Until recently, almost all official vegan and vegetarian societies recommended ALA, or alpha linoleic acid, as the classic source of omega three fatty acid for vegetarians. While ALA is a great fatty acid to ingest, it is then up to the human body to convert it into the longer chain form that offers the optimum health benefits. Since the body is not hugely efficient at this conversion process it means that vegetarians have generally fared less well than fish eaters in their essential fatty acid levels. Don’t forget these acids are called ‘essential’ for a reason – the body needs them to achieve good health.
Fortunately, recent advances in nutrition have bought marine algae products to the market such as phytoplankton. These offer superb forms of long chain omega-3 that are completely vegan! Although currently a relatively small market, we’re confident that algae is going to become the preeminent source of healthy Omega 3 within a few years.
Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The long chain fatty acids play a critical role in some of the body’s key processes like:
- Cell Membranes
- Cellular Communication
- Foetal Development
- Anti-Inflammatory Processes
- Cardivascular Health
- Immune System and Allergic Response
- Joint Lubricants
- Digestive Enzymes
- Haemoglobin Formation
- Nerve Transmissions
- Prostaglandin Synthesis
- Bone Repair
When the body absorbs the shorter chain versions such as found in ALA, it has to convert them first into the longer chain for it to be used in the body. This is where Algal Oil really shines, since it offers long tail Omega 3 which needn’t be converted.
What are the best Vegetarian or Vegan Omega 3 Sources?
(1) Algae Oil – Algae offers a sustainble, long chain form of Omega 3. The average dose differs from brand to brand but is roughly 1000mg EPA + DHA per teaspoon.
(2) Marine Phytoplankton -This is the wholefood source from which most algae oil is extracted. Taking the powder is less concentrated than the pure oil capsules but the powder has a host of other benefits as well.
(3) Echium Seed Oil
(4) Linseed (also known as Flax) has the benefit of containing lignan, an important phytonutrient with cancer preventing properties (ref).
(5) Chia Seeds
(6) Hemp Seeds With a 1 to 4 ratio of Omega 3 to 6, Hemp is a superb food to ingest, boasting a massive antioxidant content in addition to it’s EFA’s. One tablespoon of hemp oil per day exceeds the FDA’s recommended dose of Omega.
(7) Spirulina – Spirulina rocks. This fantastic superfood contains 58mg Omega 3, 88mg Omega 6 per tablespoon.
A Superior Alternative to Fish Oil Supplements
Algae offers all the benefits of fish oil, with the risk of heavy toxicity. For vegans and vegetarians it also means a superior form of essential fatty acids to things like Flax seed, which need to be converted by the body from the shorter chain to longer chain EPA. Importantly, it also means you no longer have to support fishing practices which are damaging the health of our oceans. Our algae is produced inland in a closed loop bioreactor, meaning it has no impact on native algae populations or the fish that feed off them.
Is Vegetarian Omega 3 Effective?
The answer to this is a definitive yes! Until now, veggies have relied on plants like linseed (flaxseed) which offers alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). The body can convert this into the EPA it needs, but poorly. By taking an algae supplement, you get everything you need in a bioavailable form.