Categories

What you need to know about vegetarian omega 3 and where to get it

seaweed salad for vegetarian omega-3

What you need to know about vegetarian omega 3 and where to get it

You have probably heard about the importance of omega-3 fatty acids. They are polyunsaturated (good fats). They are found in coldwater fatty fish and vegetarian omega 3 is found in seaweed and flaxseed.

Are you aware of why they are so good for you? They are particularly good for your brain health. Your brain is 60 % fat and the omega-3 fatty acids lubricate your synapses and improve connectivity in your brain. [1] This is not all. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for cardiovascular health as well. They help to:

  • lower blood pressure,
  • reduce triglycerides,
  • slow the development of plaque in the arteries,
  • reduce the chance of abnormal heart rhythm,
  • reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke,
  • reduce the chance of sudden death of people with heart disease. [2]

So, if you are thinking that this sounds like something you would like to make sure you are getting enough of, I would definitely encourage you to find out how much you need and incorporate omega-3s into your diet!

Different types of omega-3s and where to get them

An effective dose of omega-3 ranges from 200 – 4000 mg per day. However, there are three types of omega-3 fatty acids that you need to be aware of. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA contains 18 carbon atoms, whereas EPA and DHA are considered “long-chain” (LC) omega-3s because EPA contains 20 carbons and DHA contains 22. [3]

ALA can not be produced by the human body so it needs to be eaten in the diet. EPA and DHA can be produced from ALA (in the liver), but the process is very inefficient. Only about 15 % of ALA consumed will be converted to EPA and DHA. [3] For this reason, it is important to get EPA and DHA from the diet, to ensure you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids for the above benefits.

What to eat to get enough omega-3s

ALA can be consumed by eating plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils as well as nuts such as walnuts. Ground flaxseed in particular is highly recommended. It is considered a miraculous food with a whole raft of benefits, which are the subject of another post. But a tablespoon of flaxseed on your morning cereal can significantly lower your blood pressure, help you lose weight, and protect you from certain cancers. [4] As well as provide a good source of ALA.

DHA and EPA are present in fish, fish oils and krill oils, particularly cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring are some examples. [2] All of this is why peak nutrition bodies worldwide recommended eating two servings of fish each week. For example, this Meditteranean inspired flathead provencal recipe.  For vegetarians, the good news is that the reason why DHA and EPA are present in fish is that they ingest the omega 3 fatty acids that are originally synthesised by microalgae. When fish consume phytoplankton, which in turn consumed microalgae, they accumulate omega-3s in their tissues. [3]

Vegetarian Omega 3 – seaweed is the solution!

The upshot is that you can get DHA and EPA from eating seaweed products. Seaweed is a great source of vegetarian omega 3. This is great news for vegetarians or those who wish to do their bit to protect the oceans.

It can be a little interesting to consider how to integrate two servings of seaweed (or fish) into your weekly routine. Have you ever tried seaweed salad? It is a particularly tasty way to get a good serving of seaweed into your diet. Stay tuned for particular recipes that you can make yourself to incorporate this wonderful sea vegetable into your diet.

References:

  1. Arden, J, 2010, ‘Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life’, John Wiley and Sons, GB.
  2. Todd, N, 2020, ‘Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements for Heart Disease’, WebMD, available at:
    < https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/omega-3-fish-oil-supplements-for-high-blood-pressure >
  3. National Institutes of Health, ‘Omega-3 Fatty Acids’, National Institutes of Health, available at < https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/ >
  4. Greger, M, and Stone, G, 2017, ‘How Not To Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease’, Pan Books, London.

Image credits:

“Miyozen – Appetizer” by BrownGuacamole is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

No Comments

Post A Comment