Everything you need to know about Omegas as a vegan or on a plant-based diet

Updated: May 15

Fish (and other marine animals) and their oil are commonly consumed for their polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), in particular the omega-3 fatty acids. The three main types of omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Omega-3 plays important roles in:

· Reducing inflammation and oxidative stress

· Supporting healthy fetal development

· Supporting optimal immune functioning

· Reducing cardiovascular disease risk

· Supporting optimal cell functioning

· Increasing cognitive function

· Increasing absorption and synthesis of fat-soluble vitamins and hormones

ALA and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) are considered essential fatty acids - meaning they must be obtained from our diet, as we cannot produce these ourselves. ALA is found in plants and their oils such as flaxseed/linseed, canola, and soybean and although we can convert ALA into EPA and then DHA, unfortunately, this conversion rate is relatively low (approximately <15%). Thus, relying on these as a standalone source (particularly in vegan diets) for EPA/DHA is not enough, and supplementation of a direct source of EPA/DHA (such as algae oil) is recommended.

Algae is a marine plant that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and is commonly consumed by humans via consuming marine animals such as fish. Marine life such as fish do not actually synthesize the EPA/DHA themselves - however, it is produced by the microalgae that the phytoplankton they consume, ate. In other words:

Microalgae (original source of omega-3) -> eaten by -> Phytoplankton -> eaten by -> Fish -> eaten by -> humans.

So how can you ensure you are optimizing your PUFA intake – in particular, omega 3s whilst being vegan or following a plant-based diet?

· Ensure you eat a variety of nuts and seeds, with their oils regularly e.g linseed oil, raw walnuts, chia seeds, ground linseeds, etc.

· Include more marine plants in your diet like different forms of seaweed

· Look for fortified products - some plant milks are fortified with omega-3s

· Take an algae oil supplement! Don’t be fooled by the ones that just say vegan omega and then you read the label and it's just more ALA (linseed/flaxseed oil is a great example), look specifically for algae and DHA/EPA content!

And if you’re someone that is already supplementing fish oil, why not consider swapping to an algae oil for these reasons:

· Algae is easier to grow in a controlled environment

· Algae takes up less space and resources (more environmentally friendly and sustainable)

· Can be grown with no heavy metal or other pollutant contamination (this is a common issue and risk with fish oils)

· Does not harm any animals as it’s a plant

· Supports our oceans

Who else loves algae?! I can’t wait to see a future where we’re making foods out of algae/growing it to eat!

There are some great algae products out there, if you need a hand send me a message or if you’d like more 1:1 support, book in for a consult here!

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