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When you first go vegan, it can be challenging to ensure you’re putting all the vital nutrients into your body. Aside from protein and B12, which are frequently touted as ‘missing’ from a plant-based diet, most vegans are susceptible to a deficiency in Omega-3.
What is Omega-3 and Why Do We Need It?
Omega-3 fatty acids refer to a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids required by the body to carry out a number of its primary functions.
They are called essential fats as your body cannot naturally produce them, and they must be supplemented by your diet.
As mentioned, Omega-3 refers to a group of fats and not a single nutrient. Different types of Omega-3 fatty acids differ based on the chemical structure, of which the four most common are:
EPA – EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid, and its primary function is to produce a chemical called eicosanoids, which help reduce inflammation in the body. EPA also has a positive effect on blood flow by regulating blood pressure.
DHA – Docosahexaenoic acid comprises up to 8% of the total weight of your brain and is linked to cognitive function and brain development.
DPA – DPA or docosapentaenoic acid is the third most prevalent fatty acid after EPA and DHA. This compound helps improve lipid metabolism and prevents the formation of blood clots.
ALA – ALA or alpha-linolenic acid is probably the most popular Omega-3 fatty acid out there and can be easily obtained from many sources, both vegan and non-vegan. ALA is used by the body’s cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems.
It’s worth mentioning here that the body can convert the ALA you consume to DHA and EPA. However, the process is inefficient, and it’s best to take Omega-3 supplements containing ample amounts of DHA and EPA to ensure you’re getting a healthy balance of fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids, when consumed in moderation, provide several health benefits, including:
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Prevention of blood clots
- Boosted immunity
- Enhanced Cognitive Function
- Better mental clarity
- Improved and uplifted moods
- Healthier hair and skin
Since Omega-3 is used by the brain, heart, and nervous system, it’s imperative to ensure you’re getting a significant quantity of this nutrient from your diet.
Omega-6 and Omega-9
If you’re exploring omega-3 fatty acids, you’ve heard of omega-6 and omega-9. So let’s look at these compounds, what they comprise, and how they relate to omega-3.
Omega-6 is also a polyunsaturated fatty acid that cannot be produced in the body. Hence, just like omega-3, it needs to be obtained from external sources.
It helps stimulate skin and hair growth, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.
But while omega-6 is healthy, too much of this nutrient can be detrimental to your health. Excess consumption of omega-6 has been linked to increased blood clots, blood pressure, and the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Omega-6 is readily available in most meat and dairy products, and hence it’s easy to overdose on this nutrient. Unfortunately, most plant sources of Omega-3 are also rich in Omega-6, and it’s essential to regulate your intake.
Ideally, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 consumption should be between 1:1 and 4:1. However, most western diets have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of over 10:1.
Unlike omega-3 and omega-6, omega-9 is a monounsaturated fat and can be produced by the body. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get it from outside sources as well.
To improve your physiological health, you can replace other unhealthy saturated fats with sources of omega-9. A regular intake of this nutrient can help improve your body’s insulin sensitivity and help reduce inflammation.
Vegan Sources of Omega-3
Most non-vegan sources will tell you that obtaining omega-3 on a vegan diet is practically impossible. However, research over the last decade has helped us find multiple plant-based sources of omega-3.
And often, plant-based sources tend to be healthier as they’re free from the harmful saturated fats and toxins present in animal products.
If you’re wondering where to get your omega-3 from, here are a few vegan sources to include in your diet.
Different types of algae and seaweed, including nori, spirulina, and chlorella, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. As we all know, fish oil is rich in omega-3, and most fish derive this nutrient from the seaweed and algae present in the oceans. As such, seaweed is rich in ALA, DHA, and EPA.
2. Nuts and Seeds
Certain nuts and seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These include walnuts, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
Vegetable oils often contain significant quantities of omega-3 fatty acids when appropriately extracted. Algal oil and soybean oil are rich in fatty acids and offer a variety of other nutrients as well.
4. Fortified Plant Milk
While this isn’t a natural source, some plant milk products are fortified with omega-3 and give your body the necessary nutrition. Of course, it’s still best to get your omega-3 from natural sources as this form is most accessible for your body to break down and absorb.
Are Omega-3 Capsules or Liquid Forms Better?
While omega-3 can be obtained through your diet, it’s best to take supplements to ensure your body gets plenty of this nutrient to perform its vital functions.
As mentioned already, most foods are rich in omega-6 and omega-3, and by consuming excess omega-6, you inhibit the function of omega-3 in your system. You can balance out the ratio by taking supplements that specifically supply your body with omega-3.
You’ll find omega-3 supplements in both capsule and liquid form, and it’s best to do your research to figure out what works best for you.
