What are the top vegetarian sources of omega-3s? This list covers the best vegan and vegetarian omega-3 supplement options, as well as the best food sources of vegan and vegetarian DHA and EPA. If you're looking for a vegan alternative to fish oil, here you go!
Wondering how to get your fill of EPA and DHA from vegetarian sources? I’ll tell you how!
Thanks to the folks at the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED) for sponsoring this blog post. All opinions, as always, are my own.
October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, so what better time to talk about how to get your fill of vegetarian sources of omega-3s! I’ve been an ovo-lacto vegetarian (meaning I eat eggs and dairy) for almost half my life, so this is a topic near and near to my heart—and diet.
Whether or not you’re a vegetarian, you may not be eating all the fatty fish you need to get your fill of EPA and DHA, so read on!
Before we get going, let me first give a quick primer on the three types of omega-3s:
· Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): This long-chain omega-3 fatty acid is found in certain types of algae, as well as the fatty fish who eat those algae—including salmon and trout. If you’re wondering: You’ll find DHA in the largest amounts in your brain and eyes. The omega-3 is also present in heart tissue.
· Eicosapentaeonic acid (EPA): Also a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, EPA is found in algae and fatty fish. Unlike DHA, it isn’t stored in the brain and eyes in significant amounts. But it’s super important for heart health.
· Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): This short-chain omega-3 fatty acid is found in plant-based foods, including flaxseeds and tofu. While ALAs are important to the diet, just a small fraction of ALA converts to DHA and EPA in the body.
I’ll be focusing on EPA and DHA in this post, as these are the types of omega-3s that your body most efficiently utilizes. These omega-3s
help your overall wellness, as well as your heart health, brain health, and even eye health.
First off, how many omega-3s do you need?
At a minimum, most vegetarians should look to take a daily algae omega-3 supplement providing at least 250 milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA. Front-of-package numbers can be misleading, so it’s important to look at the supplements facts label to determine this amount.
Some people could benefit from higher amounts from their plant-based omega-3 supplements, though. For instance, 500 mg daily has been shown to help lower risk of coronary heart disease in healthy adults. Pregnant or breastfeeding? You’ll want to get an extra 200 mg daily, up to 700 to 1,000 mg. This is because omega-3s play a hugely important role in brain and eye development.
Some vegetarians take a vegan DHA and EPA supplement, aka an algae oil supplement. You'll need DHA and EPA for a healthy plant-based pregnancy. Here are a couple of what I consider to be the best omega-3 capsules.
- Life’s DHA All-Vegetarian Softgel (contains DHA)
- Life Extension Vegetarian-Sourced DHA (contains DHA)
- Ovega-3 Vegetarian/Vegan Omega-3 Supplement (contains DHA and EPA)
You can get omega-3s from food, too.
Nope, you don’t have to eat salmon and anchovies to take in omega-3s through food! What about the best vegetarian sources of omega-3s? Several foods are now fortified with omega-3s. For instance, Horizon makes a Reduced-Fat Milk with DHA Omega-3, supplying 32 mg of DHA per 1-cup serving. Drink the milk straight up, or swap it into an existing recipe that calls for milk, such as one of these:
Golden Milk Chia Pudding from Dixya at Food, Pleasure & Health
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie from my own kitchen
Quinoa Oatmeal with Berries from Julie Harrington at RDelicious Kitchen
How to get vegetarian omega-3s from food? Certain eggs, such as Eggland’s Best, contain omega-3s thanks to a special diet the chickens are fed. One Eggland’s Best egg offers 57 mg DHA and 2 mg EPA. I love snacking on hardboiled eggs, and you can also use the eggs in any of these recipes:
Truffle Mushroom Eggs Benedict from Kara at The Foodie Dietitian
Sweet Potato Skillet Breakfast Pizza from Jessica at Jessica Cording Nutrition
Easy Egg Drop Soup from Diana at The Baby Steps Dietitian
Another food that's one of the best vegetarian sources of omega-3s: Francesco Rinaldi Fortified Tomato & Basil sauce, which offers 32 mg DHA per half-cup serving. Top whole-grain pasta with the sauce, or incorporate it into any of these recipes:
Mexican Rice from Christy at Christy Wilson Nutrition
Protein Punch Marinara Spaghetti Squash from my own kitchen
Black Bean & Butternut Squash from Lindsay at Feed your Spark
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What are your thoughts on the vegetarian sources of omega-3s? What's your go-to vegan DHA and EPA supplement? Do you take an algae-based omega-3? Tag @amydgorin on Instagram and Pinterest and @amygorin on Twitter and Facebook.