Vegetarian Omega-3 Fish Oil Alternative

Omega 3 Basics for Vegetarians

Vegetarianism is becoming extremely common in today's world. Even so, those on a vegetarian diet still face a host of hurdles when it comes to nutrition. Their biggest problem tends to be getting the essential vitamins, minerals, and macrobiotics their bodies need. One such example would be essential fatty acids.

What are Essential Fatty Acids?

Essential fatty acids are a type of fatty acid that your body needs to function. They shouldn't be confused with fat because they aren't readily used as fuel. This is because they have a lot of other functions that take priority. Believe it or not, they deal with everything from inflammation in the body to mood and behavior. This is especially true of the Omega 3 fatty acid.

Omega 3 fatty acids are a group of unsaturated fatty acids. The Omega 3 essential acids, which are ALA, EPA, and DHA, are considered the most important. Having enough of these in your body helps reduce inflammation and so far, studies are showing that they also decrease your chance of getting heart disease, and even cancer.

Where is Omega 3 found?

Omega 3 is most commonly found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring. That's why the American Heart Association tells everyone to eat at least one serving of this type of fish at twice a week. For those that don't like the taste of fish or find buying seafood so often to be out of their budget, fish oil capsules are available.

How Can Vegetarians Get Omega 3?

Unfortunately, Omega 3 isn't commonly found in vegetarian food. This isn't to say it's impossible for someone on a vegetarian diet to get an adequate amount of Omega 3 purely from a natural diet. It may, however, be inconvenient and expensive. Luckily, supplement manufacturers have wizened up to vegetarianism and have started producing vegetarian Omega 3 supplements as fish oil alternatives.

What Kind of Vegetarian Omega 3 Supplements are Available?

In terms of vegetarian fish oil replacements, the most commonly used sources are flaxseed oil, hempseed, and walnuts. Most vegetarian omega 3 capsules are made from flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil seems to be the most popular source due to cost, additional health benefits, and its high Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio.

There are a plethora of vegetarian Omega 3 manufacturers out there and they vary greatly in many ways. Which one is the best is dependent on what an individual is looking for in their supplement. Deva, for example, is best for vegans and strict vegetarians because their capsules are not made with gelatin like most other capsules. They are also certified organic so those who prefer organic foods and supplements would prefer Deva's products. On the other hand, people who don't like swallowing capsules or prefer to take a single daily dose of Omega 3 would be more appreciative of Barlean's liquid flax oil. A majority of the liquid flax oil customers use Barlean's because the taste isn't as unpleasant as other brands. Nature Made is a popular brand due to its availability. It's available everywhere, including discount stores like Wal-mart, grocery stores, and membership stores like Costco. Other popular brands include TruNature, Nature's Bounty, and Botanic Choice.

What's the Difference Between Vegetarian Omega 3 and Fish Oil?

The biggest difference between vegetarian Omega 3 and the fish oil is the type and amount of Omega 3. Fish oil has less overall Omega 3 when compared to vegetarian Omega 3 obtained from flaxseed oil. That being said, vegetarian Omega 3, with the exception of algae based supplements, usually only contains ALA, whilst fish oil contains the more important EPA and DHA. At any rate, both fish oil and vegetarian Omega 3 have many of the same health benefits.

As mentioned before, essential fatty acids, and especially Omega 3s, help reduce inflammation within the body and reduce the likelihood of heart disease and cancer. They have also been shown to help with prevention and treatment of depression. Plant based Omega 3s have additional benefits as well. They help with hormonal balance and protect the body's cells from the stress of the environment. With all of the pollution in the air these days, and different chemicals in common supplies, this is especially important. Aesthetically speaking, these Omega 3s have a positive effect on skin, hair, and nails. Nails will grow faster and stronger, while hair will become softer and shinier. Skin tends to become more hydrated. The type of vegetarian Omega 3 will determine which specific health benefits are received.

What Do People Need to Know When Taking Vegetarian Omega 3 Supplements?

Although vegetarian Omega 3s are essential and desirable, they need to be used carefully and properly to maximize the benefits and to avoid any undesirable side effects. Firstly, one should buy vegetarian Omega 3s from multiple plant based sources. For example, if one takes one flaxseed oil capsule and one algae capsule (check out the health benefits of spirulina), he or she would get both ALA and DHA, versus just one of those with a single type of supplement. It's also important to realize there aren't any direct plant based supplements containing EPA so the body must convert ALA into it. Because of that, someone on a vegetarian diet needs to take a larger amount of supplements than someone using fish oils. For conversion purposes, seven grams of vegetarian Omega 3 is equal to one gram of fish oil. A standard for daily supplementation does not yet exist, but two to four grams of DHA and EPA has shown to aid in living a healthy lifestyle in the latest studies.

There are certain precautions one should take when using these kinds of supplements. The first is to take them separately from other vitamins or medications. This is because certain forms of vegetarian Omega 3s can negatively affect how the body absorbs minerals and vitamins. There has been preliminary research that shows some diabetics have problems converting ALA into EPA and DHA. These people should speak with their physicians before starting supplementation. Anyone who takes regularly scheduled medication should also seek medical advice before starting vegetarian Omega 3 because it can interact with a variety of medications, including NSAIDs, steroids, anticoagulants, and insulin, among others.

Omega 3s are essential to maintaining a healthy body. Although being a vegetarian can make getting these EFAs a bit difficult, vegetarian Omega 3 supplements are making things a bit easier. As long as they are taken correctly, vegetarian Omega 3s provide all the same benefits to healthy living as fish oil capsules, and even some additional ones.

19.10.2010. 23:54


chellie 10.12.2010. 20:15

Wow! if all of this is true information then I found it to be very helpful. I mean, I taking Flaxseed and Omega 3s together but now I know that's not necessary. I can take either one. I have spoke with my doctor about both and she recommended taking Omega 3s, 2000mg or more per day. I suffer with inflammation and focus issues. I just recently learned that my cholesterol levels are in need of a little help too. Anywho, Im thankful for being able to learn more about the benefits of Omega 3s.

Mary 24.03.2011. 16:10

Thank-you for a comprehensive look at Omega 3s. Great information for vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

Ari Maayan 10.10.2011. 15:39

The statement is made in this article, "It's also important to realize there aren't any direct plant based supplements containing EPA". This is completely erroneous. ALL EPA comes from a plant source, algae. That's where the fish get it.

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