Omega 3 is important for brain health and correct function. Omega 3 promotes brain development in children and can help to prevent conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer's, depression, and Parkinsons.
Most non-vegans derive Omega 3 from fish oil, either by eating plenty of fish, or by taking fish oil capsules. Luckily for us vegans, there are sources of Omega 3 fats other than fish. The first of the three main types of Omega 3 is alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. This can be derived from walnuts, leafy green vegetables, and seeds. ALA is not created by the body, so must be ingested via our diet.
Once inside the body, some of the ALA is converted to another type of fatty acid called DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid. It is also converted to to EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid. It is DHA and EPA which are stored in large quantities in the bodies of fish and are derived from the algae which they consume. DHA and EPA are available in sterile, vegan-friendly form from health food shops, as supplements.
Of course, everyone’s physiology is slightly different. Some are more efficient at converting ALA to DHA and EPA than others. To make sure you're getting enough Omega 3, it’s therefore sensible to take a vegan supplement in the recommended dosage. The dosage is: 170mg DHA and 80mg EPA daily, as well as eating foodstuffs rich in ALA. There is no scientific evidence to say that you can overdose on Omega 3, but insufficient amounts in your diet can lead to health problems.
Although it is recognized that Omega 3 is very important for our health, it is also necessary to maintain the correct balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 and Omega 9. An imbalance can cause inflammation in the body. Omega 6 and 9 are sourced from plant and animal fats. For vegans, olive oil, safflower and soybean oils are suitable foods containing Omega 6 and 9. The correct ratio should be 3:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3, not 10:1, as found in a typical modern diet!
This imbalance is largely due to our lack of understanding of the contents of pre-prepared foods, in conjunction with misleading labeling. The best way to keep things in balance is to prepare your own meals using whole plants, fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain, and beans. Steer clear of factory produced foodstuffs and oils.