You might decide to transition to a vegan diet for countless reasons, from a passion…
Omega fatty acids are important for everyone and support brain, heart, skin, hair, and digestive tract health, as well as reducing the risk of some types of cancer.
Okay – omegas are extremely important, but they are a lot to unpack and there are many vegan sources of omegas (it’s not all fish oil)! Get comfortable or scroll down to our tl;dr
Meet the Omegas
Omega-3, omega-5, omega-6, omega-7, and omega-9 are different fatty acids, each with unique nutritional benefits. Here’s an overview of the nutritional benefits associated with these omega-fatty acids:
Omega-3 fatty acids support brain health, promote heart health, and have anti-inflammatory properties. The anti-inflammatory effect can help reduce chronic inflammation in the body and contribute to the prevention and management of inflammatory conditions, including certain autoimmune diseases. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids support eye health, maintaining good vision and reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Omega-3, like Omega-6, is an essential fatty acid, meaning that our bodies cannot synthesize them, and our only source is our diet (or supplements).
Omega-5 fatty acids research indicates that omega-5s can help maintain insulin sensitivity, promote healthy cholesterol balance, reduce the risk of cancer, maintain a healthy body weight, and protect the brain from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
Omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in normal growth and development and are necessary for brain function. In addition, omega-6 fatty acids are essential for maintaining healthy skin and hair. They help regulate the production of skin lipids, which contribute to the skin’s natural barrier function and moisture balance. Inflammation response: While omega-6s are essential, it’s crucial to maintain a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 intake. Excessive intake of omega-6s relative to omega-3s may promote inflammation in the body. Therefore, it’s recommended to consume omega-6s in moderation and maintain a balanced omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. (This ratio thing is important.)
Omega-7 fatty acids have been associated with promoting gastrointestinal health. They can help maintain the integrity of the gastrointestinal lining and support overall digestive health. They also play a role in maintaining skin health, promoting skin elasticity, and potentially reducing the appearance of wrinkles.
Omega-9 fatty acids have been shown to support heart health. They can help lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels and increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Anti-inflammatory properties: Omega-9s possess anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation and support overall health.
Negatives About Sourcing Omega-3 from Fish
While fish oil is a common source of omega-3 fatty acids, some negative aspects are associated with its use (aside from the obvious fact that fish is a non-vegan source). It is important to remember that fish DO NOT produce omegas; they consume them from plants, primarily algae. The omegas are stored in their fatty tissue.
Toxic contamination: Fish, particularly large predatory fish like tuna and swordfish, accumulate environmental pollutants such as mercury, dioxins, industrial waste products, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Fish oil derived from contaminated fish contain these contaminants. Exposure to high levels of these pollutants can have adverse health effects.
Waste and environmental issues: one average omega-3 fish oil supplement bottle requires approximately 50 fish. The process also requires a tremendous amount of processing and fossil fuel and being part of the general environmental destruction caused by commercial fishing.
Fishy aftertaste and gastrointestinal issues: Some people may experience fishy burps or a lingering fishy taste in the mouth after consuming fish oil supplements. Additionally, high doses of fish oil can cause gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, diarrhea, or indigestion in some individuals.
Oxidation and rancidity: Omega-3 fatty acids are susceptible to oxidation, which can lead to the development of rancid flavors and the formation of potentially harmful compounds. Rancid fish oil may taste unpleasant and have diminished nutritional value and potentially adverse health effects.
How Do Vegans Get Omegas?
It is possible to source omegas from various plant sources, and we explain that below. However, some are easier than others to obtain, and achieving the proper balance takes some work. Another issue is that most commercial omega supplements contain a single omega ingredient, usually omega-3 (and usually from fish oil). That’s just not going to work.
