vegan-omega3
  • Alyssa Fontaine, RD
  • Apr 19, 2024

4 Vegan Sources High in Omega 3

 You might be familiar with omega-3. It’s commonly known that this essential fatty acid is sourced from fish. You’ve likely come across various claims about its benefits, from promoting radiant and healthy skin to potentially aiding in weight loss. 

There’s a wealth of information available on omega-3, but let’s begin by exploring some of the most asked questions before introducing some vegan omega-3 sources. 

How can I get omega-3 without meat?

Omega 3 is found in different food sources, not just in meat and dairy.

However, to properly answer this question, we should first understand what omega-3 is. 

Omega-3 is a type of fat our body needs, like carbohydrates and proteins. It’s essential for our health, but it’s not produced by our body. Therefore, it’s important to get it from food or supplements. 

You might be thinking: shouldn’t we reduce or restrict fats in our diet? 

Behind this thought, there might be a belief that fat is unhealthy or unnecessary due to the influence of media messaging. 

Don’t believe everything the media says about avoiding fats. Fats are just as important as carbs and proteins. Nonetheless, it’s wise to be discerning about the types of fats and the quantities included in your diet. 

Here’s a piece of advice: if you’re struggling with excess weight and contemplating a fat-free diet, consider consulting a vegan plant-based dietitian beforehand. They can assist you in achieving weight loss in a healthy manner.

Which fat types are healthier?

When discussing the various types of fats found in food, a straightforward criterion for differentiation is their form at room temperature. 

  • The first type, known as “saturated fats”, tends to be solid or hard at room temperature. This category includes animal fats like butter, lard, and chicken fat, as well as some tropical oils such as coconut oil and palm oil. 
  • As for the second type, known as “UNsaturated fats”, it tends to remain liquid or soft at room temperature. Many vegetable oils, fish oil, and flaxseed seed oil fall into this category.

Here’s a straightforward guideline: you should aim to boost your intake of UNsaturated fat (second type) and restrict your consumption of saturated fat (first type) in order to achieve a healthy balanced diet.

Notably, omega 3 is part of the category of “UNsaturated fats” that is considered “healthier”. Omega 3 is, therefore, mainly found in fish, fish oil, and some vegetable and seed oils. 

Caution: not all claims on food labels must be trusted. Even if the label indicates that the product is “all-vegetable-oil”, this doesn’t mean that it’s mostly rich in UNsaturated fats. In case of hesitation, plant-based dietitians could help you distinguish misleading labels from genuine ones as well as meal plan

To re-answer the question in more details: 

Although meat and dairy contain some omega 3, they are not the best food sources for this nutrient. Therefore, you can certainly obtain omega 3 without relying on meat by focusing on vegan sources high in omega 3, as this article will clarify to you in the following sections. 

How can I get omega-3 without fish oil?

You may have heard the term fish oil as a synonym for omega-3, but are they really the same? 

The short answer is not exactly! 

As mentioned before, omega-3 is a type of fat that can be found in many food sources including vegan sources, not only in fish. 

As for fish oil, it’s a dietary supplement derived from fatty fish that is usually used as a source of omega 3. 

Fish oil supplements: 

Most importantly, it’s not very recommended to take fish oil supplements for various reasons. These include their high content of vitamin A that could be toxic. Fish oil supplements could also have some side effects. 

If you are concerned about the safety of fish oil supplements intake, you can talk to plant-based dietitians for guidance. 

How do vegans get omega-3? 

Vegan diets exclude animal-based foods, which can lead to a reduced intake of saturated fats. However, it’s important to note that vegans should be diligent about ensuring they meet their omega-3 requirements to prevent deficiencies.

Here are the daily requirements of omega 3 for the general population: 

Age Omega 3 (g/day)*Percent of energy* 
Males14+1.60.6 -1.2 % of total energy
Females 14+1.10.6 -1.2 % of total energy
* Dietary Reference Intakes recommended by Health Canada.

For both vegan males and females, it’s recommended  to consume approximately 2.3 g/day and 2.2 g/day of omega 3, respectively. This elevated requirement, as proposed in Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition: The Complete Reference to Plant-Based Nutrition, is due to the absence of  eggs and fish in vegan diets. 

Omega 3 requirements during infancy, childhood, adolescence, pregnancy, and lactation are different. You can consult plant-based nutritionists who are specialized to provide you support during any of these stages. 

Omega 3 has many health benefits for the immune system, growth, vision, cell membranes, genetics, reducing inflammation, blood clot formation, and cardiac health

What are the symptoms of lack of omega-3?

Although not very common, omega 3 deficiency in the body could manifest through different symptoms:

  • Skin abnormalities (dermatitis, itchy skin, etc.)
  • Impaired vision
  • Impaired growth in children
  • Kidney and liver diseases 

It’s crucial to emphasize that the presence of any of these symptoms does not automatically indicate an omega-3 deficiency. It’s advisable to consult a physician before jumping to conclusions about a deficiency and potentially overusing omega-3 supplements.

