By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Want to know the best vegetarian omega-3s and the top omega-3 vegan supplements? Read on to learn all about vegan DHA, vegetarian sources of omega-3s, and more.
Curious about 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, including good sources of vegetarian omega-3s to choose from.
All the Types of Omega-3s
What better time to talk about how to get your fill of vegetarian sources of omega-3s? I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian (meaning I ate 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. You'll get info on vegetarian and vegan sources of omega-3s aplenty!
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. You’ll find DHA in the largest amounts in your brain and eyes, and 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's not 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 ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, tofu, and some cooking oil (like flaxseed oil). While ALAs are important to the diet, just a small fraction of ALA converts to DHA and EPA in the body.
Because of this, when talking about sources of omega-3 fatty acids, I’ll be focusing on EPA and DHA in this post. 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.
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 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–and to buy oil-based supplements that are indeed a great source of EPA and DHA omega-3s.
Some people could benefit from higher amounts of DPA and EPA from their plant-based omega-3 supplements, though. For instance, 500 milligrams 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 milligrams daily, up to 700 to 1,000 milligrams. This is because omega-3s play a hugely important role in brain and eye development!
Vegetarian Omega-3s to Try
You may choose to take a vegan or vegetarian omega-3 supplement. 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. But which are the best vegan omega-3 supplements?
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)
Which of these omega-3 vegan options will you choose?
You Can Get Omega-3s From Food, Too
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 milligrams of DHA per 1-cup serving. This is one of the top vegetarian sources of omega-3s! 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 Bhattarai, RD at Food, Pleasure & Health
- Pumpkin Pie Smoothie from my own kitchen
Eggs with Omega-3s
How to get vegetarian omega-3s from food? There are omega-3 foods that are vegetarian. 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 milligrams DHA and 2 milligrams 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 Lydon, RD at The Foodie Dietitian
- Sweet Potato Skillet Breakfast Pizza from Jessica Cording, RD, author of The Little Book of Game Changers
- Easy Egg Drop Soup from Diana Rice, RD at The Baby Steps Dietitian
Pasta Sauce with Omega-3s
When it comes to plant-based sources of omega-3s, you have many options. Another food that's one of the best vegetarian sources of omega-3s: Francesco Rinaldi Fortified Tomato & Basil sauce, which offers 32 milligrams DHA per half-cup serving. Top whole-grain pasta with the sauce, or incorporate it into any of these recipes:
- Mexican Rice from Christy Wilson, RD at Christy Wilson Nutrition
- Protein Punch Marinara Spaghetti Squash from my own kitchen
- Butternut Squash Chipotle Chili from Cookie + Kate
This blog post was updated in November 2020. The content was originally part of a partnership with the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED).
- Dixya Bhattarai, RD at Food, Pleasure & Health
- Julie Harrington, RD, co-author of The Healing Soup Cookbook
- Kara Lydon, RD at The Foodie Dietitian
- Jessica Cording, RD, author of The Little Book of Game Changers
- Diana Rice, RD at The Baby Steps Dietitian
- Christy Wilson, RD at Christy Wilson Nutrition
- Cookie + Kate
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I'd love to hear from you! What are your thoughts on the vegetarian sources of omega-3s? What are your go-to vegetarian sources of omega-3s?
Do you take an algae-based omega-3? I love cooking up vegan omega-3 foods in my New York City kitchen. How about you?
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