Omega-3 fatty acids are an integral component to maintaining overall wellbeing. There are so many health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. They have been linked to lowered tendencies of inflammation, blood triglyceride levels and even dementia.
With oily fish being the most reliable source of omega-3 fatty acids, people on vegan diets may find it difficult to source this essential nutrient in their diet. The deficiency of omega-3s in the diet could lead to dry skin, brittle and damaged hair, and thin nails that crack easily. It can also cause skin rashes to appear, not to mention dandruff. You could also experience fatigue and trouble sleeping.
Though it is difficult to source omega-3s on a vegan diet, it certainly is not impossible. Before we look at the sources of omega-3 in a plant-based diet, it is important to understand a little bit more about omega-3s and what they are.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids come in three primary forms, these are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
The best sources of DHA and EPA are fish and seafood, whereas ALA is found mostly in plants such as flax and soy. ALA is not very active in the body and to be made use of, has to be converted to DHA and EPA to reap the same health benefits. However, your body’s ability to convert ALA is limited. Hence if you don’t get EPA and DHA from your diet, you could find yourself with an omega-3 deficiency.
Further to this, when considering the levels of omega-3s, it is important to ensure that you don’t have a diet low in omega-3 and high in omega-6. This can further increase inflammation in your body, leading to more risk of developing health conditions such as heart disease.
Deficiencies in omega-3s are rare, however with the increased popularity of the vegan diet, if not careful, on a vegan diet, you could develop a deficiency over time. In order to prevent this, keep reading this word to word as we list out the 15 vegan omega-3 food sources.
15 Vegan Omega-3 Food Sources
Since you came to us in search of the best vegan food to source omega-3s, let’s cut to the chase and list out the most effective means to source omega-3s on a vegan diet. If you would like to learn about the importance of omega-3s in your diet to understand the health benefits of these fatty acids in your diet, you will find that in the later sections of this article.
However, if you do want to get a more in-depth understanding of the importance of omega-3 fatty acids, we recommend that you read our article on ‘Why Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids Important.’
Sourcing omega-3 fatty acids on a vegan diet can be tricky. As important as omega-3 fatty acids are to your overall wellbeing when on a vegan diet, it is integral to consider the best sources of these essential fatty acids.
Here is a list of 15 vegan omega-3 food sources.
1) Fortified Drinks
Hemp is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp milk is a great way to source omega-3 fatty acids when on a vegan diet. You can use the milk in your morning breakfast, drink it whole or mixed with cereal. It also works really well in smoothies. You can even use the milk in cooking and baking to reap the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
Another reliable source of omega-3 fatty acids is flax milk, which is a great option for increasing your levels of these essential fatty acids in your body. Flax milk usually contains about 1200 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, with the added bonus of calcium, vitamin D and protein.
When it comes to these fortified drinks, you can make vegan milk at home. It is plain and simple and is usually rather cost-effective. If you are on a vegan diet and are trying to source omega-3 fatty acids, it is important to find ways to not only enjoy your milk but make it yourself. Milk, Vegan is a great book containing 33 recipes for plant-based milk; they show you how to make your vegan milk at home. Follow the link to get your copy now!
Tofu is a great source of ALA, which contains about 0.4 grams of ALA per 100 gram serving of tofu. Tofu provides your body with a good amount of ALA, which can be converted to EPA and DHA in your body.
You can also find tofu which contains added DHA. As a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, tofu is also a great source of plant-based protein and calcium.
3) Avocado Oil
Avocado is a great fruit with loads of health benefits. It is also a great fruit-based oil for vegans who are trying to source omega-3 fatty acids. Avocado oil works great in a salad or within a marinade. It even works really well when used in baking. 70 percent of avocado oil is oleic acid, which is an omega-9 fatty acid. It also has a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids.
Avocado oil isn’t the only plant-based oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil and canola oil also provide your body with a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids. These plant-based oils are a great tool in lowering cholesterol levels.
4) Wild Rice
One cup of wild rice has about 500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. This is plenty of omega-3 fatty acids to keep you healthy. Further to this, wild rice also contains B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
There are various ways you can incorporate wild rice in a vegan menu. Whether as stuffing pumpkins, or eaten alongside mushrooms, wild rice is a great option for people on a vegan diet, trying to source omega-3 fats.
The low-calorie dish will ensure it brings all the health benefits of omega-3s in your diet, thereby ensuring that your health is maintained at optimum levels.
