by Manjari Fergusson
One way to keep your heart healthy and protected is by ensuring that you have the right amount of essential fatty acids in your diet, particularly Omega 3’s. They provide many heart protective properties among a host of other benefits. Omega 3’s help lower triglycerides, reduce arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats), lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation.i
Omega 3 fatty acids in the form of are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are very important to health. DHA and EPA are commonly found fish. However, fish is not a healthy dietary choice as it is high in cholesterol, fat, and lacks fiber. Fish is also often high in mercury, PCB’s and other toxins that are found in the environment. You can get these nutrients from a plant-based diet and microalgae supplements. Fish themselves don't make DHA, EPA, and other essential fats; they get them from sea vegetables. Dietary supplements of DHA and EPA are available sourced directly from microalgae.ii
Omega 3 fats in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) are converted into DHA and EPA by our bodies. Good sources of ALA are:
- Nuts (particularly walnuts which have 10% omega-3 content)
- Flaxseeds & flaxseed oil (flaxseed oil has 53-62% omega-3 content)
- Green leafy vegetables
- Soybeans (tofu) & soybean oil (7% omega-3 content)
- Pumpkin seeds & pumpkin seed oil
- Chia seeds & chia seed oil
- Hemp seeds
The World Health Organization recommends a daily EPA and DHA intake of 0.3-0.5 grams and a daily ALA intake of 0.8-1.1 grams.iii
Ensuring adequate intake of these essential omega-3 fatty acids can help you achieve the goal of a healthy and happy heart. Carefully planning your plant-based diet to be full of vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy oils is the best way to take care of your health and reap the benefits of these essential fats.
Note: The information provided is for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice. You should always consult with your doctor and consider all relevant factors when making decisions related to your health care.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution”, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, “Essential Fatty Acids", Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- World Health Organization, “Population nutrient intake goals for preventing diet-related chronic diseases”, World Health Organization.