Plant-derived Omega-3 is alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) which the body converts to Omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). When the body converts ALA to DHA and EPA the amounts of DHA and EPA are insigniﬁcant for optimal health and disease prevention. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your complete Omega-3 intake. The DHA and EPA are important nutrients in brain functioning, neural tissue performance, retina, eye health, and for visual acuity as well as coronary health. Omega-3 is also found to lower the symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and is associated with memory loss prevention.
DHA and EPA are found in ﬁsh and ﬁsh oil. Some people who eat ﬁsh might not be able to absorb the Omega-3 (if their body is acidic and they cannot properly digest the ﬁsh). This is why Omega-3 rich foods like ﬂax and chia seeds have become popular not just with vegetarians. Here is a list of 12 vegetarian sources of Omega-3 and their other health beneﬁts. The ﬁrst three walnuts, ﬂax seeds and chia seeds provide the highest amounts of Omega-3.
Walnuts are highly nutritional and contain antioxidants, minerals, protein while also being high in Omega-3 ALA fatty acids, vitamin E, folate, melatonin, making them very beneﬁcial for the brain and cardio-vascular function. Walnuts make a great snack or addition to various meals.
2. Flax Seeds
You can use ﬂax seeds in their natural raw state or as ﬂax seed oil. You can add the seed oil as a salad dressing or even add it to your cereal every morning to make sure you are getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids. Flax seeds are high in antioxidants and micronutrients. The added beneﬁt of ﬂax seeds is they keep your hair and skin healthy.
3. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are one of the top vegetarian sources of Omega-3. They also contain signiﬁcant amounts of dietary ﬁber, vitamins, minerals and protein. Chia seeds contain antioxidants which contributes to lower free radical activity. That’s why they are also wonderful for you skin. You can add them to your cereal, or just soak them with some water and they will swell and become a consistency of a pudding to which you can some fruit
Beans don’t have as much Omega-3 as nuts and seeds, however they still are a signiﬁcant source for a plant-based food and should be consumed regularly for a balanced diet. The beans with most Omega-3 value are mung beans. Beans also contain protein and ﬁber. They are a wonderfully versatile food that you can prepare in different ways, and depending on the seasons, can provide quite a varied taste.
5. Winter Squash
Winter squash and other pumpkins contain Omega-3 fatty acids. They are rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene making them especially beneﬁcial for your skin. They are anti-oxidant making them essential foods in preventing cancer. Winter squash is rich in ﬂoats which is the reason why they are often recommended in dietary needs of pregnant women as they help with healthy foetal development. They make delicious soups and can be wonderful when just baked on their own.
6. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are a healthy addition to your diet and contain reasonable amounts of Omega-3. The ﬁner and more subtle in taste spinach can be eaten raw and is a great smoothie ingredient as it can be combined with versatile foods and not overpower the taste. Kale and arugula are distinct in favour and make a great salad. If you ﬁnd kale or collards too tough and chewy try lightly steaming them and seasoning with cold pressed olive oil and sea salt.
Broccoli is a very nutritious food and contains Omega-3. They are almost as versatile as spinach and can make a great addition to a green smoothie or eaten raw. Try seasoning them with olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice and lightly baking them in the oven. This makes a wonderful appetizer.
Cauliﬂower is rich in vitamins and minerals. One of it’s greatest beneﬁts is their anti-inﬂammatory effect. Besides Omega-3 they also contain choline, both of which help with healthy brain function. Try pairing cauliﬂower with broccoli and preparing it in the same way as mentioned above: seasoning with olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice.
9. Brussels Sprouts
Often neglected, brussels sprouts are highly nutritious. They contain Omega-3 and are rich in Vitamins B, C, K, manganese, potassium and a other minerals. They are great to help the body with lowering chronic oxidative stress and eliminating toxins. To keep the smelliness low and nutritional content high, steam or cook them lightly making sure you don’t overcook them.
Soybeans are highly nutritious and can be made into patty’s or milk. They are not as high in Omega-3 as seeds and nuts but the ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 is good (this ratio should ideally be 1 to 1). As this is one of the most genetically modiﬁed foods, make sure to ﬁnd an organic non-GMO source. Soybeans not only contain Omega-3 but are also rich in protein.
All eggs have Omega-3 fatty acids. The Omega-3 enriched eggs are eggs from chicken fed with Omega-3 feeds. You can either get the secondary source of additional Omega-3 from Omega-3 eggs or you can have ﬂax-seeds or ﬂax seed oil with them, which is usually what they feed the chicken to enrich the eggs.
There are many supplements on the market. Do some research, consult with your naturopathic doctor or a nutritionist and ﬁnd the best sources and most bio-available ingredients.