On a vegan diet, it is important to be mindful of your intake of certain nutrients. Following a plant-based diet that excludes all animal products can make it more difficult to obtain several necessary important nutrients.
One of the vital nutrients that is harder to obtain on a vegan diet is omega-3. Since vegans have a more challenging time obtaining omega-3 fatty acids through their diet than omnivores who consume fish and fish oil, they should prioritize including these nutrients in their diet. By choosing the right sources and accessing them on a daily basis, vegans can incorporate omega-3 in multiple ways.
What Is Omega-3?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fats that make up the foundations of many cells in the body. Including omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is crucial for supporting your overall health. There are three main omega-3 fatty acids. These are:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the omega-3 precursor abundant in most diets
All three of these fatty acids should be a part of your daily diet. Of the three, ALA is the only essential fatty acid, which means it cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through diet alone. ALA is the most abundant form of omega-3s in a standard diet as it is found in many foods, including nuts, seeds, and oils.
The other two forms of omega-3 are only conditionally essential since the body can produce them. While technically the human body can convert short-chain fatty acid ALA into the long-chain EPA and then into DHA, the truth is that the body converts only a very small amount of ALA into true omega-3.
In young adults, men may convert as little as 8% of ALA into EPA and as little as under 4% of EPA into DHA. Because the body can only convert very small amounts, you should prioritize including these fatty acids into your diet through either natural foods or supplementation.
However, these two forms of fatty acids exist most commonly in fish sources like mackerel and salmon. With a lack of many sources of EPA and DHA omega-3s, vegans have to work harder to include these nutrients as part of a healthy diet.
What Are the Benefits of Omega-3s?
Including the appropriate amount of omega-3s in your diet can offer several health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids can play an important role in supporting several of the body’s processes, from the brain to the heart. When receiving a steady intake of omega-3s, your body benefits.
Regular intake of omega-3s helps support healthy brain function by maintaining healthy brain cells. High levels of DHA can help support and maintain healthy cognitive function, including memory, processing speed, and motor functions.
DHA is also beneficial for the brain before birth as it plays an important role during fetal brain development and can support improved mental health for the mother. EPA omega-3s are also helpful in supporting a positive mood and emotional wellness. These two nutrients are vital for supporting a healthy brain.
Omega-3s have a strong reputation for their ability to support heart health because they have an important impact on cardiovascular function. A diet or supplement routine rich in EPA and DHA can support a healthy heart as these nutrients can help maintain healthy blood pressure, heart rate, and blood vessel function.
The eye is made up of several different fats that influence the eye’s ability to see and adjust to different lighting. DHA is one of the important fats found inside the eye. As a result, a consistent DHA intake helps support healthy eye function, even as you age. DHA is also crucial during pregnancy for supporting healthy development of the eyes.
With a long list of benefits from omega-3s, vegans do not have to be excluded. By incorporating the right foods and supplements into a plant-based diet, vegans can also experience the many health benefits associated with omega-3s.
How Can I Incorporate Vegan Omega-3?
Omega-3s are a vital nutrient and should be considered a priority in any diet, but especially a vegan diet. Vegans may have a harder time obtaining omega-3s through diet alone. However, by remaining mindful and making the incorporation of fatty acids a priority, it is possible to obtain a healthy amount of these necessary nutrients from plant foods or algal oil supplements. The following are some of the best ways to incorporate vegan omega-3 options in your day:
Seeds are a rich form of ALA, the precursor to true omega-3s. Although ALA fatty acids are the most abundant of the three fatty acids, especially in a plant-based diet, it certainly does not hurt to receive larger amounts of this nutrient. Because the body is able to convert ALA in small quantities, a regular intake of ALA can certainly provide benefits.
Some good sources of ALA omega-3s include chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds. An ounce of chia seeds contains five grams of omega-3s per serving, while a tablespoon of flaxseed contains 2.4 grams of omega-3s. Seeds are a great way to incorporate omega-3 into your dietary intake since they can be added to cereals or oatmeal, used to top salads, blended into smoothies, and more.
