Updated: Mar 15
Omega fats, specifically omega-3 and omega-6, are fats that are essential in our diet, with essential meaning that our body cannot make these oils itself and will become ill without them. The essential omega-3 fat is called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and omega-6 fat is called linoleic acid (LA). Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are a necessary part of every cell in our bodies and help to keep our immune system, brain, nerves and eyes healthy.
What About Fish Oils?
Most people know that you can get omega oils from fatty fish, most people think of salmon or sardines, but these oils are also found in chicken eggs. Doctors say that an adult should eat between 1.1g and 1.6g of omega-3 each day; this doesn't have to be eaten each day, it can be achieved by eating foods that contain omega-3 fat a couple of times a week. Some people prefer to use supplements, but these supplements have not been proven to be of any benefit to anyone. Also, one major problem with any oil supplement is that, once outside of the body, or once and animal has died, the olds and fats start to become rancid. This can make it very hard to ensure that the oils used in supplements remain stable and do not go off.
How To Get Omega Fats Without Eating Animals
Although omega fats are necessary to our diets we don't have too eat them in the form that our body uses as our bodies can convert other omega fats into the oils that we need. Humans need long-chain forms of omega oils and can convert short-chain omega−3 fatty acids to long-chain forms (EPA, DHA), but how well each person can do this varies between individuals.
Flaxseed (or linseed) and its oil are one of the most widely available plant sources of the omega−3 fatty acid ALA. Flaxseed oil consists of approximately 55% ALA, which makes it six times richer than most fish oils in omega−3 fatty acids. A portion of this is converted by the body to EPA and DHA, which our body then puts to use. Other plant sources of ALA include chia seeds, hemp seeds and sunflower seeds, but also walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts are excellent sources and are easy to include in your diet. You don't have to eat all of these everyday, a teaspoon of ground chia seeds on cereal for breakfast and some nuts with lunch is enough for some people. If you are taking your omega fats through flax or chia make sure that you grind the seeds first as they will not digest if they are whole.
Many people still believe that you have to eat fish to get omega oils in your diet, but this is simply not true. There are far more healthy ways to get these nutrients in your body. As with most nutrients that we need eating a well balanced and inclusive diet, will provide everything that you need. For those that have nut allergies supplements may be the only way to achieve the omega levels that you need to maintain health. Vegan omega supplements can be found in health food shops and online, with options including flaxseed oil and starflower oil. There's no need to harm animals to maintain good health.