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When I went vegan, I began to take a much greater interest in nutrition. This was largely due to the many pervasive myths that I wouldn’t get enough protein or calcium (not true, btw!). But something that also kept cropping up everywhere I looked was the importance of eating plenty of oily fish to ensure adequate intake of Omega-3s.

Whilst it’s important to remember that I am not a doctor, registered nutritionist or health professional in any shape or form, what I have done is read a lot on the topic of vegan nutrition to educate myself. It can be pretty head-scratching wading through scientific studies and technical jargon – not to mention exceedingly dry! So I hope to break things down more simply, empowering you to make informed and healthy choices on your plant-based journey.

Let’s take a look at exactly how important Omega-3 is, whether it’s possible to get enough of it as a vegan, and how much of it you really need to thrive.

What is Omega-3 & Why Do You Need It?

There’s no getting around it – Omega-3 essential fatty acids are fats that play a key role in keeping your heart, brain, kidneys, eyes, and skin healthy. They’re ‘essential’ because your body can’t make them on its own, so you have to get them from either food or supplements.

If you’re a vegan or planning to go vegan, then you should pay special attention to getting enough Omega-3s. As you’re no doubt aware, oily fish are the most common source of these fats… and these obviously aren’t on the menu anymore!

Don’t panic though. There are plenty of plant-based options that are rich in Omega-3s (more on this shortly), as well as plant-based supplements to make sure you’re getting your fair share.

Algae Omega-3 Supplements for Vegans

NOTHING FISHY

Cover your plant-based Omega-3 needs with Nothing Fishy’s nutritious, sustainable & non-toxic Omega-3 soft gel supplements.

  • 400mg of algae-based DHA
  • Subscribe & save 25% with free delivery
  • Get an extra 15% off your first month with VIEW15
  • First month from £13.60 (£16 after)

ALA, EPA & DHA - What Are They & What Do They Do?

To understand the role of Omega-3 fatty acids and make sure you’re not at risk of deficiency, it’s important to be aware that there are 3 main types. These are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – a little bit of a mouthful! Here’s a very basic overview of where they can be found and what they do:

ALA

This short-chain Omega-3 is the most common in Western diets. It has anti-inflammatory properties, converts food into energy, is an important component of skin health, and can help to lower cholesterol. It’s found in plant sources like flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts, as well as in smaller amounts in leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and mustard greens. Your body can convert some of this into long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA, but the conversion rate is typically low, so it can be difficult to know whether you’re getting enough.

EPA & DHA

These long-chain Omega-3s are found primarily in marine sources like fish, krill, and algae. EPA and DHA are both good for heart health, whilst DHA is particularly important for your brain and eyes. A lot of research has focused on the importance of DHA for cognitive health and development, especially in babies and children. EPA, on the other hand, is better known for its effects on inflammation and mood disorders. They’re both more bioavailable than ALA, which basically just means that your body can use them more easily.

Green algae in the ocean

What are the Risk Factors if You Don’t Get Enough Omega-3?

Omega-3 fatty acids are really important for staying fit and healthy. Whilst there may not be any major warning signs in the short term, you may still notice:

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • ‘Brain fog’ or poor memory
  • Mood swings
  • Dry skin, hair, and nails
  • Joint pain

However, in the long term, the risks of not getting enough Omega-3s are much more concerning:

  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Higher risk of age-related cognitive decline, including dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Eye problems
  • Increased inflammation, which can lead to various chronic diseases

Whilst these risks are more common in people who are severely deficient in Omega-3s, it’s definitely possible to be deficient on a plant-based diet if your intake isn’t carefully considered.

How much omega-3 do you need per day?

Somewhat surprisingly, there is no official recommended daily allowance for EPA and DHA. However, most health organisations agree that anywhere between 250–500mg is enough for adults to stay healthy.

What Plant-Based Sources of Omega-3 Are There?

Getting Omega-3 on a vegan diet is possible, but it requires a bit more effort and planning than popping open a tin of sardines. Some great vegan sources of Omega-3s include:

  • Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Tofu
  • Seaweed and other sea vegetables

One thing to note is that unless you’re eating certain types of seaweed like kelp (which does contain EPA and DHA), plant-based sources are only rich in short-chain ALA. The body can convert ALA into the longer-chain Omega-3s EPA and DHA, but as I mentioned earlier, the conversion rate is low (it’s estimated between 5%-10%). As such, unless you’re regularly eating the right types of seaweed, vegans either need to eat a lot of these ALA-rich foods or else consider an algae-based supplement.

