You have probably heard of omega-3s and know that they are helpful for your heart, but how much are you really getting? There are several types of omega-3 fat, and fish is the most famous source of two important ones. That means that if you're vegetarian, you may miss out on some of these vital nutrients.
On a vegetarian diet, it’s not a bad idea to consider supplementing your omega-3 intake, but it can raise even more questions about what to look for. Fortunately, iwi is here to help you along in your search.
Why Do Omega-3s Matter?
Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid, which are a key component of cell membranes in the body. These healthy fats are also a helpful source of energy, and can support heart health by helping your body regulate LDL and HDL cholesterol, as well as supporting healthy triglyceride levels.
There are three main types of omega-3s:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a short-chain omega-3 precursor
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Your body uses omega-3s for many things, and they are important building blocks of many cells in the body. For example, DHA is found in large amounts in both the brain and the eyes. Meanwhile, EPA creates eicosanoids, which play a regulatory role in the body, helping your body maintain proper function. Eicosanoids help support vital functions like heart rate and blood pressure.
These omega-3s play an important part in the healthy development of cells. Since this fatty acid is found in cells in the eye and brain, it is a vital nutrient during pregnancy and throughout childhood. DHA is not just a part of these systems — it is one of the necessary foundational components. DHA makes up 90% of the unsaturated fatty acids in the brain.
Both DHA and EPA are naturally occurring fatty acids in the body, not just supplemental nutrients, making them an important consideration for your daily nutrient intake. Not only are omega-3s a key part of your nutrient intake for regular bodily functions, but they can also provide several positive effects on your health.
What Benefits Do Omega-3s Provide?
Since omega-3 fatty acids play an important part in making up cell membranes, omega-3 fatty acids are found in many systems throughout the body. As a result, regular omega-3 intake can provide multiple benefits for several of these systems while supporting their healthy function.
When considering the many benefits of omega-3s, it is important to recognize that DHA and EPA are responsible for most of them. Ultimately, these omega-3s provide multiple benefits as they:
- Support healthy blood pressure
- Support healthy joint function
- Help maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels
- Maintain your eye health
- Support a healthy immune system
- Maintain healthy LDL and HDL cholesterol levels
- Support healthy total cholesterol levels
DHA and EPA not only support your physical health, but can also have a positive impact on your emotional and cognitive wellness as well. EPA can support a positive mood while DHA supports healthy cognitive functioning, including memory, concentration, and motor skills. These benefits are especially helpful as you age.
Many people enjoy taking omega-3s as they age for their powerful ability to support healthy aging. From supporting the cushion in your joints to promoting healthy vision, DHA and EPA omega-3s can provide you with support year after year.
Consuming around 200 to 500 mg of omega-3s a day is a standard intake — taking too much EPA or DHA may lead to gastrointestinal side effects.
What Foods Contain Omega-3s?
Getting your daily omega-3s takes some thoughtful planning about what goes in your diet. A wide variety of food sources contain some form of omega-3 fatty acids. For example, nuts, seeds, and oils are all rich sources of ALA — but this will not provide you with the true forms of omega-3.
These foods do not provide vital EPA or DHA. Because ALA is found in so many different foods, few people have to worry or even think about their ALA intake. On the other hand, EPA and DHA are much harder to come by and take a more targeted effort to obtain.
DHA and EPA are usually found together in food sources. Both fatty acids are predominantly found in fatty, oily fish. Examples of omega-3-rich fish include salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. General guidelines recommend you eat just two servings of fish, or about 8 ounces, each week.
More and more foods at the store have started to embrace the practice of highlighting omega-3s on their labels. Depending on the product, these labels may provide a false sense of comfort. Many of these foods contain ALA omega-3s, which you are likely already getting enough of.
In reality, a vegetarian diet provides few sources of essential omega-3s and virtually none in everyday foods. Since fish is one of the few sources of DHA and EPA omega-3s, it can be hard to obtain the recommended daily amount of these important nutrients for anyone, but especially vegetarians.
Is Food Enough for Omega-3s?
As with any nutrient, it is ideal if you can obtain all of your recommended intake just from food. But will food provide you with the omega-3 fatty acid intake that you need? Unfortunately, the short answer is that if you are on a strictly vegetarian diet, then food is probably not enough to sustain an adequate omega-3 intake.
Although vegetarian diets are typically rich in ALA omega-3s, they completely lack the two other essential fatty acids — EPA and DHA. Some vegetarians take confidence in the body’s ability to produce EPA and DHA on its own. After all, ALA can be converted into EPA, and then into DHA, by the body. However, the body is not able to make these conversions in large amounts.
In women, typically only about 21% of ALA is converted into EPA and 9% into DHA, according to a study. Meanwhile, in men, that number is even lower, as only about 8% of ALA was converted to EPA and less than 4% was then converted into DHA.
As a result, it is vital that you obtain regular amounts of these two fatty acids directly instead of assuming that ALA omega-3s will be enough to provide you with DHA and EPA fatty acids.
For those who do not eat much fish in their daily diet, there are some other options. Many people prefer the convenience of omega-3 supplements. The most common dietary supplements are fish oil and krill oil. Both of these can be taken either by the spoonful or by a softgel capsule, depending on preference.
