Is it just us, or do people suddenly become your personal doctor when they find out you’re eating a plant-based diet? We appreciate the concern (truly, we do), but please, no need to ask us every day about where we get our protein, amirite?! Now, the curious ones are also quizzing us about where we get our omega-3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6 LA (linoleic acid). When can a person catch a break?
Why the Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids Balance Matters
A quick science lesson: Our human body is capable of producing all the fatty acids we need, except for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These two fatty acids are needed in order to regulate our blood pressure and maintain a happy and healthy heart. Good sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are found in plant oils (ALA) such as walnuts, but more well-known sources are found in animal oils (EPA and DHA) such as oily fish, meat, and egg yolks. To sum it up, our body needs to convert ALA fatty acids to EPA or DHA fatty acids in order to have the same benefits in the body. But the conversion level of ALA is limited, making it harder for those on a plant-based diet to get their daily recommended nutrients. But it’s not impossible.
And If You Don’t Know, Now You Know
- A diet that includes meat doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll meet your daily requirement of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Considering that the modern diet is high in processed foods and the amount of omega-3 intake directly correlates to the amount of omega-6 we ingest, for a healthy balance, humans need a wide variety of plant-based foods too. Science Daily.
- A healthy balance means your intake of omega-3 fatty acids needs to match your intake of omega-6 intake in a 1:4 ratio. Most Western diets high in processed foods result in a higher intake of omega-6 (almost 16 times more than omega-3!). While some people take supplements of omega-3 to maintain a balance, most people don’t. Science Direct.
- Many people take fish oil supplements to get more omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. Fish oil contains DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a form of omega-3 found in algae, a plant-based food. But why not go straight to the source and eat algae oils that yield high-quality levels of DHA instead? Plus, on a plant-based diet, you don’t need to worry about the rising mercury found in most seafood. Science Daily.
So now that we know omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can be found in both plant-based and animal-based foods how can we make sure that we get a healthy balance of both? Here are 7 plant sources to get you started.
7 Plant-Based Foods Loaded with Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Flax seeds are an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids. One ounce of flax seeds packs in:
- 6388mg of omega-3
- 1655g of omega-6
Flax on that!
As delicious as they are nutritious, per cup cooked, winter squash packs in:
- 338mg of omega-3
- 203mg of omega-6
Talk about a good balance!
Ah, cauliflower, the go-to for healthy food substitutions. A cup of cauliflower packs in:
- 208mg of omega-3
- 62mg of omega-6
We consider this the best of both worlds.
Hemp is becoming better known in the healthy food space and for good reason! One ounce of hemp seeds packs in:
- 1100mg of omega-3
- 2700mg of omega-6.
Say it with us now, “Hemp hemp hurray!”
Another favorite found amongst the healthy foods community, an ounce of chia seeds packs in:
- 4915mg of omega-3
- 1620mg of omega-6
They’re also a great source of calcium, fiber, and manganese. Chia-yeaaaaah!
Superfood-rich and full of antioxidants, blueberries also pack a punch of fatty acids. In just one cup, you’ll get:
- 174mg of omega-3
- 259mg of omega-6
It’s truly the berry that keeps on giving!
We’re mango wild for this nutritious fruit (okay, bad pun - we know). Per fruit, mangoes pack in
- 77mg of omega-3
- 29mg of omega-6
Ain’t that just mango-nificient (sorry, we just had to slip this one in too)
We know this is a lot to remember, so we made an easy-to-read and fun-to-share infographic for you to save on your phone or print and pop in your wallet the next time you’re grocery shopping. Plus, it’s a great tool to use the next time someone asks you how you get your daily recommended nutrients on a plant-based diet. 😉
Annnnnd, just in case you don’t have any of the above nuts or fruits available, you can get your omega-3 and omega-6 from supplements found on Mylk Guys, here.