Seeds like chia seeds and flaxseeds are also abundant in fiber, calcium, and iron, making them an all-around great addition to your diet.
Similar to heart-healthy foods like chia seeds and flax seeds, walnuts are rich in omega-3 precursor ALA. Just one ounce of walnuts can provide 2.5 grams of ALA omega-3s. Although they do not contain EPA or DHA, walnuts are still one of the best plant-based food sources of omega-3. Walnuts are also rich in other nutrients, such as fiber, vitamin E, copper, and manganese.
Vegans can incorporate walnuts into a daily diet in several ways. Walnuts make a great addition to baked goods, can be added into oatmeal, or make a great snack by the handful.
3. Seaweed: Some True Omega-3
Seaweed can also be referred to as a type of “macroalgae,” but it still stands alone as its own source of omega-3 thanks to the wide range of species that can be set apart from other types of algae. Although it is not as high in omega-3 as other forms of algae, seaweed provides a small amount of DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids.
At the same time, seaweed is an abundant source of several other nutrients, like soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, iodine, and other minerals, including magnesium, iron, sodium, and potassium. Seaweed is also rich in vitamins A, B, C, and E.
Vegans can consume seaweed in the form of a dried, crunchy snack, as part of a soup broth, or with ingredients like scallions and garlic in a seaweed salad.
4. Algae Oil: True Omega-3
As its name implies, algae oil is made by extracting the oil from the algae. Surprisingly, algae oil is one of the best ways that vegans and non-vegans alike can incorporate omega-3s into their diet. Contrary to popular belief, algae can be considered one of the best sources of omega-3. Fish are often seen as the ideal dietary source of omega-3, but the reality is that fish are only high in these fatty acids because they consume a diet that is plentiful in microalgae.
Algae oil allows vegans to skip the “middleman” in their diet by obtaining their omega-3 nutrients straight from the source, which is algae. Algae is the most potent vegan source of DHA and EPA omega-3s, making it a special supplement. Vegans can choose to consume algae oil as a supplement by the spoonful. However, cooking with algae oil is not an option because it significantly reduces the bioavailability of omega-3 fatty acids by oxidizing them.
5. Omega-3 Supplements: True Omega-3
If you do not want to eat pounds of seaweed, and algae oil sounds unappealing to you, then, fortunately, you have another option. An omega-3 supplement takes away the guesswork of how much of the fatty acids you are receiving each day and gives you the ability to take total charge of your nutritional intake.
iwi life’s vegan omega-3 supplement is algae-based for maximum benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids that are sourced from algae are absorbed at a rate at least 50% higher than those from fish.
Another great benefit of an omega-3 supplement is that you can also obtain several other vital nutrients. For example, iwi life’s omega-3 supplement includes omega-6 fatty acids, omega-7s, omega-9s, polar lipids, and chlorophyll. Many of these nutrients, like omega-6 fatty acids, complement the benefits of omega-3 fats, while others, like polar lipids, improve the body’s ability to absorb omega-3s. Altogether, an omega-3 supplement helps provide many benefits in one.
Incorporate Vegan Omega-3s in Your Routine
Everyone should be mindful of their nutrient intake to ensure they receive an adequate amount of important nutrients. Regarding omega-3s, vegans need to be especially mindful to ensure they are not missing out on fatty acids. Fortunately, iwi life makes it simple to obtain the necessary amounts of omega-3s. Our powerful omega-3 supplement offers 100 mg of DHA and 150 mg of EPA in addition to several other important fatty acids.
When you choose an iwi life supplement, you can trust that you are receiving all-natural, 100% plant-based ingredients to support your health. Our omega-3 supplement is good for you and the environment. With algae grown on our sustainable farms, you can trust that you are doing your part by choosing iwi life over other options. To see all of the benefits you can gain from iwi life omega-3 products, explore our complete family of products. Incorporate one of our vegan omega-3 supplements into your daily routine — you will be glad you did.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Plant-Based Diets | PCRM.
Essential Fatty Acids | Linus Pauling Institute
The Science of Seaweeds | American Scientist