Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that our bodies cannot produce. Why are these fats essential? These are polyunsaturated fats. Our bodies cannot make them. We must obtain them from our food or supplements.
When experts speak about omega-3 fatty acids, they always mention fatty fish and sea fish oil as the primary sources. So, is it impossible for vegans to receive enough essential fats from their diet?
Why Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids Important?
Omega-3 fatty acids are part of every cell membrane. Without enough omega-3 fatty acids, our cells cannot repair or regenerate.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the production of hormones that control blood contraction, and inflammation and keep the artery walls healthy.
Essential fatty acids such as omega-3 also bind to receptors that control genetic function.
Omega-3 fatty acids play important roles in the prevention of heart diseases, and autoimmune conditions (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and eczema).
Recent research also shows that omega-3 fatty acids may play a significant role in preventing different types of cancer.
Are There Any Vegan Omega-3 Sources?
Contrary to popular belief and opinions, several vegetables, seeds, and grains are reliable vegan omega-3 fatty acid sources. And, if your dietician says that you are not receiving enough essential fats, you can also try vegan omega-3 supplements that don't contain any trace of dairy or fish.
There are several direct and indirect vegetarian and vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids. You need to make these a part of your regular diet to prevent any omega-3 deficiencies.
7 Indian Common Vegan Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3-rich vegan foods are easily available. They need not be costly or exotic. We can bet that even now you have at least 3 to 4 different types of omega-3-rich vegan foods in your cabinet, but you are simply not aware of them.
Here are the most common omega-3 vegan foods you should include in your daily diet –
Walnuts or Akhrot are very common food items found in Indian households. It's not exotic. It grows right here in several states of India and it's not too expensive either.
Walnuts are superfoods that contain tons of omega-3 fatty acids along with protein, fiber, and good sugar.
Just 14 grams of walnuts contain around 1.3 grams of omega-3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA). Which is exactly the daily recommended dose of ALA for women.
You can include walnuts along with other dry foods to make a healthy snack between breakfast and lunch. Or top your salad with chopped-up walnuts.
Flax Seeds are another now-common ingredient found in Indian households. While many simply eat flax seeds to lose weight or fight high cholesterol levels, it's also one of the richest vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Flax seeds are easily available at grocery stores nowadays. You can eat them with your dry fruit mix or include them in your salads and soups for an added crunch.
Just 10 grams of flax seeds can have –
- 1.9 grams of proteins
- 2.8 grams of fiber
- 3 grams of omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids
In short, flax seeds should be your staple addition to daily meals to fulfill any omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrient deficiencies.
Chia Seeds get a lot of unnecessary hate. We often hear, “soaked chia seeds are disgusting,” “Chia seeds are tasteless” and “they are so overrated!”
Thankfully, none of these are true. If you don't like plain-soaked chia seeds, try adding them to your cookies and biscuits. Add them to salads, soups, and daily veggies, and top your bread spread with chai seeds. Then you will see how they enhance the taste of any meal.
Chia seeds are the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids among vegan foods. Here is why you should add chia seeds to your breakfast every day –
- Decrease blood triglycerides and increase HDL
- Reduce inflammatory markers in autoimmune disorders
- Decrease glucose intolerance
Did you know? Ground chia seeds are an ingenious vegan substitute for eggs. However, they come with way more nutrition that the eggs anyone can buy in supermarkets today. So, go ahead, and grind around 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water to replace 1 egg in your vegan recipe.
Here’s what 1 tablespoon of chia seeds contain
- Protein: 2.3 grams.
- Fat: 4.3 grams.
- Carbohydrates: 6 grams.
- Fiber: 4.9 grams.
- Sugar: 0 grams.
So much flavor, but zero sugar! It’s the dream come true for anyone with hypothyroidism trying to lose weight.
Now, although India has a sizeable production and market for hemp seeds, finding high-quality hemp seeds can be a challenge. However, now you can purchase hemp seeds in bulk from some websites.
Before purchasing, make sure –
- The reviews are positive and authentic
- The seeds are food grade and certified by FSSAI
- They are organic and without additives
- They are not grown with chemical fertilizers
Around 30 mg of hemp seeds will contain more than your daily omega-3 needs! Hemp seeds are also a rich source of –
- Plant protein
- Vitamin E
They are good for your heart and hair!
Add them to your morning smoothie for the best results. You can also try hemp seeds with avocado or peanut butter toast and yogurt.
Edamame is a fancy name for soya ki phali. Soybean is a common vegetable found all across the country. Just remember to not ignore them when you visit the vegetable market the next time.
Half a cup of edamame can provide you with around 20% of your daily omega-3 fatty acid needs. Apart from omega-3, only 78 grams of edamame also contains –
- Plant proteins: 9.2 g
- Fibers: 4 g
- Calcium: 49 mg
- Iron: 1.7 mg
- Sodium: 4.6 mg
- Vitamin C: 4.8 mg
According to our dieticians, adding edamame to your diet is a brilliant way to diversify your omega-3 and plant protein sources. You can get a complete range of nutrients by including this leguminous vegetable at least twice a week in your meals.
We are all familiar with kidney beans or rajma. They are not rare or costly! We bet you have some in your kitchen right now.
Kidney beans are reliable sources of plant proteins, micronutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids in all vegan diets.
Here’s what only 100 grams of boiled kidney beans contain –
- Protein: 8.7 grams
- Carbs: 22.8 grams
- Sugar: 0.3 grams
- Fiber: 6.4 grams
- Fat: 0.5 grams
- Vitamin K1
Kidney beans are a must-have for every vegan out there since it is only of the very few plant-based sources of Vitamin K1. It is the vitamin that helps in blood clotting.
Do not forget to have some rajma with brown rice or a staple of your choice at least twice a week if you want to stay healthy and fit.
Thanks to the age of online shopping, we have access to so many types of cooking oils. For vegans, canola oil is the best choice if you are looking to fulfill your daily needs for omega-3 fatty acids.
Just only a tablespoon has around 1.28 g of omega-3 fatty acid. That's more than the daily requirement of the essential fatty acid for any woman.
Since it's light, low in saturated fat, and also basically neutral in flavor, you can use canola oil in your salad dressing, toppings on open sandwiches, and vegetable roasts.
In India, you may see several brands selling canola oil as "double zero" oil. It's called double zero because it has zero pungent taste and bitterness, unlike mustard oil.
Do I Need Vegan Omega-3 Supplements?
Sometimes, even with the best-planned diets our bodies don't absorb all the nutrients necessary.
If you are following a vegan diet, remember to get your vitamin and mineral levels checked every year. In the case of deficiencies or rising LDL levels, you must speak to your doctor about vegan omega-3 supplements.
Points to remember while shopping for vegan omega-3 supplements –
- The most common omega-3 supplements in the market come from fish and fish oil. You might want to avoid those.
- Opt for vegan omega-3 supplements that are certified vegetarian and free from dairy.
- Buy supplements only from a trusted brand and remember that supplements that work, aren't cheap.
- Your vegan omega-3 supplement should be bioavailable and free from GMO and GMP products.
- After taking your supplements for a month or so, get another test done to see if your blood parameters are improving.