I am vegan; do I need to take omega-3?
The VITL Nutrition Team
Our in-house nutritionist discusses omega-3: what it is, where it's found, and supplementing with it as a vegan.
Whilst vegan or vegetarian diets are usually considered to be healthier, context is important. After all, having a packet of crisps and a can of coke is vegan! One thing a vegan diet often lacks is omega-3 fatty acids (known as EPA and DHA). Why are these important?
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 is a type of essential fat. Essential nutrients are nutrients that the body can’t make on its own, and therefore we have to consume them in our diets. They are a key building block to cell membranes (present in all our cells). They also play an important role in the growth and development of the brain, the regulation of blood pressure, inflammation and immune responses.
The benefits of omega-3 for our health is wide-reaching. One of its most well-known benefits is improving heart health. Omega-3 fats have been shown to be useful for reducing a number of risk factors of a heart attack including reducing blood pressure, blood triglyceride levels, and preventing the plaque from building up in arteries.
Omega-3 has also been found to be helpful in alleviating symptoms of mental health conditions (such as depression), preventing age-related mental decline and protecting against Alzheimer’s Disease. As if that wasn’t enough, omega-3 fats have also been associated with reducing inflammation, reducing insulin resistance (a gateway symptom to type 2 diabetes), and can improve skin, joint and bone health. Phew!
Which foods contain omega-3 fatty acids?
Oily fish (i.e. mackerel, salmon, herring and trout) are a great source of omega-3, but you need to be eating it 2-5 times a week to be getting enough. If you are vegetarian or vegan, look to flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts as a source of omega-3.
What’s the difference between fish sources and plant sourced omega-3?
The richest source of omega-3 remains oily fish. The consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is low in a vegan diet. Some of it can be obtained from ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is found in abundance in plant sources. ALA, then, converts to the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are crucial components of our cell membranes, (and can be found in fish sources). However, the conversion rate (how quickly ALA is converted to EPA and DHA) is very inefficient, making vegans and vegetarians at higher risk of inadequate EPA and DHA status compared to pescatarians or those who consume meat.
Although there’s a variety of vegetarian and vegan sources of omega-3, only a small percentage of what you consume is converted into the omega-3s EPA and DHA and we need to reap their benefits! This is where supplementation comes in handy, to help you bridge this gap.
I can’t supplement with fish oil; is there a vegan alternative?
Of course! Currently, fish oils represent the largest dietary sources of EPA and DHA, however vegan omega-3 oils are becoming more and more popular as these are derived from algae instead of fish or krill. Algal oil is nutritionally similar to fish oil, exerting the same health benefits on the body without the potential for harmful toxins which are sometimes found in fish.
With our new vegan omega-3 softgels from algae oil, as opposed to fish, you’re going straight to the source & eliminating animal consumption - making this the most ethical & sustainable way to give your body the omega-3 it needs.
Click here to buy your vegan omega-3 capsules today!
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