Besides fish oil, flaxseeds, walnuts, chia sees, hemp seeds, and EPA & DHA supplements from algae are the best sources of omega-3s.
Omega-3 types: ALA, DHA, EPA
Omega-3 fatty acids belong to polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). There are 3 main types:
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), mainly found in plant-based foods.
- DHA, mainly found in seafood and algae.
- EPA, mainly found in seafood and algae.
ALA and omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid) are essential fatty acids. The human body can’t synthesize them. So, we have to take them from food.
On the other hand, ALA can be converted into EPA and then to DHA. This conversion isn’t efficient, though. So, better consume DHA and EPA from food, as well. Good sources of DHA and EPA are seafood and algae.
Health benefits of omega-3s
Omega-3s are important for good health. Moreover, omega-3s may protect against:
- cardiovascular disease,
- high blood pressure,
- cancer prevention;
- Alzheimer’s disease,
- age-related macular degeneration,
- dry eye disease,
- rheumatoid arthritis
- anxiety and high cortisol levels.
What’s the recommended daily dose of omega-3s?
The recommended daily intake of omega-3s is 1.6g for men and 1.1g for women. Vegetable oils, such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils are especially high in ALA. The omega-3 type which is mainly found in plant-based foods.
Flaxseeds are the richest dietary source of ALA. A tbsp of flaxseed oil contains 7.2g of ALA. Flaxseed oil is 53% ALA fatty acids. Moreover, a tbsp of whole flaxseeds contains 2.3g of ALA. Whole flaxseeds are 23% ALA fatty acids.
Plant-based foods, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts are rich in ALA, but they don’t contain any DHA or EPA. ALA can be converted into EPA and then to DHA. Less than 15% of ALA is converted to EPA and DHA, though.
Therefore, consuming foods that contain DHA & EPA is good for you. Seafood, fish oil, and algae are the only good sources of DHA and EPA.
Certainly, algae supplements are a great way to boost your daily intake of DHA & EPA. They don’t contain ocean pollutants, such as mercury. Commercial algae are grown in tanks, away from the ocean.
Most noteworthy, we should reduce the daily intake of omega-6s. Although, both omega-3s & 6s are necessary for good health but nowadays, people consume much more omega-6s. Extreme amounts of omega-6s cause inflammation and chronic disease.
How much DHA & EPA do we need a day?
There isn’t an official daily dosage for EPA and DHA.
- According to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a daily dosage of 250 mg of EPA and DHA provides great health benefits. That is the equivalent of eating seafood twice a week.
- The FDA recommends no more than a total of 3g of EPA and DHA a day. Furthermore, the FDA recommends no more than 2g of EPA and DHA from supplements per day.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding women to consume 200–300 mg DHA per day.
- Finally, the European Food Safety Authority says that even higher doses of EPA and DHA are safe.
As a rule of thumb, a daily dosage up to 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA seems pretty safe. You can easily get it from an omega-3 supplement from algae, on Amazon.
Animal-based sources of omega-3s
Fatty fish is an excellent dietary source of omega-3s. Many fish provide more than 2g of omega-3s per serving! But, we shouldn’t depend on eating seafood for omega-3s, as seafood may be contaminated with dangerous compounds. Seafood may contain heavy metals such as mercury and lead, industrial chemicals, such as PCBs or pesticides, such as DDT.
Enriched eggs contain decent amounts of omega-3s as well.
Omega-3 supplements from fish oil vs algae
Fish oil supplements are purified from contaminants. Certainly, they’re a healthier omega-3 source than fish. But, they may contain negligible amounts of contaminants. Even tiny amounts of toxins may compromise health, though. Especially, after consuming them for a long time.
Don’t underestimate the dangers of these contaminates. Studies have shown that women may need up to 5 years to get rid of PCBs from their bodies. Moreover, we may need more than a year to significantly reduce the mercury levels in our bodies.
Fish oil is a great omega-3 source. But, omega-3 supplements from algae are even better!
Plant-based foods rich in omega-3s
Flaxseed oil is the richest vegan food in omega-3s. Also, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and canola oil are high in omega-3s!
Avocado and purslane contain decent amounts of omega-3s as well.
Do vegans need omega-3 supplements?
Most people could benefit from omega-3 supplementation. Vegans as well. There are vegan EPA and DHA supplements, from plant-based sources, such as algae. Moreover, omega-3 supplements from algae don’t have contaminants or toxins. Algae are grown in tanks, away from the ocean. Above all, you better prefer omega-3 supplements from algae to protect ocean life. There are great vegan omega-3 supplements from algae on Amazon.