We easily associate omega-3 fatty acids with oily fish like mackerel, salmon, and sardines, but what about plant-based sources? Some good news - fish don’t naturally produce omega-3’s and actually receive them through their algae-rich diet. Which means algae and seaweed are a great plant-based source of omega-3’s. We’d even argue that they’re the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids!
But what about chia? Hemp seeds and flaxseeds?
Let us explain.
So, what are omega-3 fatty acids and why are they so important?
Omega-3 fatty acids are fats that may have the ability to reduce inflammation and therefore the risk of a multitude of health issues. We do not produce them on our own and therefore need to get them from our diet. There are three main types of omega 3 fatty acids, which include ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
ALA is a short chain omega-3 fatty acid and is found in a variety of plants, like chia, hemp seeds and flaxseeds. Unfortunately, ALA cannot be used by the body efficiently without being converted to EPA or DHA, and the body’s ability to convert it is limited. However, these foods still have huge health benefits and should not be overlooked!
EPA and DHA are both long chain fatty acids, which are easily absorbed and utilised by the body and therefore bestow the benefits omega-3 fatty acids are famous for. Not only are EPA and DHA the building blocks of the entire nervous system, they also play a major role in every cell membrane in the body, making them particularly important for heart and brain health. Unfortunately for plant-based people, EPA and DHA fatty acids are mostly found in fatty fish or fish oil.
But! It turns out that algae and seaweed are great plant sources of EPA and DHA fatty acids, particularly wakame.
Wakame seaweed is one of the richest plant-based sources of EPA in the world – one to two tablespoons can provide between 15 and 30 mg of EPA. Plus, fucoxanthin, the brown carotenoid the contributes to its colour, stimulates the production of DHA in the body.
If you’re plant-based and seaweed isn’t already part of your diet, it might be time to start! Lucky for you, we’ve got some recipes to help you. The trick is to have an open mind and experiment until you’ve found the best way to incorporate it into your lifestyle.
However, if you really can’t get down with seaweed, we understand and we’ve got you covered anyway. Click here for a list of our plant-based omega-3 supplements to help you.
Do you love seaweed? What’s your favourite way to prepare it? We want to know! Drop us a message over on our Instagram, @indigo_herbs, we’d love to hear from you!