Liquid supplements like algal oil are rich in ALA, DHA, and EPA. Additionally, they are readily absorbed by the body as their biological structure can be easily recognized by your digestive system.
While capsules can provide you with ample quantities of omega-3, the tablet itself may be difficult for your body to absorb, making them less effective than liquid supplements. In addition, capsules sometimes have a lower concentration of omega-3 than their liquid-form supplements.
Best Vegan Omega-3 Supplements
Now that you’re aware of omega-3, its functions, and why it’s vital to ensure you’re getting enough on a vegan diet, here are a few plant-based omega-3 supplements for you to check out.
1. Nature’s Way NutraVege Omega-3 Plant-Based Supplement
Nature’s way is known for its plant-based supplements and has been providing revolutionary nutrient solutions for years. This particular NutraVege supplement is packed with 500mg of omega-3 per capsule, comprising 300mg of DHA and 150mg of EPA.
These capsules offer a dose of omega-3 equal to most fish oil supplements without saturated fats or mercury poisoning. Nature’s way is so particular about sourcing healthy ingredients that you can check the purity of this product on Purecheck.
Their omega-3 is sourced from algae and wrapped in a soft gel capsule that’s easy to swallow and masks the usual fishy taste of algae.
2. Freshfield Vegan Omega 3 DHA Supplement
Freshfield’s omega-3 supplement offers you great value for your money, with 60 capsules per bottle so you can sort out your needs for the next two months.
Their capsules are crafted strictly to the standards of the FDA and use premium algae oil to deliver a readily absorbable form of omega-3.
This supplement focuses more on giving your body adequate amounts of DPA and DHA. The compound DPA is easier to work with, and your body can store up to twice the amount of DPA in the blood compared to EPA.
DPA helps intensify the positive effect of omega-3 and helps effectively boost cognitive, nervous, and heart health.
3. Sports Research Vegan Omega-3
Sports Research Vegan Omega-3 supplements are sourced from algae oil, like most vegan omega-3 supplements. However, they emphasize sustainable sourcing, so you know you’re not harming the environment with their products.
They’ve invested ample research into optimizing this product as it provides a whopping 700mg of omega-3 per capsule.
They’re aware that most people get ample amounts of ALA from their diet, and so of the 700mg of omega-3 in each capsule, 630 mg is dedicated to providing you with EPA and DHA.
Sports research also uses tapioca-based soft gel capsules that the body can easily digest. They avoid using carrageenan or seaweed extract, which is especially great for those who dislike the gelatin-like feel of carrageenan-coated supplements.
4. Wiley’s Finest Catch Free Vegan Omega 3
Wiley’s Finest Catch is a liquid-based supplement that meets the necessary standards set by the SQF’s rigorous quality check. With just a single teaspoon of this oil, you get roughly 2300mg of omega-3 fatty acids, which is far higher than your recommended daily intake.
Thanks to the higher amounts of omega-3, you only need to take this supplement once in two or three days.
Wiley’s ensures that you get plenty of DHA and EPA in each serving so your body won’t have to spend energy converting ALA.
The best part? This supplement comes in a light tropical mango flavor, so it’s easy to consume.
5. Zenwise Vegan Omega-3 Plant-Based Fish Oil Alternative
This omega-3 supplement from Zenwise is derived from algae and contains ample amounts of EPA and DHA to satisfy your physiological needs.
Their non-GMA formula ensures that it’s free from harmful contaminants that could otherwise endanger your cardiovascular and joint health.
The formula from Zenwise offers the full spectrum of omega-3 acids, with plenty of bioavailable EPA and DHA.
6. Pure & Essential Vegan Omega 3
This omega-3 supplement from Igennus comes with the antioxidant astaxanthin, which protects the algal oil against oxidation and gives your body an antioxidant boost.
Each capsule offers 600mg of omega-3 fatty acids, giving your body an ample amount to work with.
As an added health bonus, their algal oil is grown in pure, unfiltered water, ensuring superior quality and zero harm to the ecosystem.
7. Nature’s Way NutraVege Omega-3 Plant-Based Liquid Supplement
This liquid supplement from Nature’s Way comes in a cute bottle offering 500mg of omega-3 fatty acids per teaspoon. They use a potent plant-based formula to make this supplement which includes algae and a few other ingredients.
This supplement comes in a zesty lemon flavor to help it go down easy.
While omega-3 is available in various vegan food sources, it’s always a good bet to invest in a supplement to ensure you’re getting enough of this nutrient in your diet.
By taking the best vegan omega-3 supplements, you can give your body the necessary nutrients to help it stay in a state of optimal health.