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.
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.
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.
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.