Fish oil is one of the richest sources of good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids, particularly long-chain fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are very important for your health.
These long-chain fatty acids — which most people believe to be found in fish — actually originate from sea plants like seaweed and algae. Oily fish species like tuna, anchovies, and mackerel are rich sources of EPA and DHA because they consume phytoplankton that consumed microalgae.
But since fish oil is an animal-based product, it’s not a good alternative for anyone following a plant-based diet. As a result, I’ve included three vegan fish oil alternatives below:
3 Vegan Alternatives to Fish Oil Supplements
1. Future Kind Vegan Omega 3 (My Favorite)
Future Kind is a vegan brand that manufactures all sorts of supplements designed with the plant-based diet in mind.
Future Kind’s omega 3 formula has 60 servings per container (the equivalent to two months) and has an uneven mixture of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids derived from algae oil. It has 75 mg of EPA and 150 mg of DHA, which is the least accessible form.
This brand also works with an FDA-regulated and a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certified facility within the USA.
2. Nordic Naturals Algae Omega 3
Nordic Naturals create products with strict FOS-certified standards, and make a clear effort to abide by low-impact and earth-friendly practices that protect the environment.
That being said, their brand does have fish oils available, but they’ve come out with a vegan-friendly alternative made from sustainably-sourced micro-algae offering a high dose of omega 3.
Feel free to find this formula online.
3. Sapling Vegan Omega 3
This vegan omega 3 formula from Sapling is not unique in terms of its composition, as it contains similar amounts of EPA and DHA in other algae-based supplements.
However, for every bottle of omega 3 purchased, Sapling will plant one tree, which is a good way to ensure you’re purchasing more than a supplement, and that you can actually contribute by making the right consumer decisions.
Also, feel free to find this formula easily available online.
Vegan Diet & Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are abundant in plant-based foods, however, it’s nigh impossible to find the long-chained fatty acids EPA and DHA in plant-based foods other than seaweed and algae.
Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA), which is also an Omega-3 fatty acid, is widely available through vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. More importantly, ALA is an essential fatty acid, which means it must be obtained through diet.
ALA can be converted into EPA and then to DHA, but the conversion (which takes place primarily in the liver) is limited, with reported rates of less than 15%. Apparently, ALA is efficiently converted to EPA, but it may require large amounts of ALA to produce optimal amounts of DHA.
And even though this is a highly-debated topic, broadly-speaking, this is the reason vegans are interested in vegan omega 3 supplements. They don’t know whether or not consuming ALA-rich foods can be sufficiently sustainable, and so they turn to supplements, righteously so.
Can you go without vegan DHA supplements?
According to veganhealth.org, if a vegan is meeting the daily the Dietary Reference Intake for ALA, their EPA status should be adequate.
Based on the research available, it’s not clear whether DHA is actually a problem for vegans, but to be on the safe side, veganhealth.org recommends an increase in ALA intake or adding a DHA supplement to your diet.
Also, and this interesting, while health institutions like the American Heart Association recommend eating two servings of fatty fish a week. AHA also states that people may want to talk to their doctors about supplements, especially for those with high triglycerides.
Additionally, they also state that “Some types of fish may contain high levels of mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins and other environmental contaminants,” which indicates that algae-based omega-3 supplements may be more advantageous health-wise.
In other words, the fish oil alternatives we’ve presented above fall under this category.
Vegan and Vegetarian Sources of Omega 3s
1. Seaweed and Algae
There are many different forms of algae from seaweed, nori, spirulina, chlorella, and more.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, they’re important sources of omega-3 fatty acids and are among the few plant groups with a concentration of EPA and DHA.
You can easily include these sea plants in your diet, either by wrapping your vegetables in nori (similar to how a sushi man does it), serve seaweed in salads or soups, and you can even add spirulina or chlorella to your favorite smoothies or oatmeal preparations.
Besides being rich in omega-3 fats, seaweed and algae also have considerable protein, and may also have antidiabetic, antioxidant, and antihypertensive properties.
Flaxseeds contain about 6g of ALA per tbsp.
They’re also rich in many other nutrients, including protein, fiber, magnesium, and magnesium. If you’re attempting to increase your ALA intake, flaxseeds are one of the best ways to do so.
They may also reduce blood pressure and improve overall heart health.
Cool tip: By grinding the flaxseeds, you can increase their bioavailability.
3. Chia Seeds
Chia is yet another healthy plant-based food with 5g of ALA per 1-oz serving.
Also rich in protein and fiber, chia seeds can be used in numerous ways. They can be added to smoothie bowls, granola, salads, milkshakes (with vegetable milk), and mixing chia seeds with water creates an egg-replacement you can use for baking.
Like flaxseeds, chia seeds can also be found in health-food stores or online.
4. Hemp Seeds
Hemps seeds contain 2g of ALA per 3 tablespoons.
They’re also rich in protein, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Studies suggest that hemp seeds are beneficial for a person’s heart, digestion, and skin. Akin to other seeds, they also are a wonderful addition to salads, granola, snack bars, and so on.
These nuts are an amazing source of healthy fats, including ALA omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, walnuts contain 3.3 grams of ALA per cup.
You can enjoy walnuts on their own, in salads, granola, or even in a cooked dish. There are also several vegan & non-vegan recipes that include walnuts.
Not as rich in ALA as the aforementioned foods, but a half-cup of frozen edamame beans contain 0.28 grams of ALA, plus, they’re also rich in omega-3s and protein.
They’re particularly popular in Japan, but for anyone that doesn’t really know about them, they taste terrifically good in salads or as a side dish after being boiled or steamed.
7. Kidney Beans
Kidney beans contain 0.10 grams of ALA per half-cup.
Needless to say, they’re quite commonly used as a main source of protein, as well as carbohydrates. They, too, contain some omega-3 fatty acids.
8. Soybean Oil
Soybean oil contains 0.9 grams of ALA per tbsp.
Additionally, it’s also a good source of vitamin K, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, and folate.
Soybeans can be used as part of a meal or in a salad, and soybean oil can be used in food preparation just like regular cooking oil, or even salad dressings.
Fortunately, there are various vegan-friendly fish oil alternatives.
We now know where fish obtain their omega-3 fatty acids from, and as a result, we’ve also discovered that there’s no need for a middleman and you can go straight to the source.
Lastly, it’s clearly important that you include all the aformenetion types of omega-3 (ALA, EPA, and DHA) in your diet, and also strike a balance between the omega-3 and omega-6 ratio.
As we’ve seen, you can meet all your requirements via foods (though you’d have to include seaweed and algae in your diet, which isn’t as common in the West), or you can do so via vegan omega supplements. Thank you for reading this blog post and I sincerely hope it has helped you find the thing you were looking for.