More and more people are choosing to go vegan. Not only is a wholly plant-based diet kinder to animals and better for the planet, but growing evidence suggests it is also incredibly healthy. However, an ill-prepared vegan diet can miss out on vital nutrients, and actually be detrimental to health. One group of nutrients hard to get enough of on a vegan diet is the omega-3 fatty acids, known for their powerful effects on brain and heart health.
Omega-3 from Animals
Without a doubt, the most readily available source of omega-3 is from fatty fish. Salmon, sardines, and mackerel are all jam-packed with it. What's more, they contain the EPA and DHA forms of omega-3 that give such incredible health benefits. Unfortunately, this leads to a problem for those on a vegan diet, as there are few other dietary sources available.
Many plants do contain omega-3. Flaxseed, in particular, is a rich source of the fatty acid. However, don't be fooled! The omega-3 found in plant-based products, known as ALA, does not confer the same benefits as EPA and DHA. While the body does try to convert the ALA to the more beneficial forms, the process is very inefficient with only around a 5 to 10 percent success rate. This problem leads to the question, how do you get enough omega-3 on a vegan diet?
The Need to Supplement
The answer is to take supplements. Even if you were to eat mainly foods high in ALA, you would still run the risk of nutrient deficiency, as the conversion is so inefficient. However, omega-3 supplements are not without their problems for vegans. Fish oil is the most common supplement, which is obviously not vegan-friendly. Fortunately, supplements are available that derive from the micro-algae that make up phytoplankton.
Anyone who is on, or thinking of switching to, a vegan diet, should consider the need for omega-3 supplements. While the body can convert the ALA found in plants, the process is inefficient, and many will end up deficient in this vital nutrient. Supplements are a simple and relatively inexpensive solution to this problem. Just remember to choose a vegan-friendly variety.