Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fatty acids. They regulate inflammation in the body. Due to their anti-inflammatory effects, they can reduce chronic inflammation and maintain balance in the immune system. By reducing inflammatory processes, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, and certain types of cancer.
In almost all plant-based foods, omega-3 is present in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), including nuts. The body can convert ALA to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to a limited extent, but the conversion rates are relatively low. EPA and DHA are particularly beneficial for heart and brain health.
To make your diet richer in omega-3, it is important to read this article, as the ratio to omega-6 is also crucial. Here is the table of vegan omega-3 foods.
Omega-3 Nuts, Seeds, and Kernels
In addition to omega-3-rich oil, nuts and seeds are excellent plant-based sources of omega-3 in a vegan diet. Omega-3 nuts and seeds should be part of a balanced diet. We will introduce recommended seeds and nuts with high omega-3 content in more detail in the following list:
- One of the best omega-3-rich types of nuts is walnuts. They contain a lot of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). In addition to healthy fats, they also provide fiber, antioxidants, and other important nutrients. Consuming walnuts can reduce the risk of heart disease and improve brain function.
- Flaxseeds are an excellent source of ALA. They increase omega-3 levels and have anti-inflammatory effects in the body. You can add ground flaxseeds to cereal, smoothies, or vegan yogurt.
- Chia seeds are another omega-3-rich type of seed that is often considered a nut. In addition to ALA, they contain fiber, proteins, and various minerals. Consuming chia seeds can help increase omega-3 levels in the body while promoting digestive health.
- Shelled hemp seeds are rich in ALA and also provide plenty of fiber, proteins, and various minerals. You can add them to cereals, smoothies, or salads to increase the omega-3 content in your diet.
It's all about the ratio
The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in the diet is of greater importance for health. Both fatty acids are essential. However, an appropriate balance between them should be maintained.
In today's diet, the ratio is often unbalanced. Too many omega-6 fatty acids are consumed. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil, and are present in many processed foods. Excessive consumption of omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3 fatty acids can lead to inflammation in the body, which is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. This table shows vegan omega-6 foods.
An optimal ratio is generally considered to be 1:4 or lower. This means that the intake of omega-6 fatty acids should be about four times higher than the intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Walnuts have a more favorable omega-3 to omega-6 ratio compared to other types of nuts. While they do contain omega-6 fatty acids, they provide a significant amount of ALA. Other nuts such as almonds, cashews, and pistachios also contain omega-3 fatty acids but in significantly lower amounts compared to omega-6. Seeds have a similar ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. The best available sources of omega-3 are flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hulled hemp seeds.
The table below shows you how the ratios stack up:
|Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio
Incorporating Omega-3-Rich Nuts, Seeds, and Kernels into Your Diet
You can incorporate omega-3-rich nuts and seeds into your diet in various ways. Here is a list of vegan recipe ideas:
- Smoothie with chia seeds: Add a tablespoon of chia seeds to your favorite smoothie and blend well.
- Oatmeal with flaxseeds: Sprinkle a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds over your warm oatmeal breakfast.
- Quinoa salad with walnuts: Mix cooked quinoa with chopped walnuts, diced vegetables, and a dressing of your choice.
- Omega-3 smoothie bowl: Blend a mixture of frozen berries, almond milk, hemp seeds, and banana.
- Arugula walnut salad: Toss arugula with chopped walnuts, sundried tomatoes, and a lemon-olive oil dressing.
- Hemp seed cottage cheese dip: Stir hemp seeds into vegan cottage cheese and season the dip to taste with herbs and spices.
- Flaxseed berry smoothie: Blend flaxseeds, frozen berries, almond milk, and a spoonful of plant-based yogurt.
- Omega-3 crackers: Bake homemade crackers with flaxseeds, oats, and spices.
- Hemp seed muesli: Combine oats, hemp seeds, chopped walnuts, and dried fruits for a nutritious muesli.
- Oat cookie with walnuts: Prepare vegan oat cookies with chopped walnuts.
- Flaxseed mashed potatoes: Add ground flaxseeds to your homemade mashed potatoes to make them more nutritious.
- Flaxseed coconut yogurt: Add ground flaxseeds and coconut flakes to your vegan yogurt.
- Chia pudding with berries: Prepare a chia pudding with plant-based milk and chia seeds, and garnish it with fresh berries.