The benefits and need for “Omega Fatty Acids” is not unknown to many. However, the major availability of these fatty acids in a non-vegetarian diet has been a concern for vegetarians. Thanks to our mother nature, who has endowed us with many super foods which can provide ample quantity of Omega-3 fatty acids through vegetarian food items. Let’s get to know more about Omega 3 fatty acid and its veg sources.
Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3, an essential polyunsaturated fatty acid, cannot be synthesized in our body so it is necessary to get them from outside through food items. There are three main types of omega 3 fatty acids; EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acids), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acids). We can get ALA from plant products like nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, grass-fed animals, and vegetable oil. EPA & DHA are available from animal sources like seafoods, algae, eggs, and fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, krill, cod liver etc.
Top 5 sources of Omega 3 fatty acids for vegetarians -
The plant-based vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids mainly contain ALA in high amounts and body needs to convert ALA into the active form of EPA and DHA before using it. Some easy sources include the following.
1. Chia seeds -
Chia seeds are nutrient-dense superfood that gives long-lasting energy and have a lot of health benefits. They contain rich amount of Omega 3 fatty acids, high-quality protein, fiber, and various antioxidants. Chia seeds have the potential to absorb excess water and double their size. After consuming soaked chia seeds, people remain full for a longer time and do not crave to eat more or snack on other unhealthy foods.
How to use- Soak chia seeds in the water for at least 15-20 minutes and chew directly or add soaked chia seeds in any beverage like smoothie, milkshake, lemonade, and even in puddings. Having 1-2 tbsp daily is enough as excess intake can cause indigestion or bloating.
2. Flaxseeds -
Like chia seeds, flaxseeds are also very famous and rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and protein. These tiny brownish seeds are completely safe to be eaten raw. They should be consumed in limited amount because of the presence of some toxic substance which can be harmful to the body.
How to use- Having 2 tbsp roasted flaxseeds or 1-2 tsp flaxseed oil is safe. They can be chewed directly anytime of the day just like fennel seeds. Another option is to make powder of roasted flaxseeds and add in smoothies, milkshakes, yogurt, egg recipes, cookies, sweets and even in any breakfast or snacks cereals.
3. Walnuts -
These wealthy golden-brown nuts contain valuable amounts of phytochemicals, antioxidants, essential vitamins, minerals, and healthy fat including mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially Omega 3 which boosts memory, sperm quality, and provides many health benefits.
How to use- Soak 6-8 walnuts overnight and consume them in the morning to get super benefits every day. Another way is to use 2-3 tsp walnut oil in various recipes. You can also dry roast and crush the walnuts to add as a topping in smoothie, yogurt, cookies, brownies, muffins, sweets, etc.
4. Avocado -
Avocado is packed with many essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants along with mono and polyunsaturated fatty acid. This versatile fruit is one of the good combinations of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids which provide numerous health benefits.
How to use- Avocado can be eaten raw like other fruits or in the form of salad, soups, smoothies, hummus, etc. Avocado oil can be used cold and hot both in salad dressing, topping, marinating, grilling, cooking, and baking.
5. Vegetable oils -
Vegetable oils also contain good amount of alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3s). Switch your cooking oil with these anti-inflammatory and beneficial sources of omega 3 fatty acids oil to improve brain, heart, bone health, and fetal development. Omega 3 rich oils are soybean oil, canola oil, mustard oil, flaxseeds oil, and perilla oil.
How to use- Use these oils in different recipes and cooking methods like curry, deep frying, sauteing, stir-frying, and seasoning. You should also keep on switching your cooking oil after two to three months and consume in limited amount. The ideal amount of cooking oil is 3-5 tsp per day for adults
Interesting health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids -
- Omega 3 helps in removing the plaque buildup in the arteries and in reducing the risk of life-threatening heart conditions like stroke, myocardial infarction, heart failure, atherosclerosis and so on.
- Boosts brain functions and reduces mental problems such as bipolar disorders, depression, nervousness, and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Plays important role in children’s brain functions and development.
- Controls symptoms of gastrointestinal issues, crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Improves vision and supports eye health recovery.
- Regulates the symptoms of metabolic syndrome, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, etc.
- Helps to protect skin and hair from harmful chemicals and ultraviolet rays.
- Reduces the production of cancer cells and the risk of certain types of cancer.
- Helps in preventing inflammation and infections.
- Improves bone and muscle strength which delays conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis.
We know that consuming natural foods is always better than taking supplements, but omega -3 fatty acids in the supplement form is also a preferred choice these days.
Get Omega 3 benefits from the supplements -
Those who can’t eat fish but are ok with non-veg supplements can get the nutritional benefits of fish in the form of natural fish oil, processed fish oil, krill oil, and cod liver oil. People who are vegetarian can go for vegetarian food supplements like flaxseeds oil, walnuts oil, avocado oil, algal oil or combination and separate form of DHA, EPA, ALA capsules. These are easily available in online pharmacy stores.
Daily dosage of Omega 3 fatty acids -
Normal adults should take 400-500 milligrams and people with heart problem should take 800-1000 milligrams of omega 3 fatty acids per day for heathy heart, either in the form of food or supplements. Consuming omega 3s on a regular basis increases the levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and decreases the levels of triglycerides, VLDL, and LDL (bad cholesterol).
Note - People who are suffering from any long-term illness should always consult their dietician or doctor before taking any supplements regularly, especially in high doses.
You can talk to a doctor to know about your nutrient requirement based on your health condition and lifestyle.