Fish-Free Omega 3
By Lisa Patterson
For most of us, when we think of omega 3 - we typically think of fish, seafood and cod liver oil capsules.
However, if you’re following a plant-based diet or simply are not a fan of fish - there are plenty of brilliant plant sources of omega 3 which we’ll explore below.
But first, what exactly is omega 3?
Omega 3 is considered an essential dietary fat, meaning that we must obtain it from our diet - as our bodies are unable to produce omega 3 endogenously.
A type of polyunsaturated fat, omega 3 is present in three forms:
〰️ Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA)
〰️ Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
〰️ Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
While the benefits to the cardiovascular system are perhaps the most well-recognised actions of omega 3, the anti-inflammatory properties also support many aspects of health including skin and mood.
In particular, EPA and DHA are essential for neurological development, regulating and stabilising mood, cardiovascular health, eye health and keeping check on inflammation levels (Adarme-Vega et al., 2014).
EPA and DHA are found in both microalgae and oily fish species such as mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna - while plant foods typically contain ALA.
Our clever bodies naturally convert ALA into both EPA and DHA. However, the conversion rates are typically quite low (Salazar et al., 2019). For this reason, those following a plant-focused diet may do best to enjoy additional sources of ALA daily to meet nutritional needs.
Fortunately, there are ample plant-based sources of omega 3 to be enjoyed!
The richest sources of ALA include chia seeds and chia oil, ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, hemp seeds and hemp oil, walnuts and purslane.
Green leafy vegetables, basil, brussel sprouts, tofu, edamame and kidney beans also provide a smaller amount of ALA. Keeping these seeds, nuts and legumes on hand to sprinkle over dishes or add to smoothies is a simple way to boost your omega 3 intake daily.
Supplementation with an algal product is also an option for those seeking nutritional support. Just like fish-based products, supplements derived from marine microalgae also provide a direct source of both EPA and DHA, and are a perfect alternative for those who avoid consuming fish (Saini et al., 2021). Of course, it’s always best to speak with your healthcare professional regarding supplementation. Furthermore, including fortified food items such as plant milks, bread, pasta, flour and juices can also provide an easy way to include additional omega 3.
In summary, there is an abundance of plant-based sources of omega 3 to be enjoyed! However, if you are following a plant-based, pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan diet - including additional sources of ALA daily is a wonderful way to ensure your daily omega 3 needs are met.