g of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Recently, strains of flaxseed oils have become available which contain approximately 70% by weight of the oil as ALA which is significantly higher than the 50-55% found in conventional flax oil varieties. Whole flax seeds must be ground within 24 hours of use, so the ingredients stay active.
Walnuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, which can be converted into EPA and DHA in the body. A handful of walnuts halves contains 100% of your fat daily intake – 65g of total fat in 100g!!! Moreover, about 70% of those fats are omega-3 essential fatty acids such as linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It has been reported that walnuts lower total cholesterol and triglycerides in people with high cholesterol levels. Of all the nuts out there, walnuts are the omega-3 champs. It is one of the healthiest foods that Mother Nature created – almost a perfect package of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, plant sterols, and antioxidants. In ancient times walnuts were the symbol of intellectuality. And now we know that it’s not only because of their resemblance with human brain, but also because they make our brain healthy and sharp.
Seaweeds, especially wakame and spirulina, are the only vegan foods that naturally have small amounts of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid ) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Chia seeds are loaded with Omega 3, calcium, fiber, and manganese but only recently have gotten proper attention.
Hemp seeds have a great Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio
Consider swapping your olive oil salad dressing for mustard oil instead simply because mustard oil has 800mg Omega 3 and 2000mg Omega 6 in a tablespoon (compare to 100mg Omega 3 and 1300mg Omega 6 found in olive oil!). TIP: Usually, you can find mustard oil in Indian food stores.
Surprisingly but truly – winter squash is a good source of Omega 3.
It turns out that leafy greens not only are good sources of calcium and iron but also a decent source of Omega 3 too.
Cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are relatively rich in Omega 3.
Berries are not only good sources of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, but they also are also a good vegetarian source of Omega 3. Blueberries top the list.
All popular herbs and spices have a great Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio. Cloves, oregano, marjoram and tarragon are the best. Unfortunately, we can eat only a little bit of them, far from enough to meet our daily needs
Mangoes are one of the few vegetarian sources that have less Omega 6 than Omega 3
Like mangoes, honeydew melons also have less Omega 6 than Omega 3.
Although beans don’t have as much Omega 3 as seeds or nuts, they still can help you meet your daily needs of it while avoiding excess Omega 6.
It is always best to get your nutrients from food first. But, if you are running low on Omega 3, then you can use supplements – lots of them are available now. Be sure to buy omega-3 fatty acid supplements made by established companies who certify that their products are free of heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, and cadmium.
- http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=185895 (Fish Consumption and Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death)
- http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1439-0396.2011.01135.x/abstract (A krill oil supplemented diet reduces the activities of the mitochondrial tricarboxylate carrier and of the cytosolic lipogenic enzymes in rats)
- http://articles.mercola.com/omega-3.aspx (Your Practical Guide to Omega-3 Benefits and Supplementation)