5) Algae Oil
When it comes to sourcing omega-3s on a vegan diet, some do consider supplementation, which is why we thought it was important to add algae oil to this list. Though supplementation is not entirely necessary, marine algae oil is probably the most effective source of omega-3 fatty acids on a plant-based diet.
Studies have identified significant increases in DHA concentrations in the blood, after taking algae oil supplementation. It was also identified that it was more effective in raising EPA levels in comparison to krill oil.
To reap all the health benefits of a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, you may want to consider supplementation.
6) Brussels Sprouts
There is a high amount of ALA in cooked Brussels sprouts. There is about 135 mg of ALA in half a cup of cooked Brussels sprouts. It is also a great source of vitamin C and vitamin K.
There are a variety of ways to cook and enjoy Brussels sprouts, you can simply boil them or stir fry them with some sauce or even make them into an Indian style curry. With a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, adding Brussels sprouts to your diet could help you easily source your required omega-3 fats on a vegan diet.
7) Flaxseed Oil
Considered the most concentrated natural source of ALA, even a small serving of flaxseed oil could provide your body with your daily requirement of omega-3 fatty acids. Each tablespoon of flaxseed oil contains about 7.3 grams of ALA, which is more than four times what an adult male requires.
While whole flaxseed doesn’t have the same concentration of ALA, it is still a good source of omega-3 fatty acids on a vegan diet. Flaxseeds also offer a great deal of dietary fibre, which is great for your digestive health.
You could reap all the benefits of having a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids including sidestepping some major health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
8) Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are an absolutely amazing source of omega-3s, with one tablespoon providing 162 percent of the daily requirement of ALA, (1.6 grams).
Studies have also noticed an increase in EPA concentrations in people who consumed chia seeds over a period of seven weeks. EPA levels in the blood went up by 30 percent. Chia seeds are a great addition to the vegan diet and can be easily incorporated into meals. You could sprinkle it on top of your smoothie or morning cereal, or even make vegan chia seed pudding.
Walnuts contain more fatty acids than salmon. It is rich in ALA, which is readily converted to EPA and DHA in your body. It is recommended that you consume about 0.5 to 1.6 grams of ALA every day. One ounce of dried English walnuts offers 2.6 grams of ALA, while black walnuts provide 0.6 grams.
You can even find walnuts in spread form; walnut butter. This vegan alternative to regular butter works really well on bread and can be a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Seaweed is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. Based on the type of seaweed, the DHA and EPA concentrations do vary. However, there is a good concentration of all three types of omega-3 fatty acids in seaweed.
It has some amazing anti-diabetic, antioxidant and antihypertensive properties which makes it a great addition to the vegan diet to ensure optimal health.
As mentioned earlier, algae oil is a great source of vegan omega-3, and seaweed, a type of algae is undoubtedly a great addition to your vegan meal plan. Simply roll up some sushi in seaweed and enjoy the dish!
A half-cup of edamame beans contains about 0.28 grams of ALA. Popular in Japan, edamame is a form of immature soybeans which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
It is also a great source of plant-based protein. You can easily incorporate these beans into your meal plan, by adding them boiled or steamed to your salads. It also works really well as a side dish to your meal.
12) Kidney Beans
In a half-cup serving of kidney beans, there are about 0.1 grams of ALA. As a common bean to include in meals, kidney beans are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids on a vegan diet.
It is easy to prepare kidney beans and there are a variety of ways you can cook them. It can be made into curries or stews or can be added to a salad. They can also be eaten on their own; boiled.
13) Soybean Oil
This is another great source of omega-3 fatty acids. With about 0.9 grams of ALA in a tablespoon of soybean oil, you ensure that you get ample ALA from a very small serving of this rich oil.
Very popular in Asia, soybean oil is used in cooking and baking by many people and is a great addition to a vegan lifestyle. It is also a great source of vitamin K, folate, potassium and magnesium.
14) Perilla Oil
This oil is derived from perilla seeds and is a popular ingredient in Korean cuisine. As versatile as this ingredient is, it is also a reliable source of omega-3 fatty acids.
One study identified that people who consumed perilla oil had doubled their ALA concentrations, which resultantly increased both EPA and DHA levels. With ALA making up about 64 percent of the seed oil, perilla oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Each tablespoon contains about 9,000 mg of ALA. It works really well as a dressing to a salad.
15) Canola Oil
When it comes to finding the best cooking oil to source omega-3 fatty acids from, canola oil is probably the best recommendation to make. One tablespoon of canola oil contains about 1.28 grams of omega-3 fatty acids; which is more than the daily serving required.
