The Vegan’s Essential Guide to Omega-3 Fatty Acids

person holding omega-3 pillperson holding omega-3 pill

In our diet-dominated culture, fats have gotten a bad name. But you’ve been misled and misfed. The good news is that certain fats are more worthy of fame than fear because they help your body and brain function at their best. These “good fats” are known as Omega-3 essential fatty acids, and they’ve earned their good name because they’re essential for good health. But your body isn’t able to produce them on its own, so they need to be included in your diet. While Omega-3 fatty acids are overflowing in fatty fish, what if you’re a vegan and seafood is off the table? Luckily, there are ways to get your fill of these healthy fats that are rooted in a vegan diet. Discover why Omega-3 fatty acids are essential in every diet and get a taste of the plant-based ways to feed your need for Omega-3s. 


An Essential Guide to Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

There is good and bad in everything, including the fat in your diet. Certain fats are better for you than others, and Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the best. Omega-3 fatty acids are a family of polyunsaturated fats known as essential fatty acids because they’re essential to your health. The three types of Omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). While EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish and seafood, ALA is most abundant in plant-based sources, which helps you meet your needs on a vegan diet. While EPA and DHA are directly used by your body, ALA must be converted into EPA and DHA before your body can use it. This conversion process isn’t efficient, so as a vegan, you need a heaping helping of ALA to get enough of the good stuff. 


A Healthy Look at the Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

Three cheers for Omega-3 fatty acids! These “good fats” can do a lot of good for your body, brain, and well-being by offering the following benefits: 

  • Supports normal brain function 

  • Keeps your heart healthy 

  • Maintains healthy cholesterol levels 

  • Supports the immune system 

  • Protects your eyes and vision 

  • Boosts your mood 

  • Promotes healthy baby development 

  • Lowers the risk of cognitive decline and dementia 


How Do Vegans Get Omega-3? 

Have you heard the only way to get Omega-3 fatty acids is by eating a boatload of fish? That’s a big fat lie! But while it’s easy to find nutritious and delicious vegan sources of ALA Omega-3s, it can be hard to know if you’re getting enough because of the complicated conversion involved in turning ALA into the more usable forms of EPA and DHA fatty acids. The poor conversion process reduces the amount of Omega-3s from ALA that your body is able to absorb. As a vegan, you need to consume more sources of ALA because you’re likely to absorb less. If you find it hard to include eat ALA-rich foods every day, consider an Omega-3 supplement designed for vegans with EPA and DHA from algae. 


No Fish? No Problem. 

Luckily, there are lots of vegan foods that will fill you up while filling your needs for ALA fatty acids, including: 

  • Seaweed and algae – As the only plant-based sources of EPA and DHA, try wrapping nori seaweed around vegetable sushi or adding spirulina algae to a smoothie. 

  • Walnuts – A superfood with a supersized amount of ALA, toss walnuts on a salad or grab a handful on-the-go. 

  • Flaxseeds – Delivering more ALA than any food on the planet, add them to cereal and smoothies, or whisk with water for a vegan egg substitute. 

  • Chia seeds – Packing a punch of ALA, blend chia seeds into a smoothie. 

  • Hemp seeds – Despite their hippie history, hemp seeds are an excellent source of Omega-3s, which are also excellent on yogurt and salads. 

  • Edamame – This sushi bar staple makes an ALA-rich snack or salad topper. Be sure to seek out Non-GMO Verified edamame.   

  • Brussels sprouts  – These are a good source of ALA fatty acids, but become a great one when cooked, which triples their ALA. Roast or steam them as a side. 


When you’re trying to get enough Omega-3s as a vegan, ALA is a-ok!

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