How to get in your omega-3's when you're vegan

How to get in your omega-3's when you're vegan

22 Feb 2022

Individuals that live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle enjoy several health benefits. However, they may struggle with getting the nutrients they need that are traditionally sourced from animal products.

One of the most important of these nutrients is omega-3, a type of fatty acid that comes from certain types of fish. A vegetarian or vegan lifestyle shouldn’t be a hindrance to getting enough omega-3 in your diet; after all, the nutrient plays a big role in overall well-being. Fortunately, a healthy and convenient alternative now exists to fill in this gap, ensuring that those with dietary or lifestyle restrictions get the omega-3 they need—vegan omega-3!

Omega-3 fatty acids, including those that come in the form of vegan omega-3, are important nutrients that support our heart, brain, and eye health. This nutrient’s far-reaching effects on our body will hopefully encourage you to learn more about omega-3 fatty acids. This article provides a deep dive into omega-3 fatty acids, their functions, and sources for a fuller appreciation of their role in holistic health.

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Fatty acids are found in certain foods that we eat, and sometimes, in the supplements that we ingest. They play crucial roles in many physiological functions, like energy storage and formation of cell structure (2).

Fatty acids are classified into four kinds: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fat (3). These classifications differ in structure, as well as how they affect the body (3).

Omega-3 fatty acids are under the polyunsaturated classification (along with omega-6). They play significant roles in brain development, cell composition, protecting us from heart inflammation and the risk of serious cardiovascular issues (4, 18).

Vegan omega 3 supplements

Types of omega-3 fatty acids

There are several types of omega-3 fatty acids, but some of the common ones are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is the precursor of EPA and DHA, which means that the body can convert the former to the latter (5). However, this process may not be efficient as EPA and DHA are also found in different foods and conversion only yields small amounts which does not satisfy the daily recommended intake (6).

ALA has anti-inflammatory components and helps in brain development and function (7). EPA and DHA, often called marine omega-3 fatty acids, are important for fetal development, cell membrane formation, and other functions (6). For people who prefer a non-animal-based diet, it’s important to find vegan omega-3, considering most sources are fish, seafood, and other animal-derived foods.

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids

The best source of omega-3 is from the food that we eat. Fresh, processed, or cooked, fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and snapper are some of the examples of foods rich in EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids (4). Seafood, such as oysters and lobsters, also contain EPA, DHA, and traces of ALA. ALA, on the other hand, is mostly sourced from plant oils, such as canola, linseed, and soybean oils, and from seeds and nuts, like chia seeds and walnuts (4).

The National Heart Foundation of Australia recommends at least 2 to 3 servings of fish per week to meet the 200 to 500 mg daily requirement of omega-3 fatty acids (1). The recommendation can also increase with pregnancy and lactation. They also mention that the recommended plant-sourced omega-3 intake for Australians is 1 gram per day (1).

Alternate sources of omega-3 are fortified foods and supplements. If there are instances where you’re unable to consume food with this fatty acid, supplements can easily be bought in stores and online. These can be in a form of fish oil or vegan omega-3, which is made from non-animal-based ingredients.

How does omega-3 support the body?

Omega-3 fatty acids help the body in various ways. Here are some of their benefits:

Heart health

Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their heart-boosting properties. Studies have observed that higher omega-3 intake helps lower the risk of certain heart-related illnesses (8). A 20-year study showed that coronary heart disease mortality was lowered by 50% in people who consumed 30 g of fish daily compared to those who don’t have enough fish in their diets (9).

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is either made by the body or absorbed from food. Good cholesterol or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) helps protect people from coronary heart diseases. On the other hand, bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) can cause clogging of arteries. Omega-3 fatty acid increases the good cholesterol and improves the bad cholesterol content of the body (1).

Similar to cholesterol levels, triglycerides are also indicators of good heart health. At adequate levels, our body uses triglycerides for energy and cell metabolism. But, excessive levels of triglycerides are linked to heart diseases.

Omega-3 fatty acids (including vegan omega-3) also helps maintain cardiovascular system function, supports brain and eye health, as well as contribute to the maintenance of overall well-being.

Vegan omega 3 supplements

Cardiovascular function

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, which support heart and cardiovascular health. They help reduce eicosanoids - molecules that are present during inflammation (11). They also lower the levels of prostaglandins, which are substances associated with infection or tissue damage (12).

Fatty substances, such as cholesterol, can build up around the body, decreasing the efficiency of different bodily functions. Adding omega-3 in their diet can support eye, brain, and heart health.

Brain health

This nutrient also enhances cognitive function in patients experiencing chronic cases of memory loss. Reports say omega-3 can improve blood flow to the brain, resulting in better cognitive functions (13).

Note that these improvements are specific to EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. While food containing fish is the best source of marine omega-3, alternatives, such as fish oil and vegan omega-3 supplements, can also be used.

Eye health

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in the cell membrane of the retina, which emphasizes its importance in the development and function of the eyes (5). Deficiency may cause issues in several retinal functions, like rhodopsin regeneration - an important aspect in sending images to the brain (5).

Omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to the maintenance of overall eye health, which includes this function. Veg omega: The vegan omega-3 alternative

Most of the sources of omega-3 fatty acids are non-plant-based, except for ALA which can be found in seeds, beans, and nuts. The body can convert ALA into DHA and EPA, but only in small quantities, which may not be enough to cover the recommended daily intake (14).

If you want to have adequate ALA, DHA, and EPA, it would be wise to talk to your doctor about omega-3 supplementation. Fish oil supplementation, for instance, may give you the omega-3 you need in a day. However, this may not agree with a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

For people who prefer to avoid animal-sourced omega-3 supplements, an alternative is Veg Omega from Vitable. What makes it special is that it’s vegan and vegetarian-friendly, gluten and lactose-free, and made with non-GMO materials. It’s made from algal oil, which makes it different from its fish oil counterpart.

