How to get omega 3 on a vegan diet

Omega 3s are a family of essential fatty acids that are well known for their health benefits.

They're called 'essential' fatty acids for a reason, because our bodies cannot produce them so they must therefore be consumed through our diets.

Some of the benefits of omega 3 include:

  • Brain health: Several studies have shown that consuming omega 3 can help to prevent against cognitive decline and its associated diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia ¹ ². Omega 3 is incredibly important in the brain development of children³, and adults who consume omega 3 regularly have lower risk of mental illness such as anxiety and depression.

  • Heart health: People who consume omega 3 regularly have lower risk of heart disease and stroke . Omega 3 has also been shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.

  • Vision: DHA, a type of omega 3 fatty acid, is a major component of the retina in your eye. Getting enough omega 3 reduces your risk of macular degeneration, one of the world's leading causes of permanent eye disease and blindness¹⁰.

  • Inflammation: Omega 3 consumption has been consistently linked to lower inflammation levels¹¹ ¹². As a result omega 3 can reduce joint pain¹³ and prevent against inflammatory diseases such as arthritis¹⁴, ulcerative colitis¹⁵ and psoriasis.¹⁶

  • Cancer: Studies have shown that people who consume omega 3 regularly have up to a 55% lower risk of colon cancer¹⁷. Omega 3 consumption has also been linked to lower rates of prostate cancer¹⁸ and breast cancer.¹⁹

Unfortunately it can be hard to get enough omega 3 through our diets alone, particularly if we are following a vegan or vegetarian diet.

That's because the omega 3 found in plant foods comes in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) rather than the long chain fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

ALA vs EPA and DHA

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is a short chain omega 3 fatty acid. Good sources of ALA include flaxseed, chia seed and walnuts.

Whilst you would technically be correct in saying that these foods provide us with omega 3, that only tells a part of the story. This is because ALA must first be converted into EPA and DHA by our bodies to provide the major benefits of omega 3.

Unfortunately the conversion rates of ALA to EPA and DHA are not good, with an average 8% conversion to EPA and 0.5% to DHA. This means you would need to consume almost half a kilogram of flaxseed daily just to get half a gram of DHA!¹⁹

Interestingly the conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA has been shown to increase in pregnant and lactating women. This is likely an evolutionary response that ensured the baby was getting at least some omega 3 as it is so important for their brain development. With that said, pregnant and lactating women are still advised by all leading health advisories around the world to take an EPA and DHA supplement as the conversion rate of ALA is too unreliable.

So whilst nuts and seeds are very healthy foods and should be consumed for the numerous other benefits that they provide, they should not be considered as a reliable source of omega 3.

So should we eat fish?

It is true that you can get omega 3 EPA and DHA from fish. But with over 90% of the world's fish stocks now exploited or overexploited, fish consumption is a huge environmental concern.

Every day millions of fish and their oceanic habitats are wiped out by giant fishing vessels trawling with nets up to 18 miles long. These nets scoop up entire ecosystems in one swoop, causing damage that our oceans cannot replenish.

Climate change experts predict that if modern fishing methods continue at the current rate we will see a complete collapse in the world's fish populations by 2048.

And then of course there are the health risks of fish consumption. Due to ocean pollution many fish now unknowingly feed on microplastics, which works their way up the food chain and pose a risk to human health²⁰. Fish have also been shown to harbour high levels of heavy metals such as mercury²¹ along with other contaminants such as PCBs and dioxins.

All of these reasons are why I do not eat fish personally and do not recommend others to do so either. The good news is that we don't need to rely on fish to get our EPA and DHA as there is a much healthier and more ethical source available.

How fish get their omega 3.

Just like us fish get their omega 3 from the foods that they eat. They do this by consuming a diet of omega 3 rich algae.

Algae is in fact the primary producer of omega 3, converting the sun's energy into EPA and DHA. So instead of eating fish for omega 3 we can go straight to the source and consume the algae oil instead!

Algae oil has been shown to be the purest form of omega 3 available because it does not contain the heavy metals and other pollutants found in fish.

And because it is grown in controlled environments algae oil doesn't deplete our oceans or cause any harm to marine life. Oh, and there's no fishy aftertaste!

This is why we created a vegan omega 3 supplement derived from algae. It provides all of the benefits of EPA and DHA without any of the health or environmental concerns associated with fish consumption.

Vivo Life Omega 3

How much omega 3 do I need?

There is currently no set standard for how much omega 3 you should consume each day. Expert opinions vary considerably, but overall most leading health organisations recommend a minimum of 250 - 500mg combined EPA and DHA every day for healthy adults.²² ²³

However for specific health concerns it may be beneficial to consume omega 3 in higher amounts. For example the American Heart Association recommends a combined intake of 1000mg per day for people with coronary heart disease²⁴ , whilst clinical trials for depression and anxiety show that amounts up to 2200mg may be optimal.²⁵

Furthermore if you consume high levels of omega 6 in your diet you will also need to consume more omega 3. This is because omega 6 and omega 3 fight for the same conversion pathways, and a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio may contribute to inflammation. Foods rich in omega 6 include most nuts and seeds, and high PUFA vegetable oils like canola, cottonseed and soybean oil.

If you are in doubt you can get an omega 3 index test which will help to determine how much omega 3 you should take daily. If you are below 4% on the index test you may need to consume omega 3 in higher quantities until your score comes back into a normal range, at which point you can lower the amount you take to a daily maintenance dose.

The reason our omega 3 is in liquid form is so you can easily adjust your dose based on your individual requirements.

Our recommended serving size is 2ml which provides 600mg of DHA and 300mg of EPA. However if you wish to consume more or less than this, you can easily adjust your serving size by using the dropper bottle.

Having our omega 3 in liquid form also means that you don't have to swallow a lot of omega 3 pills, which usually contain a thickener called carrageenan. Carrageenan is an ingredient derived from seaweed that was identified in 2016 as a potential carcinogen.²⁶

Our omega 3 is cold pressed, chemical free, and provides an ultra pure source of EPA and DHA without the risks associated with fish consumption.

It is also third party tested for heavy metals, PCBs and dioxins; and recommended by nutritionists for safe use during pregnancy.

Do you use omega 3? Let me know in the comments below!


Comments (5)

By Cath posted on October 07, 2019

How do I take this? I’m not great swallowing things with unfamiliar taste

By Jenny posted on October 03, 2019

What is an omega 3 index test and where would I get one done? My GP certainly wouldn’t do that.

By Trudi posted on October 03, 2019

This sounds brilliant and as I suffer from SAD I’m hopeful it will help as having a plant based diet I pretty sustainable, environmental and obviously vegan products:)
Well done guys

By Jason posted on October 03, 2019

How large is the bottle? And what are all the ingredients?

By Kirk posted on October 03, 2019

This is so good to hear. I’ve been searching for an effective vegan option to increase omega 3, particularly EPA and DHA and this appears to be it. I look forward to ordering 👍🏾

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