Planning a balanced diet to maintain optimal nutrition while eating a primarily plant-based diet has its challenges.
This includes consuming enough Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
These special kinds of fats work in our bodies to support different organ functions. They are also credited with limiting inflammation in the body and reducing the risk of different cardiovascular diseases.
Fatty acids are also believed to have a role in improving mood and supporting mental health.
It goes without saying, omega fatty acids are important for our health.
We have to consume these fatty acids in our diet because our body does not create them spontaneously. Nor do we process them from other foods.
If you’ve been researching this topic you’ve probably heard about algae oil.
Have you wondered if algae is a good source of Omega-3s? It seems improbable, but yes. They actually are.
In order to explain why, first let us dive in a bit deeper as to what exactly Omega fatty acids are, why we need them, and how to incorporate them into our diet.
The Deal on Essential Fatty Acids
We need Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
This is why you will hear them referred to as ‘essential fatty acids’ more often than not. They are essential for our overall health.
Omega-6 fatty acids are actually really abundant, even for people who eat a plant-based diet.
They are common in commercial oils that we use for sauteing, frying and baking.
For plant-based eaters, they are abundant in processed vegan or vegetarian foods like veggie burgers and non-dairy butter.
Honestly, you are most likely getting more than enough Omega-6.
You should be aware of how much Omega-6 you are consuming because too much can be unhealthy.
Quality Omega-3 fatty acids, however, are much harder to find.
And the thing is, your body needs a combination of both to function.
Nutritionists recommend a healthy ratio of 1:2 Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 is widely available in the plant kingdom with the highest concentrations found in flax seeds and flaxseed oil.
Did you know that there are different types of Omega-3 fatty acids you need to consume?
I’ll keep things brief for this explanation.
First off, there are actually a few types of Omega-3s. The most understood and commonly studied are referred to by their acronyms ALA, DHA, and EPA.
The most abundant plant-based Omega-3s are ALAs. These are easy to consume in sufficient quantities by carefully planning your snacks and meals.
DHA and EPA, however, are two Omega-3s that are just as essential for your body function as ALAs.
Unfortunately, they are not quite so easy to come by in a plant-based diet. In fact, it can be a real challenge to get enough of them.
Our bodies are amazing creatures though.
Through different biological processes, we can convert ALAs into DHA and EPA.
For a long time, nutritionists recommended that vegans and vegetarians simply consume higher amounts of ALA omega-3 containing foods to boost DHA and EPA production in the body.
The sad reality is that we would have to consume a lot of ALA to process as much DHA and EPA that our bodies need.
This can lead to consuming too many calories, which has its own health risks.
It is a lot easier to take a supplement. In fact, it is the one supplement that we should be taking.
But wait a minute… If DHA and EPA Omega-3s can’t be easily found in a plant-based diet, where are they found?
Most commonly, in fish. More specifically, in fish oils.
Now, this creates a dilemma. How can we maintain a plant-based diet, if an essential supplement that we need is mainly produced from fish?
Let’s think about it for a minute.
Fish have such high DHA and EPA concentrations because they consume it in their diet.
So what are fish eating?
Fish eat algae. Then those fish that eat algae get eaten by other fish.
DHA and EPA Omega-3s enter into the food chain at the very beginning, starting with algae – a plant-based source.
Algae Derived Omega-3s are a Real Thing
It turns out that algae are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA.
This is great news for those of us who want to stick to a plant-based lifestyle.
Surprisingly, industry has known about algae as a source for DHA for a long time.
Baby formulas, different kinds of cooking oils, and even soy milk that are labeled as ‘DHA fortified’ are fortified with Omega-3s derived from algae.
If you read deep enough into the research, you come to realize that algae are not just a good source of Omega-3’s. They are, in fact, the original source of DHA and EPA in the oceanic food chain.
Can it really get any better than that for those of us that want to stick to a plant-based diet?
Are There Any Downsides to Algae Oil for Omega-3’s?
One thing that you may have read when researching algae oil and Omega-3’s is that some algae oils do not actually contain any EPA fatty acids.
While it is true that some varieties of algae do not contain EPA, producers of Omega-3 algae oil normally use species of algae that contain significant quantities of both DHA and EPA.
One particular type of algae, known as Schizochytrium, contains plenty of EPA and has a DHA to EPA ratio of 2:1.
Many high-quality supplements, such as Vivo Life’s Omega-3, use this easy to cultivate and highly nutritional algae as the source of Omega-3s in its production – eliminating the concern over missing EPAs.
Note: If you want to get a discount on Vivo Life products then check out my other article where you can get a discount code.
The other disadvantage to Omega-3 supplements derived from algae is its cost.
As of right now, algae production and processing tend to be more expensive than the production of fish oil.
This means a more expensive Omega-3 supplement for those who choose the plant-based option.
Cost efficiency is relative though when one takes a good hard look at the environmental costs that overfishing has on our oceans.
Sure, omega-3 supplements from fish oil are much less expensive. They are certainly comparable when it comes to the quality of DHA and EPA that one can consume.
Unfortunately, their cheap price does not include the hidden cost of the widespread food chain collapse that is currently happening at an alarming rate in our oceans around the world.
So, is algae a good source of Omega-3s?
If you are dedicated to a healthy plant-based diet, algae are the best source for Omega-3s.
Even if you occasionally eat fish or dairy products, the scientific data doesn’t lie.
Algae offer an environmentally friendly, contaminant-free, complete source of high-quality omega-3s that are otherwise impossible to find in plant-based sources.