Why Do Vegans Need Omega-3s?
Vegans and non-vegans need omega-3 fatty acids because these fats are not produced by the body and are considered “essential” – meaning they need to be consumed from foods or supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids have many roles in the body and have been extensively studied. Some of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation in the body and reduce chronic inflammation from Western diets and chronic diseases
- Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce depression and anxiety as well as modulate ADHD in children
- Omega-3 fatty acids fight autoimmune diseases and disorders
- Omega-3 fatty acids support brain health and development, including developing fetuses in a pregnant mom and warding off mental decline like Alzheimer’s
Vegan Food Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
It’s not news to many of us that salmon and fish oil are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, but what if you have chosen not to consume animal products? Then where can you find Omega-3 fatty acids?
Plant- based sources of omega-3 fatty acids can be found in chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and algae/algae oil.
The only plant-based source of DHA and EPA (specific for brain health and pregnant women) can be found in algae. Chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds all contain ALA. ALA is also an Omega-3 but it must be converted to EPA and DHA for utilization and unfortunately, our bodies aren’t the best at this process with only about 5% of ALA being converted to EPA and less than .05% of ALA being converted to DHA. This means that you must consume a diet high in ALA foods to meet the EPA/DHA recommendations and see the benefit of an omega-3 rich diet.
Why You Would Want to Consider a Vegan Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplement
If you are pregnant, trying to reduce chronic inflammation, trying to modulate an autoimmune disorder, or consuming a diet not high in omega-3 foods, an omega-3 supplement is recommended.
Even if you are not vegan but you’re looking at an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, I would recommend a vegan marine algae one because it’s a sustainable option. The fish oil supplements are more troubling for the environment and the ocean. The interesting thing is that the main reason the fish contain omega-3 fatty acids is because they consume a high amount of the marine algae. So by purchasing a vegan marine algae based omega-3 supplement, you’re receiving DHA, EPA, and cutting out the “middle man” that may have toxins and other factors to consider.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid recommendations
For most healthy adults, 200-500mg of omega-3 fatty acids is considered to be a standard recommendation. However, for some conditions, more omega-3s or a different ratio of EPA and DHA is recommended.
Heart Health – 1000mg of Omega-3 fatty acids per day
Mental Balance/Mood Disorders – Ranges from generally 200-2000mg of omega-3s per day
Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women – At least 300mg of DHA according to the American Pregnancy Organization
5 Best Vegan Omega-3 Supplements
Now that we’ve touched on why you would want to take an omega-3 supplement, let’s dive into the best ones on the market and why. Let me also say that I strongly encourage/advise all of my vegan clients to start taking an omega-3 fatty acid as the benefit far outweighs the risk. However, there are a lot of vegan omega-3 supplements on the market and many of them only contain DHA. It’s important that the supplement contain both DHA and EPA. All of the supplements mentioned skip the fish and go directly to the source (which makes the most sense if you ask me!).
1. ZenWise Vegan Omega 3 – 300mg DHA, 150mg EPA per serving (2 capsules)
What we love: ZenWise provides the highest dosage of EPA and DHA at the most reasonable price. If you are a vegan momma, you only need 2 capsules to reach the 300mg of DHA recommendation. Also, if you plan on taking the vegan omega-3 to help with skin imbalances, the additional DHA is a huge benefit. The ZenWise capsules are vegan using vegetable glycerin. The ZenWise vegan omega-3 supplement is easy to find on Amazon and an easy way to meet your omega-3 fatty acid needs. Try out ZenWise Omega-3s for yourself on Amazon.
Considerations: If you are concerned about or avoiding carrageenan, the vegetarian capsule does use this ingredient.
2. Ovega-3 Plant-Based Omega-3 Daily Dietary Supplement – 135 mg EPA, 270 mg DHA
What we love: The Ovega-3 company has been around for awhile in the vegan and plant-based world and was one of the first companies to produce and market the vegan omega-3 fatty acid supplement with algae as the source. This is a reasonably priced option and while it’s a little short for pregnant and lactating vegan women, it’s a great everyday choice for most people. Buy Ovega-3 Vegan Omega-3 Supplement HERE on Amazon.
Considerations: Ovega-3 also uses carrageenan in their capsule production but this isn’t a reason to not take it for many people. In fact, choosing a vegan omega-3 fatty acid supplement is still the more sustainable and ethical choice.
3. iWi® Omega-3 EPA+DHA, Plant-Based – 100mg DHA, 181mg EPA per capsule
What we love: iWi is a newer vegan omega-3 fatty acid supplement on the market that uses polar lipids to achieve a simpler digestion process that results in a high absorption. The company is pioneering a new approach to sustainable algae cultiavation using arid land in the Southwestern part of the US making it a very consciously sustainable choice. This is also one of the only vegan options that does not use carrageenan in the capsule production. Try out iWi Omega-3 Supplement HERE on Amazon.
Considerations: The dosage for the iWi Omega-3 fatty acid is lower than other options so depending on your goals and the dosage appropriate for your situation, it could be come a more costly supplement if you were taking 3+ capsules a day. Yet, you gotta love the company’s transparency.
4. Testa plant-based GMO-free Omega-3 – 250mg DHA and 125mg EPA from Algae oil
What we love: Testa vegan Omega-3 fatty acid supplement has a considerable amount of DHA and EPA (250mg and 125mg, respectively) in only 1 daily capsule. Many other vegan omega-3 supplements require multiple pills to achieve the recommended amount. So, if you are looking for simplicity, Testa may be a good option for you. Buy Testa vegan Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplement HERE.
Considerations: Testa vegan Omega-3 supplements are a bit more expensive than others and are a bit bigger than other capsules (as they contain more DHA and EPA), so if you have trouble with larger pills or you want less packaging, this may not be your best bet as the capsules are arranged on a sheet similar to a cold medication.
5. Nested Naturals Vegan Omega-3 – 200mg DHA and 100mg EPA
What we love: Nested Naturals combines both EPA and DHA naturally found in algal oil but combines it with green tea extract to help protect against free radical damage. While it’s not well documented how much free radical damage occurs, it’s reassuring to see a company taking a step in preventing the oils from going rancid. With 200mg DHA and 100mg EPA, Nested Naturals provides an adequate dosage for most individuals. Of note, Nested Naturals vegan omega-3 supplement does not use carrageenan in the capsules. Buy Nested Naturals Vegan Omega-3 HERE on Amazon.
Considerations: For the same reason we love Nested Naturals, the green tea extract may not be suitable to everyone, especially those extra sensitive to caffeine although the bottle does not say how much the caffeine the green tea extract provides.
I hope that helped give you vegan options for Omega-3 supplements. I strongly recommend taking one as I’ve seen adequate omega-3s help with mood and depression, skin conditions like eczema, and an overall feeling of well-being. An Omega-3 supplement with at least 200mg (many sources suggest 300mg) in pregnancy is a non-negotiable and if you’re in that boat, I would suggest Zenwise vegan Omega-3 supplement available on Amazon. It happens to check all the boxes while being one of the most reasonably priced vegan omega-3 supplements available.
If you have any questions about Omega-3 fatty acids, their role, a vegan diet and omegas, or vegan omega-3 supplements, comment below. I’d love to be of assistance.