If you have committed to a vegan diet, you might be concerned about whether you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids. After all, these substances, most commonly found in fish like salmon and trout, are essential for heart health and healthy brain function. Fear not, however--there are plenty of vegan foods that are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, so even if you abstain from animal products, you won't miss out on this essential nutrient!
Not only are seeds full of omega-3 fatty acids, they are easy to incorporate into your diet. Try stirring them into your oatmeal, adding into a healthy smoothie, or mixing them into the batter of vegan baked goods. Flaxseeds are also full of fiber, so they aid digestion in addition to providing the omega-3s you need. You can also try flaxseed oil, which has even more of this nutrient than the seed itself. If you want calcium, chia seeds deliver, and for a seed with plenty of protein, reach for hemp.
This delicious snack (steamed and often lightly salted soybeans) offers not only omega-3s, but also lots of protein (another nutrient that can be challenging to incorporate into a vegan diet). These are great to eat on the go, since the prep time needed is minor and they come in pods that make them fun to snack on. In fact, these are a great, healthy choice if you have children who don't eat fish. In addition to eating plain, edamame is a great addition to salads and stir fry recipes. These aren't the only beans that are high in omega-3s, though; also consider incorporating black beans and kidney beans into your diet.
Many brands of juice are now sold fortified with omega-3 fatty acids. This means that the nutrient is added into the juice during processing. For maximum health benefit, choose varieties without any added sugar. If you drink soy milk, that product is available in an omega-3 fortified version as well. As far as food, look for omega-3 fortified cereals, breads, and grains, as well as peanut butter, pasta, tortillas, and oatmeal. If you have a child, many baby foods are also now fortified with omega-3s, which are known to be critical for healthy brain development.
Walnuts have more omega-3 fatty acids than all other nuts, though most have at least some of this nutrient. Walnut oil is also a great, healthy substitute for olive oil (as are mustard, cod liver, canola, and soybean oils, all of which are rich in omega-3s). Consuming nut products is one of the healthiest ways to get your omega-3s and can even promote dental health. According to a specialist from South Temple Dental, consuming omega-3 fatty acids found in olive oil and nuts can reduce the inflammation that leads to gum disease. Pumpkin seeds, pecans, pistachios, and almonds are also great choices with plenty of omega-3s and other nutrients. As with seeds, you can either snack on nuts raw or incorporate them into other favorite dishes.
Green Leafy Vegetables
As a vegan, you are no stranger to your veggies. But did you know that in addition to their myriad health benefits, green leafy vegetables are also a great source of omega-3s. The best choices in this regard are kale, mint, Brussel sprouts, watercress, parsley, romaine, arugula, purslane, and spinach.
With the five foods on this list, you can easily ensure that you are getting enough disease fighting omega-3 fatty acids, even while eating a vegan diet that is free of fish and other animal products. Although food sources are the best place to get omega-3s and other nutrients, in a pinch you can also try supplements, vitamins, meal replacement bars, protein powders, and weight loss shakes that are both vegan and omega-3 fortified.