If you are still unsure whether or not eating a vegan diet is healthy and covers all the nutrients then yes it is as long as it is well planned, balanced and diverse. Much like a non-vegan diet. There are a few nutrients that people following a vegan diet need to be mindful of. These nutrients are:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin- D
I will cover all these nutrients in upcoming posts.
Eating a healthy diverse and balanced plant-based diet can easily cover some of these nutrients but it can also be easy to become deficient by sticking to the same familiar foods and meals over and over. Or by simply not being informed on where and how to get these nutrients. As a nutritionist I often see clients who barely eat seeds or nuts, who get very little calcium or iron into their diet and close to no iodine. This makes me worried as I would like for more and more people to go vegan but they need to do it while still getting the right nutrition to be able to do it for the long-term.
So omega-3 is a nutrient that needs a little more planning on a vegan diet or wholefood plant-based diet because our body canâ€™t make omega-3 fats itself, so itâ€™s important to get them through food.
But before talking about vegan omega-3s food sources let’s chat about why Omega-3 is important. Getting adequate intake of omega-3 in our diet is important for:
- eye health
- brain health
- heart health
- cognitive function
- joint health
- reduced inflammation
- as well as better immune function
Hence the big push by supplement companies in recent years to promote large intake of omega-3s. These days it is all the rage to talk about omega-3 and people are advised to consume more and more salmon and fish to get their daily dose or consume large quantities of fish oil supplements. What most people forget is that fish themselves get their omega-3 from somewhere: the algae.
Before talking further about sources of omega-3 in a vegan diet I need to explain quickly that Omega-3 includes 3 different types of fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA. Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) is the only form of fatty acid found in plant foods. This is a different type of omega-3 than the form found in animal sources. Our bodies only use EPA and DHA but luckily can convert some of these ALA into EPA and DHA but the conversion rate is low. We actually do not need that much everyday and just including a few different plant sources each day helps in getting a healthy dose of omega-3.
The best plant sources of omega-3 fats include:
- linseeds/flaxseeds and flaxseed oil (more concentrated)
- hemp seeds and hemp oil (more concentrated)
- chia seeds,
- pumpkin seeds
- edamame and soybean oil
- vegan algae omega-3 supplements
Now you might be an experienced vegan who already includes 1-3 serves of omega-3 daily but I wanted to share some ideas below for anyone who might be new to this and would like to know exactly how to consume more than a few seeds per day.
Ideas to serve omega-3 plant foods into your diet and in your kids diet:
- Oatmeal with added seeds (1 tsp chia, flaxseed meal, hemp seeds);
- Chia pudding
- Hemp seed and walnut granola
- Hemp smoothie with added hemp oil or hemp seeds
- Walnut spread or hemp seeds mixed with nut butter on toast
- Seeds sprinkled on nut butter toasts, rice cakes with hummus
- Hemp oil pesto (I have a recipe here with kale!)
- Walnut vegan “meat”
- Flaxseed meal crackers
- My oat berry bars
- trail mix made with seeds
- avocado on bread with seeds
- edamame salad with avocado and a sprinkle of seeds/ hemp seed oil
Â I hope you will find this newsletter useful. If you are a parent of a vegan child and you are interested in learning as much as you can about vegan nutrition to help your child thrive I have an ecourse available called Nourishing Plant-based Kids.