The Relationship Between Omega-3's and a Vegan Diet
To be honest, I’ve never been a vegan overly concerned with supplementing. I probably should be better…but for the most part, I follow the philosophy that a good diet will support the body as needed. I also don’t believe that being ‘vegan’ is a really REASON to supplement alone (aside from b12, more on that another time.)
However, when my skin began breaking out incessantly a few years ago I dug deep into nutrition research and supplementation to see what could be causing inflammation. I was led to the idea of supplementing omega-3’s because, prior to going vegetarian, I had always noticed improvement in my skin when I incorporated salmon in my diet.
Omega'-3’s are essential in any diet- they have links with mental health, such as mood, memory and lowered risk of depression. They’re anti-inflammatory and lower the risk of many major diseases (disease in the body is caused by inflammation). However, eating more omega-3’s isn’t the only, or even best way to reduce inflammation.
The ideal situation is to maintain a ratio of Omega-3’s to Omega 6’s of around 1:2. The problem is that the average person is currently eating omega’s at a ratio of 1:20….not good. High Omega-6 quantities in the body is highly correlated to heart disease, obesity, depression and cancer.
And this is a problem effecting the majority of the population- vegan and non-vegan alike. Anyone who eats processed oils + foods will struggle with this. The best way to bring your body back into balance- cut back significantly on Omega-6 sources in your diet and eat more/supplement Omega-3’s.
The vegan Omega-3 dilemma…explained
There are three types of Omega-3’s, ALA, DHA (strongly associated with mental health) and EPA (strongly associated with inflammation). Only ALA can be found in the average vegan diet via nuts and seeds. Our body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but we are very inefficient at it. Even worse, the more Omega-6’s we consume, the less efficient we get at turning ALA Omega-3’s into EPA and DHA.
This is the main reason supplementing may be right for you. Algae-based supplements provide DHA Omega-3’s, and as your ratio becomes more balanced, will help your body convert ALA into EPA more efficiently as well (so eat nuts and seeds too, of course).
I use Ora Organic Nothing Fishy Spray as a supplement and am very happy with it. I also try to avoid processed foods, except on special occasions. I cook with avocado oil (mostly!), extra virgin olive oil, and virgin coconut oil, but I limit my oils as much as possible without comprising taste/enjoyment.
Why Not Just Eat Fish?
A non-vegan can find Omega-3’s in fish and fish oil supplements (again…this should be in ADDITION to cutting back on Omega-6’s for true benefits to accumulate). I am against eating fish because they are sentient beings, overfishing is causing massive extinction and climate problems, and are unhealthy due to massive pollution of our oceans. Fish oil supplements support an industry devastatingly overfishing our seas, killing millions of fish and starving larger fish and ocean mammals higher on the food chain. Choose love. Choose vegan.
*please note that I am not a registered Nutritionist. I am interested in health and wellness, do my own research and share from my own experience. Your experience could be different. If you need specific health advice, please refer to a holistic or traditional nutritionist.