The 7 Best Plant Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important fats that provide many health
benefits.

Studies have found that they may reduce inflammation, decrease
blood triglycerides and even reduce the risk of dementia
(1, 2, 3).

The most well-known sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish
oil and fatty fish like salmon, trout and tuna.

This can make it challenging for vegans, vegetarians or even
those who simply dislike fish to meet their omega-3 fatty acid
needs.

Of the three main
types
of omega-3 fatty acids, plant foods typically only
contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

Chia Seeds on a Brown Paper Bag

ALA is not as active in the body and must be converted to two
other forms of omega-3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic acid
(EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — to bestow the same
health benefits (4).

Unfortunately, your body’s ability to convert ALA is limited.
Only about 5% of ALA is converted to EPA, while less than 0.5%
is converted to DHA (5).

Thus, if you don’t supplement with fish oil or get EPA or DHA
from your diet, it’s important to eat a good amount of ALA-rich
foods to meet your omega-3 needs.

Additionally, keep in mind your
omega-6 to omega-3 ratio
, as a diet low in omega-3s but
high in omega-6s can increase inflammation and your risk of
disease (6).

Here are 7 of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

1. Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds in Glass Bowl

Chia seeds are known for their
many health benefits
, bringing a hefty dose of fiber and
protein with each serving.

They’re also a great plant-based source of ALA omega-3 fatty
acids.

Thanks to their omega-3, fiber and protein, studies have found
chia seeds could decrease the risk of chronic disease when
consumed as part of a healthy diet.

One study found that consuming a diet with chia seeds, nopal,
soy protein and oats decreased blood triglycerides, glucose
intolerance and inflammatory markers (7).

A 2007 animal study also found that eating chia seeds decreased
blood triglycerides and increased both “good” HDL cholesterol
and omega-3 levels in the blood (8).

Just one ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds can meet and exceed
your daily recommended intake of omega-3 fatty acids,
delivering a whopping 4,915 mg (9).

The current daily recommended intake of ALA for adults over age
19 is 1,100 mg for women and 1,600 mg for men (10).

Boost your chia seed intake by whipping up a nutritious chia
pudding or sprinkle chia seeds on top of salads, yogurts or
smoothies.

Ground chia seeds can also be used as a vegan
substitute for eggs
. Combine one tablespoon (7 grams) with
3 tablespoons of water to replace one egg in recipes.

Summary: One ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds
provides 4,915 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, meeting
307–447% of the recommended daily intake.

2. Brussels Sprouts

Pile of Brussel Sprouts

In addition to their high content of vitamin K, vitamin C and
fiber, Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of omega-3
fatty acids.

Because cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts are so
rich in nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids, they have been
linked to many health benefits.

In fact, one study found that an increased intake of
cruciferous vegetables is associated with a 16% lower risk of
heart disease (11).

A half cup (44 grams) of raw Brussels sprouts contains about 44
mg of ALA (12).

Meanwhile, cooked Brussels sprouts contain three times as much,
providing 135 mg of omega-3 fatty acids in each half-cup
(78-gram) serving (13).

Whether they’re roasted, steamed, blanched or stir-fried,
Brussels sprouts make a healthy and delicious accompaniment to
any meal.

Summary: Each half-cup (78-gram) serving of
cooked Brussels sprouts contains 135 mg of ALA, or up to 12%
of the daily recommended intake.

3. Algal Oil

Algal oil, a type of oil derived from algae, stands out as one
of the few vegan sources of both EPA and DHA (14).

Some studies have even found that it’s comparable to seafood in
regard to its nutritional availability of EPA and DHA.

One study compared algal oil capsules to cooked salmon and
found that both were well tolerated and equivalent in terms of
absorption (15).

Though research is limited, animal studies show that the DHA
from algal oil is especially beneficial to health.

In fact, a recent animal study found that supplementing mice
with a DHA algal oil compound led to an improvement in memory
(16).

However, more studies are needed to determine the extent of its
health benefits.

Most commonly available in softgel form, algal oil supplements
typically provide 400–500 mg of combined DHA and EPA.
Generally, it is recommended to get 300–900 mg of combined
DHA
and EPA per day
(17).

Algal oil supplements are easy to find in most pharmacies.
Liquid forms can also be added to drinks or smoothies for a
dose of healthy fats.

Summary: Depending on the supplement, algal
oil provides 400–500 mg of DHA and EPA, fulfilling 44–167% of
the daily recommended intake.

