Vegan Omega 3 - All the Benefits Cruelty-Free
Your diet is the foundation for your overall health and when we are talking about fats, there's one type you don’t want to miss out on: omega-3 fatty acids. The two crucial ones - EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) - are primarily found in certain fish while ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds. Those fatty acids are not only needed for your body to function well, but they also deliver a big boost to your health.
When you are vegan you need not only to make sure that you consume enough omega-3, but also that you:
- Do not consume too much omega-6 in relation to omega-3
- Do not rely solely on AHA fatty acids but include also EPA and DHA
- Make sure to choose the right type of supplements (if you plan to use them)
All of that and more will be covered in this article.
But before we delve into vegan related topics lets have a look at the general benefits this crucial nutrient offers.
The Benefits of Omega 3
It’s Really Beneficial for Joints
There are various types of arthritis but all of them can be a really devastating condition to be in.
However, patients taking Omega 3 supplements have repeatedly reported reduced joint pain and increased grip strength.
It Can Ease Menstrual Pain
Many women endure these pains every month and they are nothing to fuss about. The pain occurs in the lower abdomen and pelvis and often radiates to your lower back and thighs.
This can have a significant influence on the quality of a woman's life.
Studies have found that omega-3, well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, successfully helps soothe menstrual pain.
Additionally, It may help bring hormonal fluctuations under control and improve your mood.
It Fends Off Depression
Recent studies found omega-3 supplements to be effective against depression as well as anxiety.
They indicate that people who consume Omega-3s regularly are not only less likely to feel depressed but that their condition gradually improves.
Based on the data we have it appears that EPA is most effective in that regard.
It Helps with Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is the loss of bone density over time. Women are of higher risk of that as they are starting out with a lower bone density compared to men. There were reports that a drop off oestrogen levels during menopause can causes the condition.
Systematic studies have shown significant favorable effect of omega-3 on bone mineral density, especially coupled with additional intake of calcium.
It May Reduce Cancer Risk
Cancer, one of the leading cause of death in the western world, appears to be susceptible to the influence of Omega 3.
Studies have shown that especially patients with colon cancer react very positively.
Other types of cancer which have shown promising results are breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Omega 3 Can Reduce Risk Factors of Heart Diseases
Being the world's leading cause of death, the benefits of Omega 3 in countering it are both very effective as well as scientifically sound.
The main factors Omega 3 contributes to that are:
- They keep blood platelets from clumping together
- Omega-3s reduce blood pressure levels
- They raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels
- Omega 3’s cause a significant reduction of Triglycerides
Can Improve Eye Health
The before mentioned DHA is a structural part of the retina and not getting enough Omega 3 can thereby impact your vision over time.
It also prevents macular degeneration, which is one of the leading causes of permanent eye damage.
Contributes to the Healthy Development of Infants
Pure, high quality omega-3 should be included in a woman's supplement regimen before and during pregnancy, as well as during breastfeeding. Both EPA and DHA are important, but DHA is particularly important throughout pregnancy and during the early stages of an infant's life.
Helps Fighting Autoimmune Diseases
Your body's immune system protects you from disease and infection. But if you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake.
There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases, a prime example is being type 1 Diabetes. Most of them have similar symptoms, however.
While Omega 3 can help fighting the condition itself, they have the most impact preventing it from occurring in first place. Studies indicate that getting enough Omega 3 as children, especially in the first year of life, can drastically lower the chance of getting a autoimmune disease.
Can Reduce Fat in Your Liver
Fatty liver has become a very common condition, currently affecting around 20 to 30 percent of people in the western world. It can progress to cirrhosis and even liver failure.
Consuming the right of amount of Omega 3’s, along with a balanced diet, effectively reduces liver fat and inflammation.
The Problem With Omega 3 Fish Oil
The cruelty of fish farming
Fish who are raised in aquafarms live out the entirety of their lives in cramped enclosures while having to deal with a plethora of issues including parasites, injuries, and various diseases. The mortality rates in aquafarms are often quite high, along with the rate of deformed specimens and stress-caused injuries.
Most fish farmers pack fish into as tight a space as possible to maximize their profit. Bear in mind that fish evolved to roam free in the open ocean, that’s why many of them go insane in aqua-farms due to the inhibited movement and tiny enclosures.
