Vegan omega-3 sources

Increasingly, people are turning to a vegetarian or even a vegan diet. The main reason for becoming vegan is probably still a concern for animal rights and welfare. But health benefits and environmental reasons are also often advanced as an explanation for a vegan life style.


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If you follow a vegan diet, you need to pay extra attention to the nutrients that are mainly found in meat or fish. One of these nutrients is omega 3.


Why do i need omega-3?

It is a scientific fact that omega 3 fatty acids are important for a normally functioning heart and to protect against heart and vascular diseases. Pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers also benefit from an increased intake of omega 3. Omega 3 is mainly found in oily fish (e.g. salmon or mackerel). It is also added to some butters and margarines, but the quantities are often very small.

Omega 3 from vegetable foodstuffs

Vegetarians and vegans who want to get enough omega 3 from their food can turn to seeds such as chia, linseed, hemp seeds and walnuts. Sprouts are also an outstanding source of omega 3-fatty acids. But remember: the body needs three types of omega 3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA. ALA is essential for a good balance between omega 6 and omega 3 in the body, while EPA and DHA are the fatty acids that support the heart’s normal function.


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Nuts, seeds and green vegetables contain ALA, but, unfortunately, they have no EPA and no DHA. The only exception among green vegetables is seaweed. Hardly a common ingredient in a western kitchen, even if sushi-lovers are probably familiar with it as a popular starter in Japanese restaurants. If you only consume ALA, your body will try to convert this omega 3 fatty acid into EPA and DHA, but it only succeeds to a very limited extent. Only 0.2% to 8% is converted to EPA and barely 0.05% to DHA.

Conclusion

It is possible for a vegan diet to provide sufficient omega 3 fatty acids from vegetable foodstuffs. An adjusted diet with extra attention to nuts, seeds and green vegetables is essential. If you want a balanced intake of omega 3 that does not only contain ALA, you may choose to take a vegan omega 3 supplement. The DHA or EPA used usually derives from algal oil.