16 Mar Vegan Omega 3 vs. Fish Oil
Vegan Omega 3 vs. Fish Oil
Now, in this feature, we won’t be talking about protein sources and the arguments for and against. Rather, we’re talking about the Omega 3 properties of plant-based diets relative to fish sources and the proponents who argue that eating fish is the only best way possible to get EPA and DHA in adequate amounts.
What are EPA and DHA?
EPA is short for the biochemical name Eicosapentaenoic acid and DPA is Docosahexaenoic acid, both of these are a form of Omega 3 fatty acids exclusively found in fish and seafood naturally as well as through eggs from hens fed exclusively in Omega 3 rich poultry feed.
However, fish and various animal foods considered sources, are not the original manufactures of Omega 3. The origin of Omega 3 is, in fact, a group of marine plants, which are a staple for fish and other aquatic organisms. So to be precise, Omega 3 source is actually vegetarian and not animal. The marine plants that specialize in the manufacture of Omega 3 are a certain species of algae.
ALA, the mother of Omega 3
ALA is an abbreviation for alpha-linolenic acid, another Omega 3 fatty acid through which EPA and DHA can be derived from. ALA is considered an essential omega fatty acid since humans can’t synthesize it and therefore must acquire it from dietary sources. Regular consumption of this fatty acid is necessary since our bodies have limited storage capacities. ALA is found in land-based plant foods, i.e., soybeans, leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and refined oils like flax and walnut oil.
EPA and DHA are not essential fatty acids because we can synthesize either by converting ALA to EPA and DHA, through a series of biochemical reactions.
Most land-based animal Omega 3 sources are limited, they cannot give you DHA and EPA are significant quantities since they aren’t consuming any algae, but can provide you with small quantities of ALA from their feed.
Benefits of Omega 3 from vegan sources
Vegan sources of Omega 3 will mostly give you ALA, which can then be converted to EPA and DHA by our bodies, essentially bypassing the need for fish oil or Omega 3 from fish. As we have seen, fish only act a ‘middlemen’ in providing us with EPA and DHA. The following are benefits of consuming Omega 3 from vegan sources.
- Ideal Omega 3 to 6 ratio
Most foods these days when consumed don’t give us the much needed and important Omega 3 to 6 ratio. Our ancestors consumed the omegas in a 1:1 ratio but over time our western diets have drastically changed this ratio, omega 6 consumption has increased making the ratio 16:1, and leading to an Omega 3 deficiency. This potentially elicits side effects in our bodies, most notably: cardiovascular diseases, psychiatric disorders like depression and bipolar, strokes and obesity.
- Cheap Sources of EPA & DHA
Another benefit of vegan Omega 3 sources is the cheap nature that ALA foods come by and as we have established ALA can be converted to EPA and DHA. Running around looking for 100% plant-based DHA and EPA supplements made from algae is rather expensive. Sure, fish sources may be cheaper too, but plants are in abundance and are easy to find.
- Pregnancy Benefits of Vegan Omega 3 Sources
Omega 3 is critical in fetal vision and brain development and pregnant mothers are often advised to consume significant quantities of Omega 3. However, the problem with fish is the risk of metal poisoning and animal sources are merely negligible. Therefore, vegan sources are ideal for providing the optimal quantities.