Today I have another brilliant guest post for you to enjoy, this one by a talented writer called Patrick Partington! In this post, he’ll talk about the importance of getting enough Omega 3 as a vegan, and the best ways you can ensure you’re getting enough.
As you all know, I adore receiving your guest posts; it makes my day when I hear from you guys, whether it’s a comment, email or Tweet, so do keep them coming and I’ll try my hardest to get them all up on this blog!
This post is informative and fascinating, so I hope you like reading it just as much as I loved receiving it.
The #1 Vegan Supplement You’re Not Taking by Patrick Partington
We all want to make sure that we’re getting enough of the most valuable nutrients for health, but most of us don’t want to take lots of pills.
In this short article, I’ll show you how to ensure that you’re getting enough of one nutrient that is essential for long-term health – in a completely vegan form. We’ll also look at why trying to get this essential nutrient only through food is not as effective.
If you’re making your vegan meals in just half an hour, you have a couple of minutes to improve your supplementation regime.
Simply eating a vegan diet, with an emphasis on vegetables and fruit, already cuts out so many things your body doesn’t need. But a full healthy eating plan isn’t only about what you avoid. It’s also about getting the full spectrum of building blocks for the body’s cells.
The Usual Suspects
Readers of Emily Cooks Vegan are no doubt aware of the importance of taking Vitamin B12. And probably the first thing a non-vegan friend or acquaintance says to you will be some comment about protein. So you’ve got your protein combining down, and are on top of your macronutrients.
But do you know how your Omega 3 to 6 balance is doing? Chances are, it’s not where you think it is.
Omega 3 is Needed for Health
A report by the US Department of Health says that “consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, fish, and fish oil reduces all-cause mortality and various cardiovascular disease outcomes such as sudden death, cardiac death, and myocardial infarction.”
Well, it turns out Omega 3 is not only good for your heart. There’s increasing evidence that it plays a vital role in controlling inflammation throughout the body. Temporary, controlled inflammation is helpful in fighting off disease. But prolonged inflammation, such as that caused by poor diet and lifestyle, can be “destructive and maladaptive, leading to disease and tissue destruction,” via various degenerative diseases.
Ok, so we need Omega 3. But wait; it’s not that simple.
Omega 6 Competes with Omega 3
Omega 6 is another fatty acid that is essential to health – in small amounts. We can’t make it in the body, but then again it’s not good to eat a lot of it. Omega 6 is found, among other places, in nuts and seeds. And, therefore, in unnatural quantities in seed oils such as sunflower oil (but not so much in olive oil).
What’s the problem? Well, Omega 6 competes with Omega 3 for conversion enzymes. This means that the more Omega 6 you eat, the less the Omega 3 you eat will work. Ideally we’d get our Omega 6 from whole foods and avoid overdosing from the industrial seed oils in processed foods, to ensure a good balance.
But how to get enough Omega 3 in the first place?
Plant-Based Omega 3 Doesn’t Work Very Well
At first sight, this looks easy. Omega 3 oils are contained in lots of plant foods such as flax and hemp. Unfortunately, this form of the fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is poorly converted by the body into the usable form, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Only around 4% of ALA is converted to DHA. And in unfavourable conditions – like if you eat too much Omega 6 – it can be even less.
Enter the Algae
Up until a few years ago, the only way to supplement DHA directly was by eating fish. Fish concentrate DHA in their flesh but they get it from their own diet. Now, vegetarians and vegans can skip the middleman – the fish – and simply eat the algae that actually produce the DHA.
If you just eat algae, you’d probably have to eat a lot in order to get a good amount of DHA, assuming that the fragile oil hadn’t oxidised by the time it gets to you.
So a better solution is to take algal extract. You can get basically an oil derived from the algae that just has DHA, and sometimes EPA, another kind of Omega 3 oil, in it.
I’m not going to recommend any particular brand. You need to do your own research. But there are several easily available online.
It’s about time to insert the mandatory disclaimer that you should always check with your doctor before starting any new supplements. I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, just interested in research about how I can stay healthy.
What we can say, is that it does seem to work. According to this study, supplementing with algal oil markedly improved the levels of DHA in the blood of vegans. So if you don’t eat fish, you might want to consider this option.
Thanks for reading, and stay healthy, everyone!
Author: Patrick Partington is a writer for Personal Trainers London Ltd, a resource for nutrition and fitness tips.