Are Vegans at Risk for Omega-3 Deficiency?
Health experts recommend eating fish at least twice a week for good reason. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and other fatty fish are high in omega-3s. These nutrients scavenge oxidative stress, promote cardiovascular health, and protect against brain damage. In clinical trials, they have been shown to lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration and reduce inflammation, which is a major contributor to chronic diseases.
Yet, over 90 percent of Americans are deficient in omega-3s. The risk is even higher among vegans and vegetarians since their diet does not include fish. However, there are other ways to increase your intake of healthy fats and keep your heart functioning at its peak.
Algal oil, for instance, is a natural, plant-based source of omega-3s and antioxidants and contains none of the heavy metals found in fish oil.
First, let’s see how these nutrients benefit your health and why you need them in your diet!
The Health Benefits of Omega-3s
DHA and EPA are essential fatty acids also known as omega-3s and they are highly prized for their therapeutic properties. From pain relief to reduced cholesterol levels and improved bone health, these nutrients offer a host of benefits. In clinical trials, they have been found to be just as effective against depression as Prozac, but without the side effects.
Omega-3 essential fats are particularly beneficial during pregnancy. Studies indicate that children born from women eating a diet rich in omega-3s have a higher IQ and better communication skills. Furthermore, they’re less likely to develop autism, ADHD, developmental delay, and behavioral problems. A deficiency of these nutrients, on the other hand, has been linked to poor eyesight and low intelligence.
Studies have also linked omega-3s to a reduced risk of heart disease, chronic inflammation, metabolic syndrome, and autoimmune disorders. These nutrients also boost brainpower and prevent mental decline. In the long run, they may lower the risk of colorectal cancer by a staggering 55 percent.
Are You at Risk for Omega-3 Deficiency?
As you see, omega-3s play a key role in health and well-being. Your body cannot synthesize these fats on its own, so they must be obtained from food.
Contrary to popular belief, fish and fish oil are not the only sources of essential fatty acids. These nutrients can be found in a wide range of foods, from algae and seaweed to walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. Another option is Algal oil, which stands out as one of the few plant-based sources of DHA.
If you’re a vegan, you may find it difficult to get enough omega-3s in your diet. Except for Algal oil, seaweed, and nori, most plants only contain ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). This may lead to deficiencies and affect your overall health. A diet low in omega-3s can leave your body vulnerable to inflammation and oxidative stress while raising the risk of heart disease.
But how can you tell if you’re deficient in omega-3s? Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Depression and anxiety
- Extreme mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor sleep
- Increased thirst
- Brittle nails
- Dry, dull hair
- Rough skin
- Joint pain
- Unexplained weight gain
- High cholesterol levels
- Memory problems
For example, studies have found that people with high levels of omega-3s in their diet experience better sleep. Deficiencies, on the other hand, have been shown to affect sleep and cause fatigue.
Since these dietary fats prevent inflammation, even the slightest deficiency may lead to joint pain. You may also experience poor mental focus, dry mouth, flaky skin, restlessness, and allergic reactions.
Luckily, most problems associated with omega-3 deficiency are preventable. Simple things, such as taking Algal oil and eating seaweed, can go a long way toward better health. Don’t wait until it’s too late – your body requires these nutrients to function optimally!