by Melissa Chichester
Omega-3 fatty acids are best known for their ability to support heart and cardiovascular health.** The most well-known sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish sources like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, and trout. For individuals living a plant-based lifestyle, getting those beneficial fatty acids into the diet can be a bit more challenging. People who don’t like the taste of fish may also have trouble consuming omega-3 fatty acids whether it is through supplements or eating fish. Luckily, there are several vegetarian options available to reap the benefits of this nutrient. Most plant-based omega-3 fatty acids come in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).
Chia seeds are one of nature’s superfoods as they contain healthy nutrients including omega-3, -6, and –9 fatty acids and fiber. In addition, chia seeds contain essential trace mineral manganese and essential mineral magnesium. If that wasn’t enough for the teeny-tiny chia seed, they are also a source of B vitamins thiamine and niacin. Chia seeds also support heart health.** Get creative in the kitchen by making this nutritious chia seed dessert: Chocolate Strawberry Chia Seed Pudding.
Hemp seeds are an extremely versatile and nutritious food that make it easy to consume omega-3 fatty acids in addition to other nutrients, including protein, zinc, and iron. Hemp seeds have been cultivated for culinary use for thousands of years, and today they are a delicious addition to salads, smoothies, and homemade granola bars. Hemp seed oil is also highly regarded for its flavor and nutritional profile in cooking, especially loved as an addition to pasta salads.
Heart-healthy flaxseeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, and flaxseed oil supplements are an alternative for those who do not like fish oil supplements.** Flaxseeds are also a source of omega-6 fatty acids that play a role in providing an energy source for the body.** There are many ways to gain omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseeds, whether it is through eggless baking using ground flaxseeds, sprinkling flaxseeds into a smoothie, or adding them to oatmeal. To use flaxseed as an egg substitute, combine one tablespoon of flaxseed meal with 2 ½ tablespoons of water, and mix well until an egg-like substance forms.
Walnuts are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, more than any other nut. They also contain omega-6 fatty acids. Along with providing healthy fats, walnuts are a versatile food that are delicious on their own, mixed in with a salad, or crushed and sprinkled on top of yogurt. Walnuts are also a nutritious addition to trail mix or homemade granola recipes. A one-ounce serving of walnuts contains a whopping 2,542 mg of omega-6 fatty acids, and the healthy fats in walnuts can keep you satiated.
Pumpkin seeds are another rich source of ALA and they also contain protein, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. Pumpkin seeds also contain fiber and omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids. This delicious seed is popular in baked goods and often roasted on their own for a snack. Pumpkin seeds are also a nutritious choice for snacking, tossing into a salad, and adding to trail mix.