Omega-3 fatty acids (or fats) are essential for the health of our bodies. The food that delivers the highest amounts of these fats is fish, which makes it difficult for vegans to acquire the recommended daily intake of Omega-3 acids solely from plant sources. In this article, we have a close look at the best Omega-3 vegan foods.
What are Omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fats are nutrients in foods or supplements that help grow and develop a healthy body.
These nutrients can fight against inflammation, decrease the triglycerides in the blood and the risk of developing dementia. They are a reliable source of energy for the body and help maintain the proper functioning of the lungs, blood vessels, heart and immune system.
Although further research is needed, Omega-3 acids show promising results also in fighting depression, decreasing joint pain, protecting against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, lowering triglyceride levels in the blood, baby development and treating asthma and ADHD symptoms.
Omega-3 fats are available in three forms: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).
EPA and DHA are mainly found in fish, while ALA is most abundant in plant-based sources, making it suitable for a vegan diet. For ALA to provide health benefits, it must be converted into EPA and DHA. The body’s ability to turn ALA into EPA and DHA is limited. By increasing the amount of Omega-3 vegan foods you eat, your body will get the nutrition and health benefits it needs.
Vegan foods that contain Omega-3
A single tablespoon (10 grams) of flax seeds provides more than twice the daily recommended intake of ALA. Studies have shown that ALA contained in flax seeds reduces cholesterol levels and lowers blood pressure, especially in high blood pressure patients.
Flax seeds are a nutritional powerhouse as they contain fibre, vitamin A, manganese, protein and magnesium.
You can include this food into your diet as an addition to soups, cereals or salad and use it as an egg replacer in baking.
Obtained from Perilla seeds, this Asian cuisine ingredient has a content of ALA of around 54-64%. One tablespoon (14 grams) of Perilla oil contains 9,000 mg of ALA alongside Omega-6 and Omega-9 fatty acids. One study has shown that this oil can also increase the levels of EPA and DHA in the body, acids that vegans cannot get from foods.
To benefit from the health advantages it provides and to avoid generating harmful free radicals, Perilla oil should be used as dressing and food flavour and not as cooking oil.
Perilla oil can also be consumed as capsules, a convenient and high-Omega-3 acids content option.
Seaweed, Chlorella, Spirulina, Nori and Alga oil are plant-derived sources of EPA and DHA, providing vegans with these essential types of fatty acids.
One study that compared Alga oil to cooked salmon has indicated they are equally absorbed and tolerated by the body – great news for vegans and those who stay away from fish but don’t want to miss out on the health benefits delivered by Omega-3 fats.
Alga oil is often available as an Omega-3 supplement for vegans in many pharmacies, usually providing around 400-500 mg of DHA and EPA. The liquid form of this supplement can be used as a final touch to your favourite smoothies and drinks.
Many nuts are considered superfoods due to the benefits they provide to health. Walnuts are one of the best Omega-3 vegan foods.
Including walnuts in your diet can lower your blood pressure, help keep your weight under control, promote gut health and improve your memory and cognitive performance.
Twenty-eight grams of walnuts contain 2.570 mg of ALA Omega-3 fatty acids, which can decrease the risk of dying from heart disease.
Walnuts also contain antioxidants that fight against the oxidative damage caused by “bad” LDL cholesterol, a cause of atherosclerosis.
You can add walnuts to your cereal and homemade granola bars, use them to flavour your yoghurts and smoothies or enjoy a handful of plain walnuts as a healthy snack.
Three tablespoons (30 grams) of hemp seeds contain around 2.6 mg of ALA, more than half the daily recommended intake. Omega-3 fatty acids in hemp seeds prevent the formation of blood clots and help the heart recover after a heart attack.
The nutritional profile of hemp seeds (also called hemp hearts) features fibre, plant-originated protein, zinc, magnesium and iron.
Hemp seeds can be sprinkled on yoghurts and smoothies. Combined with flax seeds, they help you create nutrient powerhouse homemade granola bars.
Hemp seed oil, obtained by pressing hemp seeds, can also provide a concentrated dose of Omega-3 fats.
One cup of cooked kidney beans provides around 10% of the daily recommended dose of Omega-3 fatty acids, including Alpha Linoleic Acid. Kidney beans are worth eating because they are also a great source of protein, dietary fibre, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, potassium, choline, copper and zinc. Eating kidney beans regularly could help decrease the risk of colon cancer, as the non-digestible fibre they contain regulate the growth of the cells found in the colon.
You can enjoy the benefits of kidney beans in dishes such as curry, soup or salads.
With 5 g of Omega-3 fatty acids per ounce (28 g), chia seeds are one of the best Omega-3 vegan foods, providing more than the recommended daily intake of healthy fats.
Also known as Mexican chia, these seeds contain antioxidants that help fight against free radicals that cause cell damage, associated with heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Chia seeds are rich in other nutrients such as fibre, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, protein, copper and selenium.
Chia pudding is a great way to include chia seeds into your diet, while grounded chia seeds serve as a replacer for eggs. These seeds filled with nutrients can be sprinkled on salads, smoothies and yoghurts.
Edamame are immature soybeans rich in vitamins and minerals. A half-cup serving provides around 20 per cent of Omega-3 fatty acids daily recommended intake. Edamame is a great source of protein, fibre, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, vitamin K1, riboflavin, folate and copper.
Eating edamame can have several benefits for your health, such as lowering cholesterol, promoting the regulation of blood sugar levels, and decreasing the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Edamame can be enjoyed plain as a healthy snack or can be added to soups, salads and stews.
Brussels sprouts are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids: half a cup of raw Brussels sprouts contains around 44 mg of alpha-linolenic acid, while a half cup of cooked Brussels sprouts provides 135 mg of Omega-3 fats. This delicious veggie also has a high content of vitamin C, fibre and vitamin K, which have several health benefits.
Brussels sprouts can be enjoyed stir-fried, roasted or steamed, serving as a delicious side dish to any meal.
If you want to learn more about Omega-3 vegan foods, give me a call, send an email or stop by the store, I would be more than happy to assist you!