4. Hemp Seed

Pile of Hemp Seeds

In addition to protein, magnesium, iron and zinc,
hemp seeds
are comprised of about 30% oil and contain a
good amount of omega-3s (18, 19).

Animal studies have found that the omega-3s found in hemp seeds
could benefit heart health.

They may do this by preventing the formation of blood clots and
helping the heart recover after a heart attack (20, 21).

Each ounce (28 grams) of hemp seeds contains approximately
6,000 mg of ALA (22).

Sprinkle hemp seeds on top of yogurt or mix them into a
smoothie to add a bit of crunch and boost the omega-3 content
of your snack.

Also, homemade hemp seed granola bars can be a simple way to
combine hemp seeds with other healthy ingredients like
flaxseeds and pack in extra omega-3s.

Hemp seed oil, which is made by pressing hemp seeds, can also
be consumed to provide a concentrated dose of omega-3 fatty
acids.

Summary: One ounce (28 grams) of hemp seeds
contains 6,000 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, or 375–545% of
the daily recommended intake.

5. Walnuts

Walnuts are loaded with healthy fats and ALA omega-3 fatty
acids. In fact, walnuts are comprised of about 65% fat by
weight (23).

Several animal studies have found that walnuts could help
improve brain health due to their omega-3 content.

A 2011 animal study found that eating walnuts was associated
with improvements in learning and memory (24).

Another animal study showed walnuts caused significant
improvements in memory, learning, motor development and anxiety
in mice with Alzheimer’s disease (25).

Just one serving of walnuts can fulfill an entire day’s
requirements of omega-3 fatty acids, with a single ounce (28
grams) providing 2,542 mg (26).

Add walnuts to your homemade granola or cereal, sprinkle them
on top of yogurt or simply snack on a handful to increase your
ALA intake.

Summary: One ounce (28 grams) of walnuts
contains 2,542 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, or 159–231% of
the daily recommended intake.

6. Flaxseeds

Scoop of Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds
are nutritional powerhouses, providing a good amount of fiber,
protein, magnesium and manganese in each serving.

They’re also an excellent source of omega-3s.

Several studies have demonstrated the heart-healthy benefits of
flaxseeds, largely thanks to their omega-3 fatty acid content.

Both flaxseeds and flaxseed oil have been shown to reduce
cholesterol in multiple studies (27, 28, 29).

Another study found that flaxseeds could help significantly
lower blood pressure, particularly in those with high blood
pressure (30).

One ounce (28 grams) of flaxseeds contains 6,388 mg of ALA
omega-3 fatty acids, surpassing the daily recommended amount
(31).

Flaxseeds are easy to incorporate into your diet and can be a
staple ingredient in vegan baking.

Whisk together one tablespoon (7 grams) of flaxseed meal with
2.5 tablespoons of water to use it as a handy substitute for
one egg in baked goods.

With a mild yet slightly nutty flavor, flaxseed also makes the
perfect addition to cereal, oatmeal, soups or salads.

Summary: One ounce (28 grams) of flaxseeds
contains 6,388 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, or 400–580% of
the daily recommended intake.

7. Perilla Oil

This oil, derived from perilla seeds, is often used in Korean
cuisine as a condiment and cooking oil.

In addition to being a versatile and flavorful ingredient, it’s
also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

One study in 20 elderly participants replaced soybean oil with
perilla oil and found that it caused ALA levels in the blood to
double. In the long term, it also led to an increase in EPA and
DHA blood levels (32).

Perilla oil is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, with ALA
making up an estimated 64% of this seed oil (33).

Each tablespoon (14 grams) contains nearly 9,000 mg of ALA
omega-3 fatty acids.

To maximize its health benefits, perilla oil should be used as
a flavor enhancer or dressing, rather than a cooking oil. This
is because oils high in polyunsaturated fats can oxidize with
heat, forming harmful free radicals that contribute to disease
(34).

Perilla oil is also available in capsule form for an easy and
convenient way to increase your omega-3 intake.

Summary: Each tablespoon (14 grams) of
perilla oil contains 9,000 mg of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, or
563–818% of the daily recommended intake.

The Bottom Line

Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of the diet and
essential to your health.

If you don’t eat fish because of dietary reasons or personal
preference, you can still reap the
benefits of omega-3 fatty acids
in your diet.

By either incorporating a few omega-3-rich foods into your diet
or opting for a plant-based supplement, it’s possible to meet
your needs, seafood-free.

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