I’ve mentioned several times that my husband and I chose vegetarianism due to health concerns rather than a moral issue with eating animal products. I do have friends who are pescatarians and one of the advantages they have over strict vegetarians like us is that they don’t need to worry too much about getting enough Omega-3 fats.
Unless you’ve been living beneath a rock, you’ve heard how important these fats are to overall health and to heart health in particular. Omega-3s are also shown to improve cognitive function, lessen the effects of Alzheimer’s, Attention Deficit Disorder and depression and even help you lose weight.
There are three types of Omega-3 fats: ALA, EPA and DHA. Our bodies use the ALA we find in many, many foods to make EPA. Unfortunately, it takes a huge amount of ALA to make DHA. Why is that important? Because that DHA is absolutely essential.
I found some great information on Omega-3s and the vegetarian at Vegan Health.org.
According to their exhaustive and very informative article,
Omega-3 fatty acids may be important for preventing heart disease and that is normally why fish oils (which contain omega-3s) are promoted. In the case of vegetarians, and especially elderly vegetarians, there is a concern that DHA deficiency could cause neurological problems.”
So how much DHA do you need to maximize for optimal health? This is what the current recommendations are. If you’re under 60 years old: 200 – 300 mg every 2-3 days. If you’re 60+ years old: 200 – 300 mg per day.
There are vegetarian sources of Omega-3 fats, although the Omega-3 content is lower than you will get from fish oil or an Omega-3 supplement. Some of the best sources are:
- Black walnuts
- Flax seed
- Flax seed oil
- Grapeseed oil
You can also get some Omega 3 fats from these vegetarian sources, though the amounts are, again, smaller
per portion than with a supplement or one of the above oils.
- Leafy greens such as spinach and turnip greens
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower
- Navy or kidney beans
- Winter squash such as butternut or acorn
If you do choose to take a fish oil or Omega-3 supplement, buy one from an organic or health food store. Much of what is sold in drug stores and supermarkets is made from inferior and even harmful fish oils.
You can read more about Omega-3 fats and the vegetarian diet at Vegan Health.org.