When it comes to find omega 3 vegan alternative sources we know it can be a little bit of a minefield out there, with lots of information about which foods offer a source and different brands offering different levels of vegan omega 3 supplements for you to buy. So which is right for you?
This article will look into not only the different vegan food sources for omega 3 that are plant-based but also different brands and what they offer and our thoughts on them. Please use the quick links below to head to the section you wish to read (or simply scroll to read it all).
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Omega 3 health Benefits & why its important
As part of a healthy balanced diet it’s important to have omega-3, below we look into the reasons behind this and the health benefits.
One type of omega-3 fat is Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), this along with Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are needed in your body to help support health, this includes helping reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease as well as reducing inflammation. Your body struggles to produce the likes of DHA itself and so making sure your diet includes foods/supplements to support this is important.
1. Heart DiseaseHaving healthy levels of omega-3 in your body has been linked by some studies to nearly 10% lower risk of a fatal heart attacks, therefore it’s important to make sure you do have these healthy levels for a healthy heart (source). This is also backed up by the BDA (British Dietetic Association) who state that by eating a range of foods which have high levels of omega-3 it can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
2. Mental HealthMore and more people are aware of how important mental health is today, much research has looked into connections between Omega-3 and if there is a benefit to mental health. Research from the Swallownest Court Hospital in Sheffield, UK found “Epidemiological studies indicate an association between depression and low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids, and biochemical studies have shown reduced levels of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cell membranes in both depressive and schizophrenic patients,” Studies from other parts of the world have also seen links between the consumption of omega-3 and depression.
3. Heart DiseaseHaving healthy levels of omega-3 in your body has been linked by some studies to nearly 10% lower risk of a fatal heart attacks, therefore it’s important to make sure you do have these healthy levels for a healthy heart (source). This is also backed up by the BDA (British Dietetic Association) who state that by eating a range of foods which have high levels of omega-3 it can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
4. Eye HealthThe eyes retina is made up of up to 60% DHA, so if your body is low in DHA it can cause issues with your sight. Studies have suggested that having healthy levels of DHA can help reduce the risk of developing eye issues such as macular degeneration, which is the main cause of blindness.
6. Brain health
Vegan Omega 3 Food Sources
Many people take supplements for Omega 3 even when they don’t follow a plant-based diet and eat plenty of fish, this is due to the importance of these fatty acids and how they play a key role in our bodies and the health benefits that come from it.
Various studies over the years have linked it to reduce inflammation in your body (source), to decrease blood triglycerides (source) and some studies have even found links to it reducing the dementia risk (source). This alongside a lot of other research have led many to make sure this is a part of their diet, typically the major sources of omega-3 are found in fatty fish such as tuna and salmon as well as in fish oil supplements.
This however poses a problem for vegans as well as vegetarians who can’t simply eat some fish to ensure they get their dose of omega-3. But worry not, there are a number of other foods which are plant-based which will give you this source.
Firstly, it’s important to understand there are three main types of Omega-3 fatty acids, these are as follows:
- Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
Plant based foods typically only contain ALA, this type of acid isn’t as active in your body, meaning that it must be converted into one of the other two in order to get the same health benefits. The problem however is that your body isn’t that efficient at converting ALA into the other two acids, roughly 5% of the ALA you consume will be converted to EPA and less than 0.5% to DHA (source)
So what can you do? Well, firstly you should look to ensure you eat a lot of vegan omega-3 sources which we’ve listed below, next you may want to consider using omega 3 vegan supplements which we talk about later to ensure your body is getting enough.
The daily recommend Omega-3 ALA for adults
Your daily recommend amount of ALA for adults are 1,600 mg for Men and 1,100 for women (source)
The best plant-based Vegan Omega 3 food sourcesThese are some of the best natural sources of omega-3 for vegans to eat and of which you can incorporate into your diet, whether it’s eating them on their own, adding to smoothies or cooking with them.
1. Chia Seeds
The trusty chia seed, already a staple for many people (if you’ve not tried a vegan chia pudding/bowl then we recommend you do), they are often eaten not only for their taste and versatility but also that they are high in protein and fibre but a little less known is that they are a good source of omega-3 ALA.
How many chia seeds do you need to get your daily level of omega 3? Well roughly 28 grams of chia seeds should give you 4,915 mg of Omega-3 which should meet if not exceed your daily recommended amount!
Chia seeds can be easily added to your diet by putting them into smoothies, drinks, breakfast cereals or made into classic chia pudding, they are also very useful ground up as an egg substitute that many vegans use in recipes.
Using Chia seeds to replace an egg: Get one tablespoon of chia seeds and mix with 3 tablespoon of water in a bowl, let this rest for approximately 15-20 minutes until it becomes a gel like consistency.
Another great source of omega-3 comes from walnuts, which are packed full of ‘good’ fats, grab a big handful (28 grams) and you’ll have 2,540mg of ALA omega 3 which is more than double your recommended daily allowance. Walnuts are perfect to snack on but are also super easy to add to things like salads, cereal, baked goods and more.
