Our body needs omega-3 fatty acids: The unsaturated fatty acids are considered healthy. Our organism needs them for the normal function of certain cells, for a regulated blood circulation and for the vessels.
But how do you get the nutrient?
If you look at the possible food sources, the answer to a vegan diet is sobering: fish. That’s why most omega-3 supplements contain fish oil and are also not vegan. That’s not an option with a vegan lifestyle. What to do?
Microalgae are the most common answer to this question.
Why are microalgae the insider tip here and why do you need “the omega-3”? Let’s start with omega-3 solid acids and why your body won’t function without them.
Vegan? Omega-3! But why?
As already indicated at the beginning, “omega-3” refers to long-chain, polyunsaturated fatty acids. Yes, several fatty acids! There are at least three that are relevant to your body:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
ALA is the vital variant. Our organism cannot produce alpha-linolenic acid itself. So you only get ALA through your diet and supplements. By means of this omega-3 fatty acid you get mainly energy and from it your body can also convert the other fatty acids in small parts.
You need eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to make some other important substances. These substances can, for .B, then regulate your blood pressure , be jointly responsible for your immune system or inhibit inflammation .
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), on the other hand, mainly acts on the cell membrane effect you need for your brain and eyes.
In small amounts, omega-3 fatty acids are really vital and healthy. They affect your cardiovascular system in several ways. They improve blood flow, inhibit blood clotting and lower blood pressure. In addition, they inhibit inflammation and have a positive effect on triglyceride metabolism .
The necessary ALA is also present in vegetable oils, seeds and some leafy vegetables. Examples are:
- Linseed oil
- Walnut oil
- Rapeseed oil
- Green leafy vegetables such as lamb’s lettuce
- Chia seeds
Especially EPA and DHA we get mainly through high-fat marine fish. Vegans, on the other hand, come away empty-handed.
This means that at least part of the supply of omega-3 fatty acids can be easily achieved purely through a vegan diet. Is that enough and what do you have to pay attention to when it comes to a vegan diet?
Vegan Omega-3: Seaweed is the solution
That doesn’t mean you have to make algae salad every day. But we’ll get there right away.
As an alternative to fish oil and sea fish, you can also meet your omega 3 needs with algae oil. As you probably know, this is also good for the environment, because the fish and krill stocks are spared.
“Seaweed” refers to microalgae such as Schizochytrium or Ulkenia . They contain EPA and DHA. Contrary to ALA, these nutrients are directly available and can be used by the body immediately. ALA must first be converted by the body and provides only small amounts of EPA and DHA.
However, the microalgae are artificially bred. This usually works in hoses, which are then drained. In this way, the oil can be extracted in a concentrated manner. At the same time, this means that an own breeding with corresponding costs is necessary. That’s why the oil can also be expensive.
This brings us to the great disadvantage of the vegan alternative: algae oils are expensive, because they cost between 10 and 50 euros per 100 milliliters. In addition, cheaper oils are simply added because of the price. As with all oils, it is therefore also important to pay attention to the purity and thus the quality.
The microalgae oil can be bought directly as oil or in capsule form . As a pure microalgae oil, it does not last quite as long and is therefore usually mixed with the previously mentioned other oils, vitamin E or plant extracts. This does not make it rancid.
It is not suitable for cooking, as oils with many unsaturated fatty acids can generally only be used cold. However, algae oil is generally only to be used in very low doses due to the price and the concentration. Depending on the dosage in the oil, this is only a few dozen drops, a teaspoon or a tablespoon. So this does not work for frying, because the recommended amount of consumption should not be forgotten. But the price is also a weighty reason.
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the recommended highest dosage for EPA and DHA together is 5 grams daily. Individually, this is 1.8 grams of EPA. In the case of food, the additive is regulated even more strictly and here it may only be a certain maximum amount.
A positive aspect: capsules do not become rancid.
Does everyone with a vegan diet need omega 3 per microalgae?
As a rule, it is said by the consumer center that healthy people, for whom fatty sea fish is regularly on the menu, do not need additional omega-3 fatty acids. Even with omnivorous nutrition, i.e. if you eat plant and animal products, this becomes difficult in German-speaking countries. Impossible for vegans.
The German Nutrition Society (DGE) therefore recommends microalgae oils or omega-3 fortified foods such as margarine as an alternative source of EPA and DHA. For ALA, high-quality vegetable oil such as rapeseed, linseed or walnut oil is also recommended.
Especially the promised sustainability is a very positive side effect in today’s world. It must not be concealed that of course not always climate-neutral is or can be done here either. Rather, the big advantage is that the fish and krill stocks do not suffer from microalgae production.
However, it is important to make sure that the shell of capsules is vegan as well. This is often forgotten and sometimes contains animal additives such as gelatin, which do not deserve the “vegan” label.
You should also keep an eye on the ingredients. With this you will not only find unwanted other oils, but also the composition. It is recommended to always take DHA and EPA to you. According to research, however, there is no exact, recommended ratio. You need both, because your body can unfortunately only convert EPA in very small amounts from DPA.
Side effects? You have to keep this in mind with the vegan Omega 3
Already in 2003 (Schizochytrium) and 2009 (Ulkenia) the microalgae oils were approved by the EU for food. They are therefore harmless.
Here, however, the dose also makes the poison. If more is consumed than the manufacturers indicate, there may be side effects or interactions . Aspirin or other anticoagulant drugs are affected because high doses of the oil change the flow properties. The risk of bleeding increases.
If you have diabetes , it’s also important to pay closer attention to blood sugar and LDL cholesterol levels. It will then be harder to adjust your blood sugar correctly and the cholesterol level can rise.
If you suffer from these diseases, you should definitely talk to the trusted doctors beforehand.
The vegan Omega 3: healthy and sustainable
Overall, we can say that vegan omega 3 is not only an alternative for vegans. It is sustainable, healthy like any source of omega-3 fatty acid and has few alternating and side effects. Especially as a substitute for fatty fish from the sea, they are perfect.
In principle, however, oils are more difficult in dosage and shelf life. Here, however, there is the alternative via capsules, which noticeably increase the shelf life.
If you pay attention to the purity and quality of microalgae oils, nothing stands in the way of a healthy diet with a vegan lifestyle.