In search of the elusive omega 3 fat
October 5, 2012 6:20 AM   Subscribe

Are you a vegan who has successfully balanced your omega 3/omega 6 fat intake? How did you do it?

I've been concerned about this for awhile, since so many of the fatty foods I love are rich in omega 6s--tahini, almonds, peanuts, etc., but deficient in omega 3s. I try (with mixed success) to avoid anything made with vegetable oils. I try to eat a lot of leafy greens and flax. I really can't get into chia, though I'd be willing to give it another go.

I'm especially concerned with getting enough DHA and EPA, the kinds of omega 3 fats found in fish. I do take an algal supplement, but it is prohibitively expensive to take more than a small dose per day--approximately 600 mg EPA/DHA combined.

Do any other vegans or knowledgeable nutrition folks have any insight into how to do this? Thanks.

(FWIW, I'm "almost-vegan" for ethical reasons, meaning I don't eat meat or dairy, but do eat eggs from my aunt's chickens.)
posted by indognito to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You can buy flaxseed oil at Whole Foods and other natural-foods markets; look for it in a refrigerated case, and try to find a brand with an expiration date, since you do not want to be eating rancid flaxseed oil. Store it in the refrigerator at home, and replace it every three months or so.

100 grams of flaxseed oil contains 53 grams of omega-3 fatty acids and 12 grams of omega-6 fatty acids. (source)

Of course only a small amount of the alpha-linolenic acid is converted to EPA and DHA, and the more omega-6 fatty acids you eat, the less of the omega-3 will be converted to EPA or DHA, but alpha-linolenic acid is pretty much the only vegan option other than algal sources.
posted by Ery at 6:52 AM on October 5, 2012

Udo's Choice Oil or capsules. Omega 3 6 and 9 in one vegan package. It's pretty great stuff actually.
posted by stevedawg at 7:27 AM on October 5, 2012

I add ground flaxseed to my muesli in the mornings.

Jack Norris' site is great for vegan nutrition information, his article on omega-3 is here.
posted by spectrevsrector at 7:48 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Walnuts are high in omega 3. I am not vegan but I am allergic to shellfish, I don't tolerate fish very well, and I can't take fish oil supplements (if I take enough of them, I get hives). So when I want more omega 3 in my diet, I eat walnuts (or foods that contain them).
posted by Michele in California at 8:29 AM on October 5, 2012

I'm a vegetarian (was vegan for 5 years, but now eat eggs). I finally decided to start taking fish oil because I felt that the omega 3's seriously helped my ADHD and memory. Because I'm taking them for medical reasons I feel that this is compatable with my vegetarianism- after all, the other meds that I take for migraines, anxiety and ADHD are not vegan or vegetarian.
Just another perspective.
posted by brevator at 8:38 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

As noted above, you're pretty much looking at ALA if you require vegan sources other than the algal supplement you're already taking.

That said, don't discount the leafy greens/plant sources, which can be significant if you eat them regularly and don't prepare them with vegetable oils. Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables and purslane (not generally commercially available, but super easy to grow and a ubiquitous weed) can have ~400 mg/serving. I especially love purslane for its munificence--if you have a garden, it's a magical free bonus vegetable you never need to plant or tend.
posted by pullayup at 8:54 AM on October 5, 2012

Here's another thought: suggest to your aunt that she could supplement her chickens' feed with flaxseed.
posted by pullayup at 9:19 AM on October 5, 2012

Vegetarian here. I do it with chopped walnuts. According to cronometer, 2 tablespoons of walnuts gives you 86% of the RDA of Omega 3. I add it to my oatmeal every morning. It tastes a bit nicer than flax seed for my money, plus you can use it more easily in things like stir fries.
posted by mukade at 11:21 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've seen this supplement, which is supposed to be more easily used by the body than flax, no results of my own to prove it, however.
posted by PaulaSchultz at 1:56 PM on October 5, 2012

Thanks everyone. I like the suggestions to seek out purslane and to ask my aunt to supplement the hens' feed with flax.

And interesting issue with the fish oil, brevator. I've considered throwing in the towel and taking it so many times, as it is so much cheaper than algae oil. And considering the prescription antidepressants that I may end up taking in lieu of it certainly aren't vegan either (thanks to animal testing)... Hmm.
posted by indognito at 5:40 PM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend, who is vegan (and studied nutrition) took the unusual step of incorporating bivalves into her diet.

Otherwise, she echoed things other people have mentioned - walnuts, purslane, and canola oil.
posted by O9scar at 6:05 PM on October 5, 2012

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