Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids In A Vegan Diet

There are three types of fat in our diet: saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Saturated and monounsaturated fats are called non-essential fats, as our bodies can make these. Polyunsaturated fats are essential fats that we need to obtain from our diets – the two types are omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Easy omega cheats:

  • Flaxseeds are great in smoothies, over muesli or cereal, and can be used in place of eggs in baking.
  • Add walnuts, ground flaxseeds or chia seeds to plant based yoghurts or muesli.
  • Western diets tend to have a high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, and it is often higher in vegans. It is essential to obtain a regular supply of omega-3, as it is essential for our bodies to function. Try and increase your intake on omega-3 and control your intake of omega-6 fatty acids.

Good sources of omega-3 are:

  • Ground flaxseeds (Linseeds) – 1-2 tbsp a day should supply your needs
  • Chia seeds – 2 tsp
  • Walnuts (4 halves) and walnut oil – 1 tbsp
  • Canola oil is richer in omega 3 fatty acids than other neutral tasting oils so use this when you need a plain oil. Otherwise extra virgin olive oil is recommended for its other nutritional properties.

In contrast, fats higher in omega-6 fatty acids are obtained from:

  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Soya oil

According to two credible nutrition authorities, the World Health Organisation and European Food Safety Authority, you should get at least half a percent of your calories from the short-chain omega-3 ALA in the food sources above. Your body can then take the short-chain omega-3 from these and elongate it into the long-chain omega-3s EPA and DHA found in fish fat. The question, however, is whether the body can make enough for optimal brain health. Until we know more, Dr Greger recommends taking 250mg (2-3 times per week) of pollutant-free long chain omega-3s directly. (These are obtained from algae; this is where fish get their omega-3 from!).

Vegan supplements providing DHA or DHA plus EPA are widely available.

Thinking of trying vegan?

Veganuary inspires and supports people all over the world to try vegan for January and beyond. Millions of people have already taken part.
Will you join them?