A vegan diet excludes the consumption of animal products including meat, eggs, and dairy. A lot of people choose to adapt to this diet for ethical, environmental and health reasons. A vegan diet has become a popular trend as it may result in various health benefits, such as:
- Weight loss
- Blood sugar control
- Improve heart health
- 15% lower risk of developing cancer
- Reducing symptoms of arthritis
- Reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease
Avoiding consuming meat and dairy products may put you at risk of certain nutrient deficiencies. A vegan diet limits the intake of Omega-3 fatty acids. They have two crucial fat components; EPA and DHA that are primarily found in certain fish. A vegan diet consists of another omega-3 fatty acid known as ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). The source of this type of fat comes from seeds, nuts, and certain vegetables which are a part of the vegan diet.
ALA isn't too active in the body so it must be changed to two other forms of omega-3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)- to provide the same health benefits.
However, the body’s ability to convert ALA is limited. Approximately 5% of ALA is converted to EPA, while less than 0.5% is converted to DHA.
The best way, perhaps, to increase the amount of omega-3 in your vegan diet is to include the following plant sources:
- Chia Seeds:
These are a great plant-based source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids. Ground chia seeds are used as a vegan substitute for eggs. Mix one tablespoon (7 grams) of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water to replace one egg in recipes. You can boost up your intake of chia seeds by sprinkling them on top of smoothies and salads.
A 2007 animal study found out that eating chia seeds reduced blood triglycerides and increased both omega-3 levels and “good” HDL cholesterol in the blood.
- Algal Oil
Algal oil is a type of oil that comes from algae; it is one of the few vegan sources that provide both EPA and DHA. Some studies say that it’s comparable to seafood in regard to its nutritional availability of EPA and DHA. Research compared algal oil to cooked salmon and came to know that both are equal to each other in terms of absorption.
Algal oil supplements are easily available in most pharmacies. They can be added to drinks or smoothies in liquid form for a dose of healthy fats. Generally, the recommended value of combined DHA and EPA is 300-900 mg per day, and Algal oil supplements usually provide 400-500 mg of combined DHA and EPA.
Walnuts are filled with healthy fats and ALA omega-3 fatty acids. Several animal studies have found that the omega-3 content in walnuts could help improve brain health.
Just one serving of walnuts can complete the requirements of omega-3 fatty acids of one day; with a single ounce (28 grams) providing 2,542 mg. You can add walnuts to some homemade granola or cereal, sprinkle them on top of yogurt, or simply munch on a handful to increase your intake of ALA.
- Brussels Sprouts
Apart from their high content of vitamin C vitamin k and fiber, Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are rich in omega -3 and other nutrients, which is why they are linked to many health benefits.
A study found out that a high intake of cruciferous vegetables decreases the risk of heart disease by 16%.
Half a cup (44 grams) of raw Brussels sprouts contains about 44 mg of ALA. Cooked Brussels sprouts provide 135 mg of omega-3 fatty acids in each half-cup (78-gram) serving.Whether they are roasted, steamed, blanched or stir-fried; Brussels sprouts can make any meal delicious.