Supplements for vegans: vegan sources of long chain Omega 3s

Are Long Chain Omega-3s Only Found in Fish?

Thanks to aggressive marketing messages around oily fish, I believed for a very long time that eating fish was the only way to get important Omega-3 fatty acids. So I was surprised to learn that fish and other marine animals don’t actually produce Omega-3s themselves. They accumulate these fats by eating algae or other marine plants.

At this point, we need to go way, way back to Year 9 Biology and food chains. In short, when a small fish eats algae, it accumulates Omega-3s in its body. A larger fish then eats a bunch of these smaller fish, accumulating even more Omega-3s. This process continues up the food chain, leading to higher concentrations in fatty, predatory fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines.

In this sense, fish act as a kind of Omega-3 ‘middleman’ between algae at the bottom of the food chain and humans at the top. But as a vegan, whether by eating the stuff or supplementing – it’s completely fine to just go straight to the source – algae!

Are Algae-Based Supplements Better for You Than Fish-based Ones?

Algae-based Omega-3 supplements – like those from Nothing Fishy – are a better alternative to fish-based ones for several reasons:

  • Sustainable: Algae is a renewable resource and its production doesn’t contribute to overfishing. Fish oil production, on the other hand, can have a significant impact on marine ecosystems.
  • Non-toxic: If, like me, you care about minimising your everyday exposure to toxic chemicals, then it’s worth noting that fish don’t just accumulate Omega-3s – they accumulate all sorts of other contaminants in the ocean like mercury, PCBs and dioxins. By getting your Omega-3s directly from algae at the bottom of the food chain, you don’t have to worry about these pollutants. In fact, the algae used in Nothing Fishy supplements are grown in closely monitored pools and don’t even come into contact with the ocean.
  • Better taste: Algae supplements don’t have the “fishy burp” effect that can be a common side-effect of fish oil supplements (mhm, as lovely as it sounds).

Algae Omega-3 Supplements for Vegans

NOTHING FISHY

Cover your plant-based Omega-3 needs with Nothing Fishy’s nutritious, sustainable & non-toxic Omega-3 soft gel supplements.

  • 400mg of algae-based DHA
  • Subscribe & save 25% with free delivery
  • Get an extra 15% off your first month with VIEW15
  • First month from £13.60 (£16 after)

Ethics Aside, Is a Pescatarian Diet Healthier if it Contains Readily Available Omega-3?

There’s no doubt that fish are a rich source of Omega-3s, so if your only concern is getting enough of these fatty acids, a pescatarian diet makes sense. However, it goes without saying that nutrition is so much more than this!

Fish aren’t just Omega-3s swimming around (I mean, they’re sentient beings in their own right, but we’ll leave that for another post) – they also contain a whole lot of bad lumped in with the good. For instance, oily fish are also very high in cholesterol and unhealthy fats. Plus, there are concerns about the build-up of toxins like mercury in certain types of fish.

A well-planned vegan diet based around a diverse range of whole foods can provide many of the nutrients your body needs, including Omega-3s. Plus, plant-based diets have been linked to a variety of health benefits, including a lower risk of chronic diseases associated with the consumption of animal products.

When Do You Need To Pay Particular Attention To Your Omega-3 Intake?

Omega-3s are important for everyone, but you’ll want to pay particular attention to your intake if you fall into any of the following groups:

  • Pregnant & breastfeeding women: Omega-3s, particularly DHA, are important for the development of a baby’s brain and eyes. Breastfeeding women need more Omega-3s because they pass them on to their babies through breast milk.
  • People with heart disease: Omega-3s can help reduce blood pressure, prevent blood clots, and lower triglycerides, which can all help reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • People with inflammatory conditions: The anti-inflammatory properties of Omega-3s can help with conditions like arthritis, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • People with mental health conditions: Omega-3s have been proven to help with depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
  • Older adults: Omega-3s may help prevent age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, as we get older, our ability to convert ALA from plant foods into EPA and DHA may decline.
Wooden spoon with Omega-3 capsules

What Should You Look for in a Vegan Omega-3 Supplement?