Plant-based Sources of Omega-6 & 9
Omega-6 fatty acids are widely available in various foods. Here are some excellent sources of omega-6:
- Vegetable oils: Vegetable oils are the richest sources of omega-6 fatty acids. Common oils with high omega-6 content include:
– Soybean oil
– Corn oil
– Safflower oil
– Sunflower oil
– Cottonseed oil
- Nuts and seeds: Several nuts and seeds contain significant amounts of omega-6 fatty acids:
– Pumpkin seeds
– Sunflower seeds
– Sesame seeds
– Pine nuts
- Whole grains: Whole grains, while not as high in omega-6 fatty acids as oils and seeds, can contribute to omega-6 intake:
– Wheat germ
– Whole wheat products
Sources of Omega-9
Omega-9 fatty acids are non-essential, meaning the body can produce them independently. However, consuming foods rich in omega-9 can still provide specific health benefits. The primary source of omega-9 fatty acids is monounsaturated fats. Here are some of the best food sources of omega-9:
- Olive oil
- Nuts. Good sources include: Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and pistachios
- Seeds (such as sesame seeds & pumpkin seeds)
- Olives and olive products, such as olive paste and tapenade.
- Peanuts and peanut butter.
Omega Fatty Acids are Essential for Your Health
It’s clear that Omega-3 fatty acids, such as EPA and DHA, are essential for maintaining proper brain function, reducing inflammation, supporting cardiovascular health by lowering triglyceride levels and blood pressure, and promoting healthy vision. On the other hand, omega-6 fatty acids, like linoleic acid, play a role in maintaining healthy skin, regulating metabolism, and supporting the immune system.
Since the human body cannot produce these fatty acids independently, obtaining them from dietary sources or supplements is vital for overall health and well-being. The right balance between omega-3 and omega-6 intake is essential, as an excessive amount of omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3s has been linked to inflammation and chronic health conditions.
Our Suggestions For Vegan Sources of Omega Supplements
Yes, there are plenty of plant-based omega supplements available on the market. A simple web search for “plant-based omega capsules” will offer many options. However, you will notice that most of them are only omega-3. So, what are you going to do?
Just a few years ago, we discovered Juice Plus+ and their amazing 100% vegan omega capsules that also contain the complete range of essential omegas in a balanced formula. It was almost like finding the holy grail!
The company has been in the health and wellness space for several decades, is committed to science-backed products, and has an excellent range of whole-food-based, plant-based nutrition products. (full disclosure: we like the products and company so much that we joined them as affiliates!)
Here’s what Juice Plus+ has to say about the Omega blend that they produce:
“Most omega products contain a single omega ingredient, usually omega-3 and usually from fish oil. Juice Plus+ Omega Blend is a blend of 5 omega fatty acids, all from plants.
Most omega products come in softgel form, which requires heat and oxygen to fill and seal. Heat and oxygen actually cause oils to start degrading. Our vegan capsule shell is sealed without heat, protecting the oils inside. And that bubble you see in each Omega Blend capsule? That’s nitrogen, which replaces the oxygen, protecting the oils from degradation again.
So, by harvesting omegas from the original algae source, cold-pressing oils from berries and seeds to maintain purity, and placing them inside a capsule made from plants, eliminating heat and oxygen along the way, we are able to bring you a symphony of omega fatty acids in a clean, vegan, eco-friendly way.”
Make Sure You Get Your Omegas
Omegas are so important to good health we had to put this post together to share the knowledge. Plus, the availability of an omega blend that is 100% plant-sourced, super high quality, from a reputable company is such great news we had to tell everyone!
- Omega fatty acids have unique health benefits: heart health, brain function, eye health, and inflammation reduction.
- The right balance of omega-3 and omega six is essential. Excessive omega-6 has been linked to inflammation.
- We believe fish oil, in the current environment particularly, is a problematic source of omega-3.
- Juice Plus+ Omega Blend is a clean, vegan and balanced way to easily get omegas.
More Nutrition Posts
If this post was valuable to you, check out other posts in our Nutrition category!
Top 10 Foods Highest in Omega 3 Fatty Acids (My Food Data)
Clinical Influence of Triple Omega Fatty Acids (Omega-3, 6, 9) (Biomed Journal)
Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease (American Heart Association)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution (Harvard School of Public Health)
Meet the Omegas: Health Benefits of Omegas 3, 5, 6, 7 and 9 (Juice Plus+ blog)