“So, what are these fatty acids?— – you ask. — We thought it was about fat.”
Let’s be clear: fats consist of glycerol and fatty acids, we will focus on the benefits of the latter.
Essential fatty acid
Essential fatty acids include omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. But these are not two substances, but two groups of fatty acids. The most important for the body are omega-3 acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). From omega-6 fatty acids, let’s pay attention to linoleic acid.
Omega-3 and omega-6 are responsible for the health of the brain, nerves, eyes, and immune system.
What foods can I get omega-3 and omega-6 from?
If you follow a varied vegan diet, chances are you regularly get omega-6 from pumpkin, sunflower or hemp seeds, walnuts, soy mayonnaise.
With omega-3, things are more complicated. This fatty acid is also found in walnuts and hemp seeds, as well as in Chia seeds and ground flax seeds (we grind them for better absorption). An excellent source of omega-3 is ginger oil.
To get enough omega-3, the food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European food safety Agency recommend eating a tablespoon of Chia seeds or ground Flaxseed, two tablespoons of hemp seeds, or six halves of walnuts every day.
What's so complicated? Find a balance.
It is important to have the right ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Your body can synthesize other omega-3 fats from ALA in small amounts, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
However, if you eat a lot of omega-6, the body will be able to convert less ALA into EPA and DHA, reducing the amount of omega-3 fat in the blood.
To help the body with omega-3:
- Use ginger oil instead of oils that contain a lot of omega-6: sunflower, corn, olive, or sesame.
- Do not lean on sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
The FAO and the European food safety Agency recommend eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The norm for adults is 250 mg per day. Vegans almost do not consume these fats from natural sources.
A vegetarian diet can be supplemented with EPA and DHA from microalgae, which is especially important for infants, pregnant and nursing mothers because of the importance of omega-3 for brain health.
Unfortunately, the effect of omega-3 supplements on vegan health is still poorly understood.
An alternative option is to increase the intake of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which can increase the amount of omega-3 in the blood. Some experts suggest that vegans should eat double the recommended amount of ALA. For example, you can include a tablespoon of ground flax and six halves of walnuts in your daily diet.
And now in a nutshell:
- Make sure that your daily diet includes good sources of ALA, such as Chia seeds, ground Flaxseed, hemp seeds, and walnuts.
- Use linseed oil as the main vegetable oil.
- Adding omega-3 fats from microalgae can be a particularly important factor for infants, pregnant women, and nursing mothers because of the role of omega-3 fats in brain health (please discuss the use of supplements with your doctor).