Choosing a good vegan Omega-3 supplement can be tricky, but here are some things to look out for:

  • Algae-based: Look for a supplement that’s made from algae, not fish. Algae is where fish get their Omega-3s from anyway, so you’re just cutting out the middleman (or should I say middlefish?).
  • 250mg-500mg of long-chain Omega-3s: You’ll want a supplement that contains a high dose of DHA, as these are the long-chain Omega-3s that are most beneficial for health.
  • Sustainably sourced: Just because it’s vegan doesn’t automatically mean it’s environmentally friendly! Look for a supplement that’s sustainably sourced, preferably from algae grown in controlled environments.
  • Zero-waste packaging: Fortunately, long gone are the days when all supplements came in disposable plastic containers. Nothing Fishy’s algae-based soft gels arrive in an eco-bag with a lovely little glass jar you can decant them into. Then, all future deliveries come in compostable refill pouches – 100% plastic-free and zero-waste.

How do I make sure I get enough Omega-3 every day?

As a vegan, I’m conscious about getting enough Omega-3 in my diet. I stir a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds and half a tablespoon of chia seeds into my porridge each morning. I also supplement with plant-based omega-3, whether through a dedicated multivitamin or a separate Omega-3 supplement (most multivitamins don’t contain Omega-3).

If you’re unsure what’s right for you, I’d always advise speaking to a doctor or health professional, who will be able to give you more personalised guidance.

Nothing Fishy FAQs

What does Nothing Fishy Omega-3 contain?

Nothing Fishy’s sustainable, plant-based Omega-3 supplements contain DHA algae oil (200mg) suspended in Vitamin E (5mg). With the recommended dose of two soft gel capsules, you’ll get 400mg of high-quality DHA daily.

Why doesn’t Nothing Fishy contain EPA?

The keen-eyed among you will notice that Nothing Fishy have made the deliberate decision to focus purely on DHA in their supplements. Research points to DHA playing a more critical role in the body, as it is a major structural component of your brain, skin, and retina. EPA is still important, but it can be converted more easily from ALA, so the likelihood is that if you’re eating plenty of plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, like flaxseed or chia seed, then you are already getting plenty. However, if you’re worried about EPA, then you may want to consider a supplement that contains both.

Do I have to take two soft gel capsules every day?

Not necessarily. In fact, one of the main things I love about Nothing Fishy is the flexibility it gives you. For instance, because I already get plenty of ALA from my diet, I usually take just one 200mg Omega-3 capsule daily. But if you’re worried you’re not getting enough Omega-3 from your diet, then take the recommended dose of two (just don’t exceed this!).

When is the best time of day to take Nothing Fishy supplements?

Nothing Fishy suggest taking their supplement in the morning with breakfast, which is what I like to do. However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. The main thing is to try and take them at a mealtime and at a regular time each day.

How does Nothing Fishy’s subscription service work?

By subscribing to Nothing Fishy’s refill service, you can save 25% on the RRP and put your Omega-3 needs on autopilot. You can also save a further 15% on top of your first order using my exclusive discount code VIEW15 – yep, that’s a steal!

The beauty of a supplement subscription is that, unlike other products, if you’re taking your supplements regularly, your refills should always get sent at the perfect time. You can also pause, skip or cancel whenever you like. However, if you just want to try it out as a one-off, that’s fine too. You can still use code VIEW15 at the checkout for 15% off your order.

Where can I buy Nothing Fishy?

To make the most of these discounts (and subscribe if you like), I’d advise shopping directly via Nothing Fishy’s website. With free 1-2 day shipping and a review rating of 4.88 out of 5, they’re a trusted brand that put their customers first.

Algae Omega-3 Supplements for Vegans

NOTHING FISHY

Cover your plant-based Omega-3 needs with Nothing Fishy’s nutritious, sustainable & non-toxic Omega-3 soft gel supplements.

  • 400mg of algae-based DHA
  • Subscribe & save 25% with free delivery
  • Get an extra 15% off your first month with VIEW15
  • First month from £13.60 (£16 after)

There’s Nothing Fishy About Supplementing With an Algae-Based Omega-3

As a vegan, you’re already doing your bit to help the planet and animals, but don’t forget to take good care of your own health, too! Omega-3s are an essential part of a healthy diet, and whilst you can get them from plant foods, it’s important to be mindful of your intake and consider supplementation where necessary. The bottom line is, if you’re not regularly eating seaweed (who is?), then supplementing is probably a wise idea.

If you’re looking for a good place to start, then I’d wholeheartedly recommend vegan brand Nothing Fishy, who specialise in high-quality, environmentally-friendly and non-toxic Omega-3 supplements.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what else you should be aware of when it comes to vegan nutrition and supplementation, then check out my in-depth article over here, in which I cover all the essential nutrients you may be lacking on a plant-based diet and how to get them.

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