Balancing Your Diet

Omega-3s are often touted as an essential nutrient that every person should be prioritizing in a healthy diet. The component boosts heart health, improves mood, and staves off arthritis. Most people know that taking fish oil supplements or even eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna can provide an excellent source for the critical building block. But for vegans and vegetarians, consuming fish is off-limits. However, if following a healthy plant-based diet, this demographic should still be able to get plenty of omega-3s.

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Algae for DHA and EPA

For vegans and vegetarians, algae often represent a critical source for two specific omega-3s, DHA and EPA as most other plant-based options tend only to contain ALA. Algae options can include seaweed, nori, chlorella, and spirulina. Along with being rich in protein, seaweed is packed with both EPA and DPA and has been linked with having antidiabetic and antihypertensive properties.

Chia seeds

Aside from being something of a gag gift for plant fanatics, chia seeds also contain ALA omega-3s. About 1T of chia seeds contains about 80% of ALA RDA. Consider adding the plant source as a topping.

Hemp and flaxseeds for more ALA

Similar to chia seeds, both hemp and flax seeds are excellent sources for boosting ALA consumption. Both of these seeds are rich in protein and magnesium and contain ALA.

Edamame and kidney beans

Edamame and kidney beans also are a source of ALA. Both kidney beans and edamame are rich in protein, making both beans a popular choice for vegans and vegetarians looking to replace meat as a protein source.

The incredible edible egg

For vegetarians, enjoying a plate of eggs can help towards meeting daily omega-3 intake guidelines. Eggs contain all three omega-3s: ALA, DHA, and EPA.

Chow down on Brussels sprouts

Cruciferous plants, in particular, are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. But Brussels sprouts are considered to be one of the top options. Along with being rich in vitamins K and C, and high in fiber, these raw mini cabbages contain ALA.

How much omega-3s is enough each day?

The daily recommended omega-3 consumption varies by gender, age, and life stage. For example, pregnant and breastfeeding women are encouraged to consume more omega-3s versus women who aren’t pregnant. Discuss nutritional recommendations with a healthcare provider.

Health and specialty diets

Being vegan or vegetarian doesn’t mean that a person has to rely on a diet that’s lacking in essential nutrients. While most plant-based alternatives don’t contain as much omega-3 fatty acids as oily fish, reaching the daily recommended amounts is achievable. Individuals concerned about the nutritional value of a plant-based diet should speak with a registered dietician.

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