Fish farming harms the environment
Coasts all around the world have been altered just to accommodate fish farms, and all this alteration is damaging the surrounding ecosystems. Pests like sea lice — small crustaceans — tend to reproduce in fish farms then spread out into the wild and terrorize the marine life.
Those are very damaging to salmon, and can even eat their flesh down to the bone at times. In one such case, a particular fish farm on the Scottish coast was to blame for a significant decline in the nation’s salmon population. Many diseases can also fester in fish farms then spread to native fish populations.
Most farmed fish species like salmon and cod are carnivorous. High amounts of protein are needed to sustain their growth. How do fish farmers get all this protein? They grind up smaller bait fish, and it takes five pounds of ground fish to make a single pound of farmed salmon.
Slaughtering bait fish to feed trapped animals with the aim to produce a final product which can be sourced otherwise just isn’t right.
By avoiding non-vegan omega-3 supplements, you’re can stop supporting this unethical practice and take a step in the right direction. It might be just a small one, but it matters.
Omega 3 Deficiency
First things first, omega 3 fatty acids are closely related to Omega 6 , the two work together but also compete for the same enzyme. Therefore it is crucial that we consume both but in the right ratio. A healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is about 1:2, but these days, the average person eats closer to 1:20. That is so because in the food we daily consume omega 6 is present in much higher quantities in and if we don't pay attention omega-3 won't absorb well due to the overdose of omega 6.
The Symptoms of Omega 3 Deficiency
If you imagine how important omega-3 fatty acids are for the optimal functioning of organs, it wont surprise you that if the levels are too low, the extremities such as skin, hair and nails are likely to be left until last. Low fatty acid status in the body therefore results in easy-to-spot physical symptoms - here are the most common ones:
- Dry skin
- Lifeless hair
- Brittle nails
- Poor concentration
- Joint pain
- Emotional sensitivity
While any of the above can be linked to other issue as well, a combination of two or more might indeed mean your omega 3 levels are too low indeed. While this is not a reason to panic, it would be good to try raising your intake for a certain period of time and monitor the results.
Daily recommended intake of Omega 3
The FDA claims that the use of omega-3s is safe if doses do not exceed 3,000 mg/day.
While the EFSA has declared that up to 5,000 mg per day is safe.
These cautions are in place for a few reasons, most importantly, omega-3s can cause blood thinning and/or excessive bleeding in some people.
We could conclude that taking between 2.500 - 4.000 mg is safe and should yield the best long-term results.
Vegan Omega 3 Foods
Contrary to the popular belief that effective amounts of Omega 3 can only be obtained from animal products here is a list of Omega 3-rich vegan alternatives, courtesy of whfoods.
It is important to note however that in the case of small seeds like flax or chia, it can be very difficult to chew the seeds and grind them sufficiently with your teeth to help increase the availability of their ALA. For this reason, many people choose to grind seeds (e.g. in a coffee grinder) prior to eating them. Please be advised that by doing that, their shelf life will be reduced and it becomes especially important to store them in a sealed, opaque container in your refrigerator.
Another point which is crucial to know is that seeds, nuts and greens contain ALA fatty acids, while most of the health benefits connected to omega 3 are accredited to EPA and DHA fatty acids.
While it is true that the body does transform part or AHA to EPA and DHA, just five to ten percent of ALA is converted to EPA and two to five percent makes it to DHA.
The solution: Micro-algae. This is this same seaweed that fish consume that makes them so rich in EPA and DHA. Micro-algae only really contains DHA, but studies have found that when vegans take it as a supplement, their EPA levels also increase substantially.
Omega 3 Supplements
It is always recommended that we try to consume the necessary amounts of nutrients via a balanced diet. But that is easier said than done when it comes to omega 3, it would be quite difficult to chunk down a sufficient amount of micro-algae...
When it come to supplements vegans should look into those based on DHA, even better, into a combination of EPA and DHA.
One such option is Vegan Liposomal Omega 3, which is a combination of EPA and DHA and therefore is much more beneficial. Additionally, it makes use of Liposomal Technology which has 5x better absorption and is thereby much more effective.