When we think of fats, we automatically think of “bad food”. Big, juicy burgers, a bag of french fries or a serving of saturated fat. Hence the fact that we have avoided fats from our diet for a long time because they were classified as bad and considered fattening for the figure. But if we look at our macros, fats are essential to a healthy body. The big thing you should know about fats is the source of fat. In order to enjoy a healthy serving of fat, we need fatty acids like Omega 3, Omega 6, and Omega 9 (with a big aside on Omega 6). We’ll explain what the difference between these fatty acids is and, more importantly, where to get them by following a plant-based diet. You may already be familiar with fish oil or cod liver oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, but as more and more people turn to plant sources these days, we’ll shed light on the lesser-known vegan alternatives. Let’s talk about plants.
Omega 3 is a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids, namely alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
ALA: vegetable goodness
ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid) is the only one of the three that is an essential fatty acid as it cannot be produced by the body. So we have to rely on our diet to get enough ALA. ALA can be converted to EPA and DHA by your body, but unfortunately this conversion is a difficult process in your body. Fortunately for the vegans out there, our planet provides some plentiful sources of ALA that are vegan. It can be found in flax seeds, chia seeds, pistachios, hemp seeds, and walnuts. ALA helps maintain normal blood cholesterol levels.
EHA and DPA
So what about the other two? DHA has a positive effect on your eyesight and brain function. EPA and DHA are both beneficial for the heart, maintaining normal blood pressure, and normal fat levels in the blood. The optimal dose of EPA and DHA (together) is between 500 mg and 1000 mg per day. That means eating fatty fish twice a week. Have you seen Seaspiracy? We learned that we can consume the omega-3 source of fatty fish straight from the source: algae! These green friends of the sea are an excellent source of EPA and DHA. No animal source is required. This source of healthy omega 3 is also generally more sustainable for our planet, as algae can be artificially cultivated instead of being scraped off the ocean floor. It’s one of the few herbal sources that we know to be high in EPA and DHA. In addition to eating a lot of nuts and seeds with an added algae, all omega-3 fatty acids are covered. Good news!
Omega 6 consists of the polyunsaturated fatty acids linoleic acid (LA), gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and arachidonic acid (AA), the linoleic acid of which is essential. We need to get this fatty acid from our diet, and that’s important because, among other things, it helps keep our cholesterol levels healthy, which helps maintain good blood circulation. GLA and AA can be made from linoleic acid by the body, which makes them not essential. GLA (gamma linolenic acid) is an important part of your cell walls and supports, among other things, the skin’s natural ability to store moisture.
Linoleic acid is found in plant sources such as sunflower oil, corn, and soybean oil. But here’s the thing about linoleic acid: an excess of LA (like frying all of your meals in sunflower oil) and a lack of EPA and DHA won’t turn into GLA, but into pro-inflammatory AA (arachidonic acid). You can find AA in animal sources such as eggs, organ meat, poultry, and fish. Since we don’t need a lot of AA, people who eat more plant-based food sources have higher levels of omega fatty acids because LA can be converted to both GLA and AA. Ultimately, it is important to maintain a healthy fatty acid balance between omega 3 and omega 6 in the body. An optimum
The balance between the two should be around 4: 1, but in most western countries the difference between the two fatty acids is often many times greater, namely between 10: 1 and 20: 1. This difference is caused by the fact that ours Diet contains plenty of omega-6 fatty acids (stop frying and eat too much meat and eggs) and we are not consuming enough EPA and DHA.
In contrast to Omega 3 and Omega 6, Omega 9 is a monounsaturated fatty acid. In addition, omega-9 fatty acids are not strictly necessary for the body as we can produce them ourselves. That said, it’s good to make sure you’re getting enough omega-9s through your diet because of their many health benefits. This mainly affects the omega-9 fatty acid oleic acid, which is found in olive oil, among other things. Oleic acid helps maintain normal blood cholesterol levels. Other rich sources of oleic acid are nuts (nut oil) and sesame (sesame oil). Omega 9 deficiencies are rare because we get enough of it from our diet. Especially if you are a vegan, you probably don’t have to worry about getting a sufficient amount of Omega 9.
As a vegan, vegetarian, or someone who wants to eat fewer animal sources, there is no need to panic if they are getting adequate amounts of omega fatty acids. Focus on a healthy and sustainable source of omega-3s that preferably also supplies your body with EPA and DHA. That’s why we’re such a big fan of vegan algae oil! Finally, we advise you to reduce the omega 6. Even if omega 6 is necessary for our body to function properly, you will quickly achieve more than is good for you and establish a healthy balance between omega fatty acids 3 and 6 at risk.
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