Most people think that the way to ensure you get enough Omega 3 in your diet is to either eat oily fish a couple of times a week, or to take a fish oil supplement.
For those of us who don’t eat fish, this could be seen as a bit of a problem, but the good news is that it is just as easy for vegans to get their recommended Omega 3 intake as it is for omnivores!
What is it?
There are three different types of omega 3 fatty acids, all of which are essential to good health:
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is beneficial for hair and nails, and is easy to include in a plant-based diet by eating flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and leafy greens. Note – it’s best to grind these seeds because that way they are better absorbed by the body and easily digested.
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) not only helps with brain function, but also with heart and eye health, along with your general mood, which is why an uptake in omega 3 is often recommended for patients suffering from depression. DHA isn’t as easily found in food, which is why it is common to be lacking in omega DHA, and it can have a negative effect on your health if you are.
- Finally, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) works together with DHA to protect the body from skin conditions like flaking, looks after the organs and acts as insulation against heat loss for the body.
How to get enough
As mentioned above, the best way to get enough of your ALA is to eat plenty of ground chia seeds, flaxseeds, hempseeds and leafy green vegetables.
DHA and EPA can be found in algal oil (which this study showed is nutritionally the same as salmon in terms of DHA) along with seaweed such as nori and wakame. By eating these types of sea vegetables, we are going straight to the source, and where our fishy friends get their omega 3 from!
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What happens if you don’t get enough
If you’re deficient in omega 3, you might find yourself suffering from dry, bumpy, flaky skin, depressive moods, brittle nails, dry easily-snapped hair, or even ‘brain fog’.
None of which are good, and all of which are avoidable by being more mindful of eating naturally-occurring omega 3.
Why is it important during winter?
Omega 3 protects our skin against the harsh weather, which can lead to skin feeling raw, sore and pretty red! It also helps ease joint pain, as it promotes fluidity and flexible joints, which can suffer more in the cold months.
Those with seasonal affective disorder can find winter a struggle, and in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2010, researchers found that omega 3 supplements can actually have similar results on patients as medical antidepressants do, which could help make the winter months more bearable for those with SAD.
Can I take vegan supplements?
As we know, it’s easier than ever to be vegan now, which means it’s easier than ever to make sure we keep our omega 3 levels topped up nicely!
Not only are vegan omega 3 supplements cruelty-free, they also are better for us health-wise. Standard fish oil often has traces of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in, which were used to make electrical goods a few decades ago (although now banned), but traces can still be found in the ocean.
PCBs are also linked to some cancers and can have a negative effect on the immune and nervous systems. Similarly, fish can often be contaminated with mercury, which again is something we don’t want to be ingesting at all!
Vegan omega 3 supplements offer all the benefits of omega 3, with none of the cruelty or health risks that eating fish or fish oil brings.
One company forging the way in vegan-friendly omega 3 is Nothing Fishy, who use algae, grown sustainably in a controlled environment, to create their Vegan Omega 3 tablets, that also include DHA.
They are keen to promote sustainability in every way they can, which is why your capsules will even arrive in a recycled glass jar, ready to be used again and again.
If you’d like to try some vegan, cruelty-free omega 3 (and we recommend you do!) then head to Nothing Fishy’s website at: www.nothingfishy.co and see how great you can feel.
About the author
Rachida Brocklehurst is a journalist and copywriter who runs the vegan website thegreenv.com, and also writes the fabulous Vegan City Guides in Vegan Food & Living magazine. She currently lives in Belgium, but loves to travel and is passionate about making veganism more accessible and contemporary.