You want to have a healthy vegan lifestyle, but are faced with questions about where you will get your nutrition. Getting protein, vitamins, and minerals is easy for you, but you also need fats. You need to add vegan foods high in omega-3 to your diet.
Vegan foods high in omega-3 can supply dietary requirements for those who can’t eat fish. Plant-based options like hemp seeds or plant-based oils can provide the fatty acids you need. If you don’t know what foods to eat we’ve compiled a list of foods for you to choose from.
Of course, fish oil supplements for omega fatty acids are popular for a reason. Fish oil provides all parts of omega-3, but it’s not the only source. It turns out fish eat their omega fatty acids as well.
Keep reading to find out what fish eat to get their DHA. We’ll even let you know how to get all three parts of omega-3 fatty acids, ALA, DHA, and EPA..
Are Vegans Deficient in Omega-3?
Vegans are not deficient in omega-3’s anymore than anyone else. There’s a misconception that vegans won’t get enough nutrients and protein because they don’t eat meat or fish. Plants can provide all the nutrients you need to avoid an omega-3 deficiency.
The fact is, everyone must take extra care to get the nutrients they need. To avoid an omega-3 deficiency, an adult between the ages of 19-50 may need up to 1.6g of omega-3.
The omega-3 fatty acids we need are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is the easiest to get from food and it’s why many vegans aren’t worried about a deficiency.
Most plant based foods provide plenty of ALA, but not EPA or DHA. So, the argument about plant-based omega-3 vs fish oil supplements is because of DHA.
Interestingly enough, fish get their omega-3 fatty acids from eating algae and plankton. This disproves the idea that the only way to get DHA is from fish alone.
Unfortunately, Americans don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in general. In a study of Americans getting their omega-3 fatty acids from fish alone, U.S. adults weren’t getting enough fish or omega-3 fatty acids.
Therefore, you should monitor your omega-3 levels, whether you are vegan or not. This may mean a supplement for you, but there are ways to get enough fatty acids from food.
Do Vegans Need to Take Omega-3 Supplements?
Vegans do not need to take omega-3 supplements any more than meat-eaters. If you get enough ALA your body creates the EPA and DHA that you need. Consider supplements to get more DHA and EPA faster.
Hemp seeds and hemp oil contain not only ALA, but EPA and DHA as well. The benefit of using food for omega fatty acids is that food also contains other vitamins and minerals. To take hemp oil in place of a supplement simply take a spoonful daily.
As always, check with your doctor if you are concerned about a nutrient deficiency. Your doctor can suggest supplements for deficiencies.
What are the Best Vegan Foods High in Omega 3?
The best vegan foods high in omega 3’s will contain ALA, DHA, and EPA. While many foods contain ALA, it’s harder to find food sources that have all three essential fatty acid components.
Hemp oil is the best vegan food to get all of your omega-3 fatty acids. It’s the best natural source of ALA, DHA, and EPA outside of fish without taking a supplement. With hemp oil, not only do you get all three components, you get the best balanced ratio of omega fatty acids.
Similar to hemp oil, hemp hearts provide the essential fatty acids you need, but you also get other healthy fats. Remember hemp is full of linoleic acid, GLA, oleic acid, and monounsaturated fats as well.
All of these fats come together with essential amino acids and fiber to give you a complete vegan superfood.
11 of the Best Vegan Foods High in Omega 3
Some of the best plant-based foods high in omega-3’s lack all the essential fatty acids. This is why fish oils, fortified foods, and drinks that contain animal-based DHA are popular. Some of the best vegan foods high in omega-3’s are:
- Hemp Products
- Algae and Algal Oil
- Brussels Sprouts
- Chia Seeds
- Perilla Oil
- Wild Rice
Most vegan food sources contain ALA alone, but hemp seeds and algae have more to offer. No matter what foods you choose, any food with omega-3’s are a great addition to your diet.
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1. Hemp Products
As previously mentioned, Hemp contains all three sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp is a versatile food which can easily be added into your meal plan. If you are low in omega-3’s, consider adding hemp into your diet.
2. Algae and Algal Oil
One of the few plant-based sources of omega-3’s that contain ALA, EPA, and DHA is algae. Algae supplements can contain up to 715 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
Seaweed, nori, spirulina, and chlorella are different forms of algae that you can eat to get your fatty acids. It just so happens that seaweed also makes a great on-the-go vegan snack.
You may not think of algae when you think of tasty treats, but fish get their fatty acids from algae. If you don’t eat fish this is the best way to get your DHA from the source.
Avocado and it’s oil are high in ALA. The fruit is mostly fat, which is why avocado is usually classified differently than other fruits. Avocado has saturated fat which gives it a high-calorie count. Because avocado is loaded with omega fatty acids it’s a healthier way to get your fat than other saturated fat options.
4. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels are not a popular food, but they contain nearly 270 mg of omega-3’s. If you don’t like the slimy texture, roast them on high heat and there will be zero slime. Roasting brussels sprouts gives them a lovely crunchiness on the outside and softness in the center.
5. Baked Beans
Beans are good for you because of the protein and fiber, but did you know some are full of healthy fat. For beans high in omega fatty acids try:
- Baked beans
- Refried beans
- Navy beans
- Kidney beans
If you eat beans with rice you can get all your essential amino acids as well.
6. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are another of the more popular options to get your omega 3s. The seed contains more fatty acids per ounce than salmon.
Soy comes in many forms including the soybean (edamame), pressed tofu, and soybean oil. Each soy product could have it’s own spot on the list because they contain different amounts of omega 3’s.
While whole boiled soybeans will give you the most omega 3’s, extra firm tofu comes in second with 1467 mg per cup. Include soy in all varieties to get the full benefits.
Flaxseeds are known for their high fiber count, but they also contain a good amount of omega 3’s. They taste great alongside hemp seeds and can be used in similar ways.
9. Perilla Oil
Perilla oil is a cooking oil made from the perilla plant also known as Chinese basil. The oil is cold-pressed similar to hemp seed oil. Perilla has one of the highest contents of ALA and contains omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids.
Walnuts have a higher amount of omega-3’s than other nuts like pecans and pistachios. Like seeds, nuts are small but mighty, you can get a lot of nutrients in a small amount. Each ounce of this small food has 2.5 grams of omega fatty acids.
11. Wild Rice
Wild rice is one of the most interesting foods on this list because it’s not rice at all. The rice seed comes from an ancient aquatic grass. This amazing food is made up of 20-30% omega-3 fatty acids and high amounts of fiber.
Summary: Omega-3 Plant-Based Foods
Now you know vegans aren’t omega fatty acid deficient and don’t need to take supplements. The main reason for supplements is to get DHA and EPA.
If you get enough ALA your body will make DHA and EPA on it’s own. But if that’s not enough, there are foods that contain all components of essential fatty acids. Hemp seed and algal oil are the best vegan food high in omega-3 because they have all the essential healthy fat you need.