Seven Unique Sources of Omega-3
Fatty, wild-caught fish are the best source of omega-3 fatty acids and they have the ideal balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. But vegetarians, vegans, and those who just don’t like fish need to have alternatives. Going to a store and buying capsules of flax oil is a very convenient way of getting your essential fatty acids, but why pop capsules when you can eat your way to getting all the healthy heart, brain, and skin goodness that omega-3 provides?
But first, an introduction to ALA is needed. Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA is the main fatty acid that vegetarians and vegans consume. It is found in vegetable oils like soybean and canola, flax seed and tofu. You can eat all the ALA you want, but in order for your body to use it, it must first be converted to EPA or DHA. This is where vegans and vegetarians run into deficiencies because the body is not very efficient at converting ALA from plants into EPA or DHA.
So vegetarians and vegans really need to be on top of eating quality fats from a variety of sources. Below, are seven unique sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Eat them liberally!
These are little nutritional powerhouses. Not only are they a good source of protein, calcium, iron, and zinc, but 100 grams of walnuts contains about 5.5 grams of omega-3. Eat them raw and have a handful everyday.
These are about 25 to 30 per cent oil and a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds also contains minerals such as phosphorus, manganese, calcium, and potassium and they are a great source of fiber. Eat them as you would flax seeds – add them to yoghurt, puddings, and oatmeal. But, they should not be heated because it destroys their oils.
This leafy green is unique among vegetables because it contains more omega-3 and ALA than any other leafy vegetable. It also contains vitamin A, vitamin C, the B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and calcium. Purslane is great in salads, juiced, or sautéed.
Leafy green vegetables
So while green leafy vegetables are not normally thought of as a good source of fatty acids, they are worth mentioning because they do contain small amounts. About 1.5 cups of Brussels sprouts provides about 430 milligrams of ALA. This is about half of the ALA contained in one teaspoon of whole flax seeds. It is also found in other green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and salad greens, but to a lesser extent.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, seaweed is a good source of DHA for vegetarians. About 28 grams of wakame seaweed contains a little over 52 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. Arame, kombu, nori, and wakame are easily found in most grocery stores. And beyond sushi, seaweed is really good added to soups and salads.
Perilla seed oil is an excellent source of omega-3 and about 50 to 60 percent of the oil consists of ALA. The plant is a member of the mint family and its leaves are widely used as a condiment in Asian cuisines.
Hemp seeds are about 44% oil and they have substantial amounts of ALA — about 22%. The oil has a very strong taste and takes some getting used to, but the seeds are great in salads. One tablespoon of hemp oil will give you close to your full day’s requirement of essential fatty acids.
Remember that the omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively studied and have been shown to be necessary for everything from a health heart to glowing skin and pretty much everything else in between. This is one nutrient you want to get in your diet everyday. Happy eating!