No matter why you’ve chosen to live a vegan lifestyle, whether it be for a myriad of ethical reasons, out of necessity due to dietary restrictions, or you simply want a healthy challenge, you’ve likely considered the need for a source of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. There’s not really a question of whether or not omega-3s are necessary for human health; rather, it’s more of a question of the best way to get the appropriate amount. But with fish and fish oils as the common answer to that question, those who follow a vegan diet are left wondering: what about us? Is there vegan omega-3?
In short, yes. There are a few vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids. But perhaps more importantly, there’s a source of vegan omega-3 that rivals fish oil supplements in the amount it gives you, the absorption your body experiences, and the benefits you’ll reap in the long run. That source comes as algae supplements, omega-3 supplements from algae – which happens to be the same place that fish get their omega-3 to begin with. (1)
Vegan Omega-3s: Staple Pantry Sources
As mentioned above, there’s one product that stands out above the rest as the vegan counterpart to fish and fish oil as an omega-3 source, and that’s algae supplements. But we’ll get into that in a minute. If you want a quick fix from something you might have in your pantry already, you can get those omega-3s in smaller amounts from any of the following.
- Seeds – Flax, chia, and hemp seeds are all vegan sources of omega-3s. Gram for gram, these foods contain similar amounts of omega-3s as fish. Eat a handful plain, make some chia pudding, or toss some flaxseed into your baked goods. All three are a great option
- Brussels Sprouts – Raw or cooked, brussels sprouts provide an impressive amount of omega-3s. Cooked brussels sprouts in particular can give you about three times as many milligrams of omega-3s as raw brussels sprouts, but either way you eat them, you can’t go wrong.
- Walnuts – Like many nuts, walnuts are known for being loaded with healthy fats, but when it comes to omega-3s, they stand out among the rest. A whole ounce of walnuts can fulfill daily recommendations for omega-3 fatty acids.
These are just a couple of options for vegan omega-3 sources that you might already have on hand. There are more than you’d think, though; you just have to look around! (2)
Algae Supplements: The Fish Oil Replacement
If you don’t want to eat handfuls of walnuts each day, or you’d simply rather take a single supplemental capsule as fish oil users do, then you’re in luck. There is, in fact, a vegan omega-3 replacement to fish oil, and it may even be a better option than fish oil to begin with.
Algae Supplements are capsules, just like fish oil pills, that provide your daily recommended dose of omega-3 fatty acids. It’s the same omega-3s, the same dosage, and the same benefits. So what’s the catch? There isn’t one. Here’s everything you need to know about this vegan supplement.
Straight From The Source
While fish and fish oil are some of the most common sources of omega-3 fatty acids for human consumption, they aren’t actually the source. Fish have to get omega-3s from somewhere too, so they get it by eating krill. But once again, krill aren’t the source of omega-3s either. Krill, then, get it by eating algae.
Algae is our magical source of omega-3s here. Fish and fish oil is a great source of the fatty acid, but they, too, have to get it through algae. The vegan option is actually the best choice here, the original source, and there are several benefits that come with it.
If you’ve chosen a vegan diet for ethical reasons, you’re going to love algae supplements as a source of vegan omega-3. A year’s worth of fish oil pills takes the lives of over 100 fish. A year’s worth of krill supplements takes over 13,000 krill. But a year’s worth of algae supplements? No lives harmed. Instead, it takes about 2 square meters of algae, about 7.2 pounds worth of it. And getting that 7.2 lbs, or a year’s worth, of algae is a sustainable process in itself. Algae farms can use salt water, rather than freshwater like most produce requires. They also can be created nearly anywhere, perfect for unused land that’s not suitable for more traditional agricultural farming. Choosing algae as your omega-3 source leaves the ocean and its inhabitants alone while also creating a product that’s equivalent to what comes from taking the lives of millions of creatures a year.
Oftentimes, vegan replacements to products (thankful as we are for them) are different from the original product in ways that take away from their effectiveness, flavor, or both. With algae supplements, that’s not the case at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. Algae supplements as a vegan omega-3 source are actually the highest absorption omega-3 due to the presence of phospholipids and glycolipids. These lipids act as a shell around the fatty acids, which allows them to distribute and absorb better into the body. Overall, omega-3s from algae supplements absorb about 50% better than from fish oil or fish. And better absorption means you’ll benefit more from those omega-3s in the long run; think, heart health, better vision and eye health, improved mental health and emotional wellness, and better brain development for infants and babies when taken by a pregnant woman.
So if you thought you were out of luck in getting the recommended amount of omega-3s as a vegan, you were wrong. There are plenty of sources of vegan omega-3 right in your pantry, and the real queen of omega-3 supplements is the vegan option of algae supplements. Better absorption, better benefits. More sustainable and straight from the source. What’s not to like?
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