Omega-3s provide a long list of potential health benefits. However, fish is the most popular source of omega-3, and it is sure to be the first recommendation when you need to get more omega-3s. Does that mean that getting your omega-3s is hopeless if you don’t eat fish?
There are many reasons why someone might not eat fish, like maintaining a plant-based diet, allergies, or just a distaste for fish. Fortunately, there are several ways you can obtain omega-3s without eating fish or taking a dietary fish oil supplement.
When choosing a non-fish source of omega-3, it is essential to find high-quality sources with the right amount of omega-3s.
What Is Omega-3?
Omega-3s are a type of healthy fat found naturally occurring in the body in cell membranes. Because of their role in cell membranes, these fatty acids are a natural building block for cells, influencing how cells interact with each other in the body and providing a valuable energy source. These fatty acids are considered essential because the body cannot produce them on its own.
There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids found in the body, which are:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a short-chain omega-3 precursor
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
ALA is the most abundant fatty acid in a standard diet, as it can easily be found in many common foods, including nuts, seeds, and oils. Therefore, there is little to no reason to supplement this fatty acid.
DHA and EPA are much rarer in a regular diet, but they are also the most valuable omega-3s. The reason that fatty fish like mackerel, sardines, and salmon are such popular and highly praised sources of omega-3s is that they are some of the few sources of both DHA and EPA.
What Are the Benefits of Omega-3?
More and more people are adding fish and krill oil supplements to their cabinets as they seek to incorporate more omega-3s in their daily diet. Although they do not need to turn to fish supplements to obtain them, they are right to turn to omega-3s with the hope of experiencing potential health benefits.
Incorporating more omega-3 fats into your diet allows you to support your general health and wellness. By influencing how your cells interact with each other, omega-3s can provide multiple health benefits.
- Supporting heart health and cardiovascular function
- Helping to maintain a healthy blood pressure
- Helping to maintain cholesterol levels already within the healthy range.
- Supporting healthy cognitive function
- Supporting healthy joint function
- Maintaining healthy skin
- Helping to maintain emotional wellness
However, to reap the real benefits of omega-3s, you need to turn to DHA and EPA omega-3s. ALA omega-3 is only a precursor to the other two, as ALA can be converted into EPA and then DHA by the body only in very small amounts.
Therefore, obtaining DHA and EPA omega-3s into your diet is crucial. This is the primary idea to keep in mind when you’re looking for an adequate source of omega-3s.
What Are Fishless Sources of Omega-3?
Whether you are allergic to fish, on a plant-based diet, or concerned about consuming harmful marine contaminants like mercury, you can still get the omega-3s you need without eating fish. The following are some of the best non-fish food sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
When discussing plant sources of omega-3s, flaxseed is likely to be one of the first options that come up in conversation.
You can get more of these nutritious seeds by incorporating ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil into your diet. In just one tablespoon, flaxseeds provide a total of 1.8 grams of ALA omega-3s.
Flaxseed may additionally have some potential benefits for cardiovascular health, but unfortunately, flaxseed only provides ALA, which makes it a less effective source than other options.
Because of this, flaxseed serves as a nice supplement to your diet, but it is not a direct replacement for fish. However, it is easy to add to smoothies and provides fiber and protein.
Other seeds like hemp seeds and chia seeds are also high in ALA. In addition to ALA omega-3s, hemp seeds and chia seeds are also good sources of fiber and protein, so these plant foods make a great addition to your diet either way.
Again, these sources lack DHA and EPA, so despite their popularity, they do not serve as complete replacements for fish in your diet.
Like flaxseed, walnuts are a rich source of ALA omega-3s.
Walnuts also have several potential health benefits, as they can possibly support your cardiovascular health by promoting healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Although they can provide some ALA for your body to convert DHA and EPA, walnuts are not enough to support your recommended omega-3 intake on their own.
Another common source of omega-3s that you might hear about is vegetable oil. Vegetable oils can include canola oil, avocado oil, soybean oil, and sesame oil.
Although these options may be offered as appropriate substitutes for fish, they are not. You can drizzle these options on your salad in moderation, but you won’t see the same benefits as other omega-3 sources.
Despite the fact that they may have some potential health benefits, unfortunately, vegetable oils also lack DHA and EPA omega-3s. So, what doesn’t?
If you remember nothing else from this list, make sure you hold on to algae. Algae is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids for those who do not eat fish.
In fact, algae is one of the best sources of omega-3s in general, allowing for easy absorption of essential fatty acids. Algae is also one of the only plant-based sources of omega-3 that contains both DHA and EPA fatty acids.
A little-known fact is that fish don’t make omega-3 on their own — they actually get their fatty acids through their diet by eating omega-3-rich algae. This means that you, too, can support your health by getting omega-3s directly from the source.
There are many different types of algae, so you have several options. Algae can refer to seaweed, nori, Spirulina, Chlorella, and various other species — though these species do not contain DHA or EPA.
These different types are easy to incorporate into your diet through supplements. You can find Chlorella or Spirulina as powders that can easily be added to your smoothies or other meals. However, not all of these options are as rich in DHA and EPA fatty acids as others.
You can find supplements specifically formulated to provide abundant omega-3s and simplify your ability to replace fish oil in your diet.
For example, iwi life’s plant-based omega-3 supplement makes it very easy to get enough omega-3s in your diet with a single softgel, providing a total of 250mg of combined EPA and DHA fatty acids.
iwi life’s supplement relies on a species of microalgae called Nannochloropsis, which grows prolifically and provides omega-3s that are absorbed by the body better than krill or fish oil.
Replace Fish Oil for Good
As you look to incorporate more omega-3s in your diet, you can take comfort in the fact that you don’t need oily fish as much as you may have thought. With the high DHA and EPA content in algae, you can turn to a powerful alternative that supports your health.
If you are ready to take the next step in replacing fish oil in your diet, then talk to your nutritionist about incorporating algae into your daily routine.
At iwi life, we strive to make access to the omega-3s you need as simple as possible. Through the power of omega-3s, our supplements provide a wide range of health benefits.
To see all of the ways that algae can be used to support your health, exploreour complete family of products and find the option that best fits your needs.
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