It is a versatile oil that works well in a tasty vinaigrette or even when roasting vegetables. It has a light and neutral flavour and is a great source of vitamin E and vitamin K.
Some Other Sources of Vegan Omega-3s
- Purslane: 4000mg ALA in 200 calories
- Zucchini: 718mg in 200 calories
- Edamame: 592mg in 200 calories
- Summer squash: 453mg in 200 calories.
How Much Omega-3 Fatty Acids Do We Need?
When considering omega-3 fatty acids, it is important to know how much you should be consuming to maintain optimum health. Though there are varied opinions about what the recommended dosage is, it is generally recommended that you consume a minimum of 250-500 mg of EPA and DHA each day for healthy adults.
It is also recommended that you consume about 1.6 grams of ALA for men and 1.1 grams of ALA for women, each day.
Importance of Omega-3s – Health Benefits of Omega-3s
When it comes to the importance of omega-3s in the diet, it should not be one that is overlooked. Omega-3s are considered essential fatty acids, which means they have to be gained into your body through diet and diet alone. They aren’t made in your body, which is why they have to be consumed externally through a well-managed diet. When it comes to understanding the importance of omega-3s, we have to take a look at the health benefits of omega-3s to better understand the value these fatty acids have.
1) Brain Health
Considered critical for the healthy functioning of the brain, omega-3s assist with cell communication, which is integral in maintaining brain vitality. Research has linked lower levels of DHA to smaller brain size, which is an indication of the acceleration of brain ageing.
A diet rich in omega-3 prevent the deterioration of the brain, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of these fatty acids being the reasoning behind the finding.
Hence if you are at all concerned about the health of your brain, you should ensure that you get a good amount of omega-3s when on a vegan diet.
2) Prevents Cancer
Omega-3s have been praised for their ability to fight cancer. Many types of cancer have been linked to chronic inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s make them as effective as they are at fighting cancer. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids could prevent breast cancer from forming and developing.
When consuming a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, you ensure the prevention of cancer, thereby fighting the problem at the root.
3) Fights Inflammation
Inflammation in the short term is actually good for your body. As a part of the immune system, it fights off infections. However chronic inflammation has been linked to more certain health concerns such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and arthritis.
Omega-3s have been identified for their ability to reduce inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 have been studied and researched for years, with findings being definitive. For instance, research conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that omega-3 fatty acids helped to inhibit inflammation.
The long terms effects of reduced inflammation are great for your body, for it enables you to sidestep all the conditions that follow chronic inflammation.
4) Prevents Heart Disease
A diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to a reduced risk of developing heart disease. Studies have identified that good levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the body was linked to 10 percent lowered chances of developing fatal heart attacks.
EPA and DHA work to reduce triglyceride levels, which significantly reduces the risk of developing heart disease. High triglycerides can cause the hardening of arteries, and the thickening of artery walls, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
A healthy heart is ensured by consuming a good amount of omega-3s, which is why it is important to source the omega-3s if on a vegan diet.
5) Eye Health
With DHA composing 60 percent of the retina, vision problems could arise in people who consume lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids prevent macular degenerations in the eye, thereby preventing loss of vision, eye damage and blindness.
Children on a DHA fortified formula had stronger eyesight in comparison to children on a non-DHA formula. Including more omega-3s in your diet could drastically help you improve your eye health.
A study conducted by the National Eye Institute found people who consumed higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to have a 30 percent less chance of developing macular degeneration.
6) Mental Health
DHA is an integral structural component of neuronal membranes, which is why omega-3s have been considered to have tremendous benefits in mental health. Studies have shown that people who suffered from schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder had positive results when placed on a diet or supplement which has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
People who consumed more amounts of omega-3 fatty acids on a regular basis are less susceptible to diseases like depression. According to a study conducted by the Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences in Iran, EPA has been found to be the more effective fatty acid in fighting depression.
Sourcing Omega-3 on a Vegan Diet
When it comes to sourcing omega-3 on a vegan diet, you have to be more careful to ensure that you are getting sufficient amounts every day. As mentioned, omega-3 fatty acids are an integral part of your overall wellbeing and should not be something that is sidestepped.
Ensuring that you get a wholesome amount of omega-3 fatty acids through your diet will ensure a happier and healthier self. We hope after reading this word to word, you are able to better understand the reliable sources of omega-3 fatty acids when on a vegan diet and can plan out your meals accordingly.
We hope you enjoyed reading this word to word and found this article useful!