Top vegan sources of omega 3

There are three main vegan sources of omega 3:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds 
  • Nut and seed oils 

The focus of this article will be on certain nuts, seeds, and their oils that contain the highest quantities of omega 3.  

What is the best vegan omega-3 source?

Flaxseeds: 

The first and highest vegan omega-3 source is flaxseeds. Flaxseeds are also affordable. 

When whole, 2 tablespoons, which equals to 30 ml or 20.6 g, provide 4.7 g of omega 3. However, whole flax seeds tend to be indigestible

Therefore, ground flaxseeds are a better option in terms of digestibility. 2 tablespoons (30ml = 14g) provide 3.2 g of omega 3.

As for flaxseed oil, 1 (15ml) tablespoon provides approximately 7.3 g of omega 3. 

Walnuts: 

Among commonly consumed nuts, walnuts are known to have one of the highest omega-3 contents. This makes them a valuable source of plant-based/ vegan omega-3 in vegan diets.

¼ cup (60ml = 28g) of walnuts provides approximately 2.6 g of omega 3. 

How many walnuts a day for omega-3?

¼ cup or a handful of walnuts is enough to make you meet your daily omega 3 requirements. 

As for walnut oil, 1 tablespoon (15ml) provides about 1.4 g of omega 3. 

Hemp seeds:

Hemp seeds are indeed one of the top sources of omega-3 among seeds. 2 tablespoons ( 30ml = 20g) of hemp seeds provide approximately 1.7 g of omega 3. 

As per hemp seed oil, 1 tablespoon (15ml = 14g) contains 2.5 g of omega 3.

Including hemp seeds or hemp seed oil in your diet can be an effective way to increase your omega-3 intake.

Important:

Nut and seed oils tend to have low smoke points and can become unstable when exposed to high heat.

Instead, these oils are best suited for use as dressings or for drizzling over finished dishes. Cooking with oils that have higher smoke points, like canola oil, is generally recommended for high-heat cooking methods.

Plant- based vegan dietitians could help you if you need more guidance around cooking and the integration of certain foods into your diet. 

Chia seeds: 

Chia seeds are also a valuable source of omega 3. 2 tablespoons (30 ml = 20 g) of chia seeds provide approximately 5.06 g of omega 3. 

You can incorporate chia seeds into your diet by adding it to oatmeals, smoothies, and puddings. This will help you boost your intake of this essential fat. 

Other less recommended omega 3 food sources for daily consumption are … 

Canola oil:

Canola oil could be used to get omega 3. As mentioned before, canola oil could be used during high-heat cooking methods like frying. 1 tablespoon  (15ml) of omega 3 provides around 1.3 g of omega.  

Soy foods:

Soy foods contain omega 3 and could be a good addition to your vegan diet. 

1 cup of dried and boiled soybeans provides 1g of omega 3. Also, 100 g of tofu contains 0.4 g of omega 3. Finally, 1 tablespoon (15ml) of soybean oil provides 0.9 g of omega 3.

Seaweed: 

The last high omega 3 vegan source is seaweed. 3 sheets of dried seaweed nori provides approximately 135 mg of omega 3, which equals 0.01 g.  

DISCLAIMER: While canola oil, seaweed, and soybeans do contain some amount of omega-3 fatty acids, they may not be the healthiest options for daily consumption when compared to other sources of omega-3. Canola oil, seaweed, and soybeans may not provide the same level of overall nutritional benefits as flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. 

Most importantly, you need to know that there is no single “magic” food that can guarantee good health on its own. 

A healthy and balanced diet is key to overall well-being. Achieving this balance involves incorporating a variety of foods into your diet, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and all the essential macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats). 

A diverse and well-rounded diet provides a wide range of nutrients, including omega 3, that your body needs for optimal health. 

Frequently asked questions about vegan omega 3 sources:

  1. Does avocado have omega-3? 

1 medium avocado (7.4 oz. = 210 g) contains 0.25 g of omega 3.

  1. Is Olive Oil high in omega-3?

Olive oil is low in omega 3 compared to the other oils mentioned above. 1 tbsp. (15ml) of olive oil contains 0.1 g of omega 3. However, it could still be used to boost omega 3 intake. 

  1. Does spinach have omega-3?

1 cup of spinach (250ml = 50-60g) contains about 0.041 g of omega 3. 

  1. Does peanut butter have omega-3?

Peanuts are very low in omega-3. 30 g of peanuts contain about 0.001 g of omega 3.

Do vegans really need omega-3 supplements?

Not all vegans will necessarily need omega-3 supplements. 

It’s generally recommended to first make an effort to meet your omega-3 requirements through a well-balanced vegan diet that includes foods rich in omega 3. 

Supplements should be considered if it’s challenging to meet your omega-3 needs solely through dietary sources or if you have specific health concerns. 

Consulting a healthcare professional or registered dietitians can help you determine whether supplementation is necessary and appropriate for your individual circumstances.

Nonetheless, here is a list of the top vegan omega 3 supplements:

Do you feel like you need more support with your vegan diet? Contact our team and book a free discovery call.

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