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Doctors have said for many years that omega-3s and omega-6 fatty acids are good for us. They are especially important for gut, heart and brain health.
Recently there is even more evidence that omega-3s in particular are linked to longevity in life. In a study, published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers tracked 2,240 participants over 11 years. They analyzed the omega-3 levels in the blood. Higher levels of omega-3s resulted in lower mortality rates in people over the age of 65. Furthermore, people with high omega-3 levels who did not smoke had the highest survival rate of all.
The short moral of this health story is this: consume omega-3s for a longer life.
What are Omega-3s?
Omega-3s are fatty acids that are a good type of fat. The body does not produce them, meaning we must get them from foods or supplements.
Omega-3s help lower the risk of heart disease, depression, inflammation, dementia and arthritis.
So how do omega-3s help us live longer? Their heart health benefits and anti-inflammation properties combine to keep disease at bay. Heart disease is one of the leading contributors to death, while chronic inflammation causes serious diseases of all kinds.
Omega-3s are found in nutrient rich foods. The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-6s are also important, however they are more readily consumed in a typical western diet, through unsaturated fats. Increasing omega-3s, which are often lacking in a typical western diet, are needed to balance the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s.
Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel are rich in omega-3s. However, on a plant based diet, what foods supply this vital fatty acid?
Here are the top six plant based foods that supply omega-3s.
These small but mighty seeds are an excellent source of ALA omega-3s. They also provide fiber and protein.
Studies suggest that chia seeds decrease the risk of chronic disease, lower blood triglycerides and reduce inflammatory markers. Just one ounce of chia seeds daily meets or exceeds the recommended requirement for omega-3s.
It’s simple to add chia seeds to smoothies, smoothie bowls and salads. Or create a delicious chia pudding, topped with fruit.
Ground chia seeds make a great egg substitute as well. Combine one tablespoon of of chia seeds with three tablespoons of water. Allow to set up, for five minutes. Use in place of eggs in baking recipes.
These cruciferous vegetables are high in omega-3s, vitamins C and K and fiber. An increase of Brussels sprouts in the diet significantly lowers the risk of heart disease by providing ALA omega-3s.
Half a cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains about 135 mg of omega-3s.
Try them steamed, with onion and garlic powder, stir fried with other veggies or roasted in the oven. This Garlic Brussels Sprouts is so good!
Walnuts are packed with healthy fats, including ALA omega-3s. In fact, by weight, these nuts are 65% fat.
Including walnuts in the diet improves brain health, while also boosting learning, memory and motor development and reducing anxiety.
Just one ounce of walnuts daily fulfills the requirement for omega-3s.
Add walnuts to oatmeal, homemade granola or simply eat a handful as a snack, which is my favorite way to consume them. I eat a small handful of walnuts every day.
These little powerhouses of health provide fiber, protein, magnesium, manganese and omega-3s.
Flaxseeds boost heart health and also reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. One ounce of flaxseeds contains more than the recommended daily amount of omega-3s.
It’s easy to incorporate flaxseeds into the diet. Add to smoothies, smoothie bowls, oatmeal, soups or salads. And like chia seeds, flaxseeds make a great egg substitute in baking. Make a “flax egg” by combining one tablespoon ground flaxseeds with three tablespoons of water and allow to thicken for five minutes before using.
Hemps seeds are an excellent source of protein, magnesium, iron and zinc, along with omega-3s.
Studies show that hemp seeds improve heart health by preventing the formation of blood clots and helping the heart recover after a heart attack.
An ounce of hemp seeds contains more than a day’s serving of ALA fatty acids.
Sprinkle hemp seeds on oatmeal, salads and soups or add to smoothies and smoothie bowls. Or mix hemp, chia and flaxseeds for a healthy granola mix.
Algal oil is derived from algae. It is one of the few vegan sources of both EPA and DHA fatty acids. It’s nutritional value is similar to seafood.
One study found that algal oil capsules, taken as a supplement, compared well to consuming cooked salmon.
Algal oil is helpful for improving memory.
It’s readily available as a supplement, in a softgel form. In liquid form, algal oil may be added to smoothies or other drinks.
Are You Getting Enough Omega-3s?
As you can see, it’s easy to get enough omega-3s in your diet. It just takes awareness and intentionally including one or more of the above foods daily.
If you struggle with incorporating these foods, try adding a plant based omega-3 supplement that includes ALA, EPA and DHA. Check out the links below for supplements I’ve tried and can recommend.
Which of the above foods do you regularly consume? And which ones will you add to your diet now?
Vegan Omega-3s from Amazon:
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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.