The easiest way to shed off pounds is by eating whole plant foods while keeping fats low. But, how low can you go so you get enough omega 3 fats on a vegan diet without compromising your health?
These essential fats keep you thinking sharp, fighting inflammation, and in the right ratio to omega 6 fats, are necessary for your optimal health.
How much do you really need?
Even though you need to include sources of these essential fats, in your diet, the amount is very small. Your daily requirement for Omega 3: 0.5% of total Kcal/day = 1-1.6 gr (source) and the ideal ratio between omega 6 and omega 3 fats is 3 (4) : 1.
It’s not a lot, right?
Especially if you ever caught yourself snacking generously on nuts and seeds out of fear that you could become healthy-fat deficient, you may feel a little silly.
But you are not alone.
It’s quite natural to believe that more of a good thing is better. Us, humans, we’ve been afraid of deficiencies since the dawn of our history. However, when it comes to fat, not only this kind of thinking will lead to weight gain, it can also cause lack of omega 3s.
Let me explain.
The source of omega-6 fats is LA (linoleic acid) which you find abundantly in all nuts, seeds, avocado and other foods. The source of omega – 3 is ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid) which is found mainly in hemp, chia and flax seeds, walnuts, soy beans, tofu and greens.
Now, here comes the tricky part!
Your body needs to convert both, LA and ALA into the essential omega 6 & 3 fats which are so beneficial for your health. In order to do so, it uses the same nutrients, co-factors and activation pathways.
If you happen to have too much of ALA (omega 6 source), all the co-factors and nutrients get used up and there is not enough left to create omega-3 fats.
5 – point check list to get your omega-3 fats
The good news is you can get the right amount of both essential fats when you pay attention to your diet.
Follow this 5-point check list and you are sorted:
- Eat unprocessed plant foods at least 90% of the time. This will allow you to include the right sources of essential fats in the right amounts.
- Avoid all refined oils, including olive, coconut, sunflower and others. Refined oils are very potent sources of omega-6s and they easily throw off the delicate balance between these two fats.
- Include at least 1 serving of omega 3-rich food a day. Choose from 1 tbs of ground flax, Chia or hemp seeds or a handful of walnuts.
- Have a bowl of green leafy salad a day. All greens are in a perfect balance of omega 6 – omega 3 (1 :1). They would be your mustard greens, arugula, kale, spinach and others.
- If having other nuts and seeds, have no more than 1 serving (a handful) to keep the delicate balance in check. For example, almonds/pecans/cashews have omega 6 : 3 ration 300 : 1 (or even more to compare to flax which has the ratio 3 :1.) source
Should you supplement?
You may naturally think, let’s supplement, to cover all the bases. After all, what could be wrong with an algae supplement which already gives you omega-3 fats in their active form, right?
I always suggest you get the food right first.
Load up on unprocessed plant foods, especially tonnes of veggies . Cut out processed foods with refined oils – simply follow my 5-point checklist. Then, if you are still concerned about your omega-3 fats, reach for an algae supplement.
And, if ever in doubt, you can get a blood test – fatty acids profile – done after you check with your GP.
I hope this helps.
Cheers to you and a delicious way of living 🙂