Walnut eating ideas: Pop some in a tupperware box and enjoy them when you get peckish at work as a snack or sprinkle them on your breakfast cereal, feeling a bit more creative, get baking with them!
3. Brussel Sprouts
You thought you’d got away with just eating these at Christmas didn’t you! Well the good news if you’re a fan of these is that they are not only a good source of vegan omega 3 fatty acid but also rich in vitamins and nutrients!
You’ll find that brussel sprouts are packed full of Vitamin C, Fibre, Omega-3 and Vitamin K. Make sure you cook them (not that many people would eat them raw) as they contain three times as much once cooked. An 80g portion of cooked brussel sprouts has around 135mg of Omega-3.
Brussel Sprout cooking ideas: Whether you choose to steam, fry or roast, brussel sprouts can be delicious and when you use a seasoning that you love you’ll question why you’ve not been eating them more often.
4. Algae Oil
Most of this list of vegan friendly sources of omega 3 contain ALA, as mentioned at the top of this article, our bodies aren’t the most efficient at converting this into DHA or EPA which is what our body needs, however Algae oil is one of the rare sources that contain both the EPA and DHA omega 3 fatty acids which vegans can have.
So what exactly is Algae oil? Well it’s an oil that comes from algae, this is one of the most common things that are in vegan omega-3 supplements however it is possible to get this to be used not as a supplement there are forms of this that you can add to things such as smoothies, although it is most common to take this as a capsule for ease.
Studies have shown that when comparing the algae oil to traditional sources of omega 3 such as salmon that both are similar in terms of how our body absorbs these fatty acids (source).
Typically if you go for a supplement algae capsule it will give you approx 200-500mg of EPA & DPA.
5. Hemp Seed
Many people choose to turn to hemp seed when looking for a vegan omega3 alternative, the reason being is that not only are they made up of around 30% oil much of which is the treasured omega-3 but they are also a great source of iron, zinc, protein and magnesium. Meaning you can get other benefits other than just the omega when you incorporate it into your diet.
For every 28 grams of hemp seeds that you eat, you’ll get around 6,000 mg of Omega-3 ALA (source). around 4-5 times more than your recommended allowance.
How to consume hemp seed: Much like many of the other natural vegan sources of omega-3, its easy to simply sprinkle these seeds on top of your meals, whether it’s on top of your avocado on toast, in a smoothie to blend, in granola bars or mixed in with your rice. Hemp milk is also a great option as this can be used in your tea, coffee or cereal, plus some vegan milks are fortified with DHA.
An alternative way to consume hemp seeds is via hemp seed oil, this is essentially a concentrated version which can be used much like you would another oil.
6. Wild Rice
A portion of 225 grams of wild rice contains around 500mg of omega 3, meaning it’s a great source as well as being full of protein and low in calories, what’s even better is it’s super easy to incorporate into your diet, simply swap out white rice or pasta with this wild rice and you’ll be able to enjoy all the benefits including the fact that its a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, fibre and zinc, all of which can help you have a healthy body.
There are plenty of vegan recipes available which include wild rice, from stuffing peppers with vegan cheese and wild rice to simple asian inspired vegan dishes which use rice as a side.
You’ll be pleased to know that one of the staple vegan foods makes the cut, Tofu is a great source of ALA omega 3, meaning when you cook with it you’ll be getting a hit of these good fatty acids.
100 grams of tofu gives you approve 400mg of ALA, of course there are all the other benefits of adding tofu too not just its taste.
8. Flax Seed
Flax seeds have long been talked about for all the benefits that come from within these tiny seeds! These super seeds are packed full of fibre, protein, manganese, magnesium and omega-3s!
Many studies have shown that the consumption of flaxseed can be beneficial for your health, multiple of these studies have shown that by having flaxseeds in your diet it can lead to your cholesterol going down (source). Other studies have shown that it can help lower your blood pressure (source).
Flaxseed is simple to use when cooking, from putting your smoothies, cereals and baking to adding to salads, main meals and more.
In terms of how much omega 3 is in flaxseeds, you’ll find that 28 grams contain roughly 6,300mg of omega 3 (ALA).
Omega 3 Vegan Supplements
One of the most common questions we get is ‘What is the best vegan Omega 3 supplement’ and the simple answer is ‘there isn’t one best one!’. It all comes down to which is most suitable to you and this will depend on how much you need, what your diet consists of, your budget and how you want to consume the supplement.
This section of the site will look into which Omega 3 vegan supplements are available, the type, if they are good an idea of price as well as where you can buy them.
Vegan Omega-3 Capsules
The most popular plant-based omega-3 supplements are capsules, these are much like cod-liver oil capsules that you may be familiar with except they are 100% vegan. They are convenient to take and you don’t get any bad tastes from them. Prices of these supplements are typically around £12-15 for 60 tablets.
Above is a link to view the best selling omega-3 vegan supplements available from Amazon.co.uk
Omega-3 is an important fatty acid for everyone, when enjoying a vegan diet you may notice that levels will be lower than before especially if you used to consume a lot of fish. This doesn’t mean you’ll miss out though as you just have to make sure you incorporate the above into your diet or you can opt for a vegan friendly omega 3 supplement.