Unfortunately, it is pretty unrealistic to expect to obtain all of your necessary omega-3s from food alone, especially if you can’t eat fish. If you are on a vegetarian diet, then getting DHA and EPA omega-3s can be a challenge.
What Are Signs You May Not Be Getting Enough Omega-3s?
On a vegetarian diet, it is crucial to be extra mindful about whether you are obtaining all of the nutrients you need. It’s also important to keep in mind that omega-3s are not just beneficial — they are essential. If you are not getting enough omega-3 through your food, you may notice some of the following effects:
- Trouble remembering things
- Dry skin
- Mood swings
- Poor circulation
- Heart problems
If any of the above symptoms persist, you should talk to a healthcare professional. However, starting the right routine can help you tackle the risk of low omega-3 levels before you get there.
It can be harder than you think to get all the nutrients you need, but on the bright side, you can find additional support with the help of a well-formulated vegetarian supplement. Taking a supplement now can help you avoid problems later down the road, so it is important to find one that works for you.
What Should I Look for in a Vegetarian Omega-3 Supplement?
Finding a vegetarian supplement for your omega-3 intake is becoming easier as more people embrace plant-based diets. However, not all supplements are the same in their effectiveness, production, or even in the ingredients they use. When looking for a vegetarian supplement for omega-3s, you should consider a few things.
Because omega-3s are found so abundantly in fatty fish, it is hard for vegetarians to find fatty acid supplementation that fits their lifestyle. However, even fish have to get their omega-3s from somewhere. It turns out that fish contain omega-3s because of the food they eat — predatory fish like mackerel and salmon get their omega-3s from the fish they consume, which rely on krill or zooplankton as food sources.
This brings the question: Why eat fish when we can just share their food? Eating algae allows you to get those same vital DHA and EPA omega-3s that non-vegetarians can so easily obtain. Besides, there is no reason to eat fish when you can cut out the middleman and get your omega-3s straight from the source.
iwi life’s strain of algae, Nannochloropsis, is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and is farmed carefully to ensure the best possible quality. The algae in iwi supplements is farmed away from the oceans and in their own ponds on an algae farm in high plains. This means that it is free from harmful contaminants that exist in ocean water, like mercury, microplastics, and lead.
Unfortunately, not all supplements use the same production practices to provide peace of mind. When choosing a supplement, keep in mind that it helps to do your research on the production methods to ensure you get the nutrients you need from a clean and reliable source.
Altogether, algae is a great, rich source of essential omega-3s. When you take an iwi life algae supplement, you can take comfort in the fact that you are also getting energy-inducing chlorophyll and heart-healthy omega-6s, omega-7s, and omega-9s.
Not only do you want an ingredient that is rich in omega-3s, but you also want one that is going to work and be absorbed well by the body. With any nutrient, your body is only going to be able to absorb so much of what you consume. This means that when you take a supplement, it may not be as effective as you might hope.
Fortunately, with iwi life’s algae-based omega-3 supplements, you can trust that your body will be able to put it to use. In fact, iwi life supplements provide you with 165% the absorption of fish or krill. iwi life’s unique polar lipid formula Almega™PL is designed to provide you with the best possible absorption for the most possible health benefits.
All things considered, algae can be the better option for vegetarians and omnivores alike. So the next time someone tells you to take more fish oil, just tell them to take more algae. You can’t go wrong with choosing the supplement that is proven to work better with your body.
With the amount of science supporting the benefits of algae, you can enjoy peace of mind when you add it to your daily routine. Plus, with high amounts of protein, vitamin B12, and other nutrients, algae isn’t just present in omega-3 supplements — it may also be the future of food production.
If you choose to embrace a vegetarian diet because you care about the environment, then iwi life has even more good news. When you choose iwi life omega-3 supplements, you join us in our commitment to sustainability. Not only is this supplement more sustainable because it keeps important creatures like krill and fish in the oceans, but it also requires very little stress on the environment.
iwi life algae is produced in the middle of New Mexico and Texas deserts in massive agricultural ponds filled with naturally salty water from underground aquifers.
When producing algae, the only resources necessary are sunlight, CO2, some added nutrients, and salty water. As a result, this powerful source of nutrients can be grown without wasting valuable freshwater or soil.
Even the water used in iwi life’s farming practices is recycled. iwi life recycles over 97% of the water used in the harvesting process. To provide a picture, one year’s worth of omega-3 from just a few pounds of algae can save thousands of krill and over a hundred fish.
Take Your Nutrition Up a Notch
If you are on a committed vegetarian diet, then you are more than likely missing out on essential DHA and EPA omega-3s. Fortunately, you can boost your omega-3 intake and jump-start your nutrition with the right supplement, though it may take some extra effort to determine which vegetarian supplement is right for you.
At iwi life, we have simplified the process of finding plant-based omega-3 entirely. We are proud to provide an easy, efficient, and environmentally friendly option to support your omega-3 needs. Learn more about the science behind iwi life and how just two softgels a day can help boost your overall health and wellness.
Docosahexaenoic Acid and Cognition throughout the Lifespan | PMC
Docosahexaenoic acid concentrations are higher in women than in men because of estrogenic effects | PMC
Omega-3 fatty acids Information | Mount Sinai - New York