The 7 Best Plant Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important fats that have many health benefits.

Studies have shown they can reduce inflammation, lower blood triglycerides, and even lower the risk of dementia. The most well-known sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish oil and fatty fish like salmon, trout and tuna. This can make it difficult for vegans, vegetarians, or even those who just don’t like fish to meet their omega-3 fatty acid needs.

Of the three main types of omega-3 fatty acids, plant foods generally contain only alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is not as active in the body and must be converted into two other forms of omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)) to provide the same benefits for health.

Unfortunately, your body’s ability to convert ALA is limited. Only about 5% of ALA is converted to EPA, while less than 0.5% is converted to DHA.
Therefore, if you’re not taking a fish oil supplement or getting EPA or DHA in your diet, it’s important to eat plenty of ALA-rich foods to meet your omega-requirements. 3. Also, keep your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in mind, as a diet low in omega-3s but high in omega-6s can increase inflammation and your risk of disease.

Here are 7 of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

1. Chia seeds

Chia seeds are known for their many health benefits, providing a healthy dose of fiber and protein in every serving. They are also an excellent plant-based source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids.

Studies have shown that, thanks to their omega-3s, fiber and protein, chia seeds can reduce the risk of chronic diseases when eaten as part of a healthy diet. A study in people with metabolic syndrome found that consuming a diet including chia seeds, nopal, soy protein and oats reduced blood triglycerides, glucose intolerance and markers inflammation of the participants.

A 2007 animal study also found that eating chia seeds lowered blood triglycerides and increased HDL (good cholesterol) and omega-3 levels in the blood. must be conducted before a definitive conclusion can be drawn.

The recommended daily intake of ALA for adults over 19 is currently 1100 mg for women and 1600 mg for men. 28 grams of chia seeds far exceeds the recommended daily allowance of omega-3 fatty acids, with an impressive 5,000 mg.

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2. Brussels sprouts

Along with their high vitamin K, vitamin C, and fiber content, Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Because cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts are very high in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients, they have been linked to numerous health benefits. In fact, one study found that increased consumption of cruciferous vegetables is associated with an almost 16% reduction in heart disease risk.

A half cup (44 grams) of raw Brussels sprouts contains about 44 mg of ALA. Cooked Brussels sprouts contain three times as much, or 135 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per half cup (78 grams). Whether roasted, steamed, blanched or sautéed, Brussels sprouts make a healthy and delicious side dish to any meal.

3. Algae Oil

Algae oil, a type of oil derived from seaweed, stands out as one of the few vegan sources of EPA and DHA. Some studies have even shown it to be comparable to seafood when it comes to nutritional availability of EPA and DHA. One study compared algal oil capsules to cooked salmon and found that the two were well tolerated and equivalent in terms of absorption.

Although research is limited, animal studies show that DHA from algal oil is particularly beneficial to health. In fact, a recent animal study found that supplementing mice with a DHA-based algae oil compound resulted in improved memory.
However, more human studies are needed to determine the extent of its health benefits.

Most commonly available in capsule form, algal oil supplements typically provide 400–500 mg of DHA and EPA combined. In general, it is recommended to consume 300 to 900 mg of DHA and EPA combined per day.

4. Hemp seed

In addition to protein, magnesium, iron, and zinc, hemp seeds are about 30% oil and contain a good amount of omega-3s. Studies have found that the omega-3s found in hemp seeds may benefit heart health. They might do this by preventing blood clots from forming and helping the heart recover after a heart attack. Three tablespoons (30 grams) of hemp seeds contain approximately 2,600 mg of ALA.
Sprinkle hemp seeds over yogurt or blend them into a smoothie to add some crunch and boost the omega-3 content of your snack. Hemp seed oil, obtained by pressing hemp seeds, can also be consumed to provide a concentrated dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
Three tablespoons (30 grams) of hemp seeds contain 3,000 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, or 162–236 percent of the recommended daily intake.

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5. Walnuts

Nuts are loaded with healthy fats and ALA omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, nuts are about 65% fat by weight. Several animal studies have shown that walnuts may help improve brain health thanks to their omega-3 content. Studies in humans and animals have shown that nut consumption is associated with improved cognitive performance and memory. Another animal study showed that walnuts caused significant improvement in memory, learning, motor development and anxiety in mice with Alzheimer’s disease. Further research is still needed in this area, as animal studies cannot be applied to humans. Just one serving of walnuts can meet daily omega-3 fatty acid requirements, just one ounce (28 grams) providing 2,570 mg. 28 grams of walnuts contains 2,570 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, or 160-233% of the recommended daily intake.

6. Flax seeds

Flaxseeds are a nutritional gold mine. Each serving contains a good amount of fiber, protein, magnesium and manganese.
It is also an excellent source of omega-3s. Several studies have demonstrated the benefits of flaxseed for heart health, largely due to its omega-3 fatty acid content. Multiple studies have shown flaxseed and flaxseed oil to lower cholesterol levels. Another study found that flaxseed may help significantly lower blood pressure, especially in people with hypertension. One tablespoon (10 grams) of whole flax seeds contains 2,350 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, which exceeds the recommended daily amount. Flaxseeds are easy to incorporate into your diet and can be a staple ingredient in vegan baked goods. Whisk 1 tablespoon (7 grams) of flax meal with 2.5 tablespoons of water to use as a convenient substitute for an egg in baked goods. With a mild, slightly nutty flavor, flaxseed is a perfect addition to cereals, soups and salads. One tablespoon (10 grams) of flaxseed contains 2,350 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, or 146–213 percent of the recommended daily intake.

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7. Perilla Oil

This oil, derived from perilla seeds, is often used in Korean cuisine as a condiment and cooking oil. Besides being a versatile and tasty ingredient, it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. In a study of 20 elderly people, researchers replaced soybean oil with perilla oil and found that it doubled ALA levels in the blood. In the long term, this also led to increased blood levels of EPA and DHA. Perilla oil is very high in omega-3 fatty acids, with ALA making up about 64% of this seed oil. Each tablespoon (14 grams) contains nearly 9,000 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids. To maximize its health benefits, perilla oil should be used as a flavor enhancer or dressing, rather than a cooking oil. This is because oils high in polyunsaturated fats can oxidize in the heat, forming harmful free radicals that contribute to disease. Perilla oil is also available in capsule form, which is an easy and convenient way to increase your omega-3 intake.
Each tablespoon (14 grams) of perilla oil contains 9,000 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, or 563–818 percent of the recommended daily intake.

* The information and services available on in no way replace the consultation of competent health professionals. []

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