Diet: Vegetarian Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

What’s a vegetarian interested in boosting their omega-3 fatty acid intake to do? Given the fact that the two essential omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are most available in fish oil, vegetarians and vegans are faced with the challenge of consuming and maintaining adequate levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their diets.

Though ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), the omega-3 fatty acid found in vegetables and plant-based foods, is considered an essential fatty acid and has been shown to have potential health benefits like lowering cholesterol and inflammation, it is only indirectly beneficial; the body uses most of it for energy, and metabolizes only a small percentage of ALA into EPA and DHA.

It’s still recommended that vegetarians maintain a diet rich in plant-based ALA to maximize their omega-3 intake.

Good vegetarian sources of ALA include:

green leafy vegetables
flaxseed and flaxseed oil
canola oil
soybean oil
walnuts & walnut oil
pumpkin seeds
mustard seed

Strict vegetarians can also consume algal DHA (a product derived from fermenting micro algae), but may have to take several pills per day to consume adequate quantities. Algae-derived oils are also deficient in EPA.

For those who aren’t strict vegetarians I recommend that, in addition to eating a maximum of two servings of oily fish per week, they take a daily purified, high potency omega-3 fish oil supplement.

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One Comment

  1. Jessica April 16, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    We are seeing more and more how necessary Omega-3s are in our diets. I’ve started using a vegan supplement from NuTru and it’s been nice knowing I’m getting what I need from a completely ethical source.

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