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Vegetarian Omega-3 Sources

Updated on July 24, 2013

Vegetarian Omega-3

It is important for everyone to get Omega-3s, vegetarian or not. However, given that vegetarians cannot consume Omega-3s from fish, and vegans furthermore cannot eat eggs, other sources must be examined.

The Importance of Omega-3

What exactly are Omega-3s used for? First off, Omega-3 is one of the two essential fatty acids, which our bodies can't produce. The other is Omega-6, which is actually overly prevalent in food, whereas Omega-3 is relatively rare. The former is found in corn, vegetable oils, peanuts, and certain meats, whereas the latter is present in various seed and algal oils. Omega-3 is used in the structures of cell membranes, as an anti-inflammatory agent, and to facilitate hundreds of chemical reactions. Although these are the functions, it is unknown exactly why Omega-3 is so powerful and important, but the evidence is clear.

Many studies have shown that Omega-3 consumption is critically important, and can significantly reduce the occurrence of disease. It is recommended that people get 10% of their total fat calories from Omega-3. In practice, this is difficult due to the prevalence of Omega-6, saturated and monounsaturated fat. The key is utilizing a wide variety of sources, as discussed below, to acquire substantial amounts.

The Best Seed Oils

There are many different seed oils which provide copious amounts of Omega-3 in a small amount. After all, oils are entirely fat, so you don't need much. It is best to consume Omega-3 in its whole form, alongside the natural proteins and fibers which can facilitate absorption, but there's no doubt that seed oils are still a sufficiently effective method of satisfying daily EFA requirements. As long as the product has been produced properly and all the Omega-3 has been adequately conserved, it's all good.

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp oil is arguably the best source of Omega-3. It comes in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, but there is also a small amount of Super Omega-3 stearidonic acid. This form of Omega-3 supports ALA. Furthermore, gamma-linolenic acid, the Super Omega-6, is also present. A single tablespoon serving of hemp seed oil has over 2.5 grams of ALA.

Flax Seed Oil

Flax seed oil has even more Omega-3 than hemp, at 7 grams per tablespoon serving. While it lacks the Super Omega acids, the sheer amount of Omega-3 makes flax seed a good choice. Just make sure to choose a product that is not overly processed, as some flax oils can be of a somewhat low quality.

Chia Seed Oil

Although this oil is mainly found in supplement form, it is of a very high-quality. Chia seeds are an ancient food with great historical significance, and their popularity has surged in recent years. If possible, you should use the whole seed rather than the oil for chia's antioxidant benefits as well, but the oil is nonetheless a powerful tool on its own.

Omega-3 Supplements

These are the best Omega-3 supplements on the market! Check some out and choose the one that's best for you. The best Omega-3 foods are listed in a lower section, but for maximum effectiveness, you should combine supplements and foods.

Deva Organic Vegan Vitamins Flax Seed Oil, Omega-3, 90 Vcaps (Pack of 2)
Deva Organic Vegan Vitamins Flax Seed Oil, Omega-3, 90 Vcaps (Pack of 2)

Flax seed is a high quality Omega-3 that also contains lignans and other beneficial phytonutrients

 
Nature Made Omega 3 Vegetarian Softgels, 540 mg. 60 Count
Nature Made Omega 3 Vegetarian Softgels, 540 mg. 60 Count

EPA and DHA are the two chief forms of Omega-3 used by the body. This vegetarian product provides both.

 
DEVA Vegan Vitamins Vegan DHA (Algae) 200mg Vegan Softgels, 90-Count Bottle
DEVA Vegan Vitamins Vegan DHA (Algae) 200mg Vegan Softgels, 90-Count Bottle

Algae based Omega-3 is becoming a bigger hit and can deliver high-quality Omega-3 at a low price

 
Hemp, flax, and chia seed
Hemp, flax, and chia seed

Adding Seed to Recipes

As stated, it is even better to get your Omega-3s from whole seed rather than oil, despite the acceptability of that latter choice. Whole seeds contain the essential fatty acids and a number of other phytonutrients. The top three seeds for Omega-3 are hemp, flax, and chia. Each of them has special benefits beyond their given alpha-linolenic content. Hemp has Super Omega-3, flax has lignans, and chia has an immense supply of antioxidants (more than blueberries!) So what's the best way to eat these products?

To improve digestibility, you can blend the seeds in shakes. These shakes can be further enhanced with greens like spinach or kale, or fruits like blueberries or apples. Blending increases the absorption rate of nutrients while retaining the fiber, unlike juicing.

Some people like to eat seed straight from the bag, which can admittedly be somewhat tasty with hemp or flax. Chia seed is much more difficult to eat straight, as it absorbs all the moisture from your mouth and becomes very hard to chew. However, all of these seeds mix extremely well with virtually anything. Oatmeal, cereal, salad, yogurt, sandwiches - they are all good choices. You are only limited by your imagination. Think hard, and you will find dozens of opportunities to add these healthy Omega-3 seeds to your diet.

Omega-3 Foods

Nutiva Organic, Raw, Shelled Hempseed from non-GMO, Sustainably Farmed Canadian Hemp, 12-Ounces (Pack of 2)
Nutiva Organic, Raw, Shelled Hempseed from non-GMO, Sustainably Farmed Canadian Hemp, 12-Ounces (Pack of 2)

This is the highest quality hemp seed on the market, and my #1 recommendation for Omega-3 health!

 
Nutiva Organic Chia Seed, Black, 12 Ounce
Nutiva Organic Chia Seed, Black, 12 Ounce

Nutiva also has the best chia, packed with an immense amount of Omega-3, antioxidants, and fiber!

 
NOW Foods Certified Organic Golden Flax Seeds, 16-Ounce (Pack of 2)
NOW Foods Certified Organic Golden Flax Seeds, 16-Ounce (Pack of 2)

Organic golden flax seeds taste amazing, and are packed with over a gram of Omega-3 per single tablespoon.

 
 Nutiva Organic Cold-Pressed Unrefined Hemp Oil, 24 Ounce
Nutiva Organic Cold-Pressed Unrefined Hemp Oil, 24 Ounce

If you want to get high amounts of Omega-3 and Super Omega-3 fast, then Nutiva Hemp Oil is the way to go.

 
Nature's Way EfaGold Organic Flax Oil Super Lignan, 24 Ounce
Nature's Way EfaGold Organic Flax Oil Super Lignan, 24 Ounce

Absorb copious Omega-3s and lignans with this amazing brand of flax oil.

 

Omega Poll

What's your favorite Omega-3 source?

See results

Omega Structures

Structure of Omega fatty acids
Structure of Omega fatty acids

Ever wonder what makes an Omega-3 different from Omega-6? It depends on the location of the first double bond from the methyl end of the acid. So for the former, the first double bond occurs three bond locations from the methyl end, whereas in the latter, it occurs six locations away. There are other structural differences within categories as well, such as the number of carbons. The above picture explains it well!

Omega-3s Explained

Still want to know more about what Omega-3s do? This video explains it very well!

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