How Do I Choose a Vegan Omega-3 Supplement? | The PNW Clinic
April 21, 2023
Omega-3s are an essential type of polyunsaturated fat. This means that it can not be made by the body, and must be found in the diet.
Omega-3s have been shown to have many health benefits. These include reducing inflammation, and promoting a healthy heart and brain (1)
One of the most common dietary source of omega-3s is seafood. Due to this, it can be more difficult for those following a vegan diet to get enough omega-3s to meet their requirements.
Omega-3s on a vegan diet
If you’re vegan, getting enough omega-3s in your diet can be challenging. This is because many sources of omega-3s, such as fish and seafood, are not part of a vegan diet.
There are limited vegan dietary sources of omega-3s. These include flaxseed, hempseeds, chia seeds and walnuts. However, these contain a less beneficial form of omega-3s called ALA.
Fortunately, there are several vegan omega-3 supplements available. These are typically made from plant-based sources like algae and flaxseed. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the best vegan omega-3 supplement.
Type of omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids come in different forms, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
ALA is found in plant-based sources like flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. EPA and DHA are primarily found in fish and seafood.
Some algae-based supplements contain both EPA and DHA, which are essential for brain health, reducing inflammation, and maintaining healthy skin.
Our bodies can also convert ALA found in plant foods to the beneficial form EPA and DHA. However, this process can often be inefficient in some people (2). For this reason, if you’re looking for a more potent source of omega-3s, go for an algae-based supplement that contains EPA and DHA.
Quality of ingredients
Look for a supplement that contains high-quality ingredients. Look for products that are certified organic, non-GMO, and sustainably sourced. For example, some companies use farmed algae that may contain contaminants like heavy metals and PCBs. Look for companies that use wild-harvested algae, which is generally considered safer and more environmentally sustainable.
There is no one-size-fits all recommendation for dosage, and this is where it can be important to work with an experienced vegan dietitian for specific dosages if you are unsure.
At a minimum, it is recommended that those following a plant-based or vegan diet have approximately 250mg of EPA and DHA a day.
However, some people may need more than this recommended amount. For example, requirements are increased during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
You may also choose to take a larger dosage of omega-3s for other health benefits. For example, omega-3s have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. This means that you may wish to take more omega-3s if for a protective effect, or if you have a family history of heart disease.
Form of the supplement
Vegan omega-3 supplements come in various forms, including capsules, gummies, and liquid. Capsules are the most common form and are easy to take, while gummies can be a fun and tasty way to get your daily dose. Liquid supplements can be added to smoothies or other drinks for easy consumption. Choose the form that works best for your lifestyle and preferences.
Allergens and other ingredients
If you have allergies or dietary restrictions, it’s important to check the label for potential allergens or other ingredients that may not be suitable for you. Some supplements may contain soy or gluten, for example, so make sure to read the label carefully.
Third-party testing ensures that the supplement is safe and effective. Look for products that have been tested by reputable third-party organizations, such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG), or ConsumerLab.
Consult with your healthcare provider
It’s always a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider, such as an experienced vegan dietitian before starting any new supplement. They can advise you on the best type and dosage of omega-3s for your specific needs and can help you choose a high-quality supplement that is safe and effective.
Omega-3s are an essential nutrient that can be trickier to get on a vegan diet.
Plant-based omega-3s can also found in foods such as flaxseeds, hempseeds, chia seeds and walnuts. These foods contain the form of omega-3 called ALA, which needs to be converted to DHA and EPA to have most benefit for our health.
This process is often not very efficient, therefore taking an algae-based omega-3 supplement that is rich in EPA and DHA can help you meet your requirements easily.
Recommended dosages can very, so working with a specialised plant-based dietitian can ensure you are getting the right amount of vegan omega-3s to meet your needs.
Written by: PNW Clinic dietitian Jade Wrigley