It is well known that cold water fatty fish are an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids. But in today’s world where it’s advisable to cut down eating fish due to water pollution and depletion of marine life, as well as for those who don’t want to eat fish for dietary and ethical reasons, where do we get this essential nutrient from?
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats and are essential in our diet. There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids:
- ALA (alpha linolenic acid) — typically found in plant foods.
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) — found in animal sources.
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) — found in animal sources.
ALA is not as active as the other two fatty acids and must be converted to reap the same health benefits. Since the body is only able to convert a very small amount of ALA to EPA and DHA, it is recommended for vegans to take an EPA and DHA supplement made from algae.
How Much Do We Need
This really depends on your lifestyle, but as a gauge, most organisations recommend a minimum of 250 to 500mg a day. Higher amounts may be required for those with certain health conditions.
Health Benefits of Omega-3
- It can reduce insulin resistance
- It can help improve risk factors for heart disease
- It can lower inflammation and blood pressure
- It can nourish hair follicles and encourage hair growth
- It has been known to help manage depression and anxiety
- It is essential for brain growth and development during pregnancy and in infants
- It can help to manage ADHD and reduce asthma in children
Top Plant-Based Sources Of Omega-3s
- Walnuts (2.5 grams per ¼ cup)
- Chia seeds (2.5 grams per tbsp)
- Mustard oil (2.4 grams per tbsp)
- Flaxseed ground (1.6 grams per tbsp)
- Hemp seeds (1 gram per tbsp)
- Perilla oil
- Algae oil
- Vegetables (leafy greens, Brassica vegetables, winter squash)
- Fruits (berries, mango, winter melon)
Get To Know Omega-6 Fatty Acids
This oil is abundant in today’s diet, mainly found in processed foods. It has been found that many of us are deficient in omega-3s and are consuming too much omega-6s, which can cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the root cause of many diseases such as arthritis, heart disease and asthma.
The key is to lower our intake of omega-6 and can be done so by avoiding processed foods and processed vegetable oils (especially corn, cottonseed, soyabean and sunflower oil).