Veg Omega can maintain and support:

  • Cardiovascular system health and function
  • Heart health
  • Brain function and health
  • Eye health
Vegan omega 3 supplements

What makes veg omega different?

Veg Omega contains algal oil, which is made from algae containing omega-3. Algal oil has been seen as a promising material for vegan omega-3 supplements as it doesn’t deplete fish resources and can be customised to fit people’s dietary requirements (15). It also makes sense to use algae for the vegan omega-3 supplement as ultimately, fish also get their omega-3 fatty acids from algae (16). More so, vegan omega-3 supplements may also reduce our risk of exposure to other toxic materials possibly found in certain fish (16).

Aside from being vegan, algal oil in Veg Omega also doesn’t have the distinct taste of fish oil, which some people do not find pleasing (17).

Start a healthy habit with Vegan omega-3 supplements

Omega-3 may primarily be found in fish and other animal-based foods, but Vitable offers a vegan alternative to support your preference and lifestyle. Made from premium ingredients, Veg Omega is a vegan and vegetarian supplement that provides omega-3 fatty acids that your body requires to function optimally.

The body needs to have the right amount of nutrients in order to function properly. Get yours through Vitable’s vitamin subscription that allows you to choose not just Veg Omega, but also other vitamins from a variety of quality supplements. Based on your needs and goals, create your personalised vitamins pack. Whether you need something for your heart, brain, or eyes, Vitable has something to offer.

Each subscription comes in a daily vitamins pack that lasts a month. We also offer a vitamin delivery service, so your custom vitamins are shipped straight to your home. Most of these nutrients are either generated within the body or taken from the foods that we eat.

*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

References:

  1. “Fish and Omega-3: Questions and answers for health professionals”. National Heart Foundation of Australia. Published 2015 on https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/getmedia/741b352b-1746-48f4-806a-30f55fddfad2/Health_Professional_QA_Fish_Omega3_Cardiovascular_Health.pdf. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  2. “Fatty Acids”. Nemours Kids Health. Published on https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/fatty-acids.html. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  3. White, B. “Dietary fatty acids”. American family physician. Published Aug. 15, 2009 on https://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0815/p345.html. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  4. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids”. Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets. Published Aug. 4, 2021 on https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  5. Higdon, J., Drake, V., Angelo, G., Delage, B., and Jump, D. “Essential Fatty Acids”. Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute. Published Jun. 2019 on https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/essential-fatty-acids. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  6. Swanson, D., Block, R., and Mousa, S. "Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life". Advances in nutrition. Published Jan. 2012 on https://doi.org/10.3945/an.111.000893. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  7. Blondeau, N., Lipsky, R., Bourourou, M., Duncan, M., et al. "Alpha-linolenic acid: an omega-3 fatty acid with neuroprotective properties-ready for use in the stroke clinic?". BioMed research international. Published Feb. 19, 2015 on https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/519830. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  8. “Fish, fish oils, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and cardiovascular health”. National Heart Foundation of Australia. Published 2008 on https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/getmedia/5195fde5-87f6-4c2a-b7c3-0745a47e5ab7/Summary_Evidence_FISH_FISH-OILS_FINAL.pdf. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  9. Kromhout, D., Bosschieter, E., and de Lezenne Coulander, C. “The inverse relation between fish consumption and 20-year mortality from coronary heart disease”. The New England Journal of medicine. Published May 9, 1985 on https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM198505093121901. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  10. Ras, R., Demonty, I., Zebregs, Y., Quadt, J., et al. “Low doses of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid from fish oil dose-dependently decrease serum triglyceride concentrations in the presence of plant sterols in hypercholesterolemic men and women”. The Journal of nutrition. Published Aug. 14, 2014 on https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.114.192229. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  11. Calder P. C., “Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes”. Nutrients. Published Feb. 20, 2010 on https://doi.org/10.3390/nu2030355. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  12. 12 - Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. “Anti-inflammatory Effects Of Omega 3 Fatty Acid In Fish Oil Linked To Lowering Of Prostaglandin”. ScienceDaily. Published Apr. 4, 2006 on https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060404085719.htm. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021 on https://doi.org/10.1038/tp.2016.29. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  13. "Omega-3 may boost brain health in people with a common heart disease". American Heart Association. Published Nov. 12, 2019 on https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/11/12/omega-3-may-boost-brain-health-in-people-with-a-common-heart-disease. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  14. "Fats: Total fat & fatty acids". Ministry of Health: National Health and Medical Research Council. Published on Sep. 4, 2014 on https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/fats-total-fat-fatty-acids. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  15. Adarme-Vega, T., Lim, D., Timmins, M., Vernen, F., et al. "Microalgal biofactories: a promising approach towards sustainable omega-3 fatty acid production". Microbial cell factories. Published Jul. 25, 2012 on https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2859-11-96. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  16. Harwood J. "Algae: Critical Sources of Very Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids". Biomolecules. Published Nov. 6, 2019 on https://doi.org/10.3390/biom9110708. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  17. Ryan, A., Keske, M, Hoffman, J., and Nelson, E. "Clinical overview of algal-docosahexaenoic acid: effects on triglyceride levels and other cardiovascular risk factors". American journal of therapeutics. Published Apr. 2009 on https://doi.org/10.1097/MJT.0b013e31817fe2be. Accessed on Dec. 17, 2021
  18. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart.” Mayo Clinic. Published n.d. On https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/omega-3/art-20045614#:~:text=Omega%2D3%20fatty%20acids%20are,Decreasing%20triglycerides. Accessed on February 9, 2022.