Salmon and other fish are prized as the best way to get the important, anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids into our diets. And while fish does contain Omega 3 fats, fish is not the healthiest option or the most economical. But Omega 3’s are important to include in our diets. These fats fight inflammation by improving blood flow and also improving nutrient absorption. They’ve been shown to provide cardiovascular, mood, and also digestive benefits. Many athletes also consume these fats to fight joint pain. Unhealthy fats from animal foods and processed, refined vegetable oils are higher in inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids. These fats contribute not just to inflammation, but also weight gain and heart disease.
So, what’s a plant-based eater to do when they’re looking to avoid fish and get more healthy Omega 3’s in their meals? Easy, just eat these foods below instead!
The only nut to contain measurable amounts of Omega 3’s, these nuts look like little bitty brains for a reason; they’re great for improving your mood, cognitive function and are some of the most highly recommended nuts for good heart health. Try using raw walnuts on top of oatmeal, in smoothies, or use them in raw energy bars of all kinds. Keep in mind that walnuts and other nuts are healthiest in their raw state since high heats changes the fatty acid structure. Baking walnuts should be safe, such as in muffins and cookies, but avoid roasted nuts that are often torched at high temperatures.
A commonly known superfood, acai berry fruit is actually richer in Omega 3’s than some types of fish per ounce (choose the raw, unprocessed version or the frozen, unsweetened acai berry fruit puree packs you can buy). This fruit is also a great source of antioxidants known as anthocyanins that have been shown to prevent heart disease. Blueberries also contain these same antioxidants, but acai berries are the only berry to contain measurable amounts of Omega 3’s.
A nearly perfect seed, pumpkin seeds are also a good source of Omega 3 fats. They’re also packed with iron, particularly alkalizing compared to other common nuts and seeds, and provide blood-sugar and hormone-stabilizing benefits since they lower insulin and cortisol in the body. Choose raw and organic pumpkin seeds whenever possible as the healthiest option. They go great in oatmeal, as a topper for smoothies and soups, and really make an excellent trail-mix or superfood bar ingredient.
A top source of Omega 3 fats, many people shy away from hemp seeds because they contain Omega 6 fats too, however, plant-based Omega 6 fats are different than those from animal sources because they contain no cholesterol or as high amounts of saturated fats. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats from hemp seeds have also been shown to improve brain and digestive health. Some people also opt for hemp seed oil in place of highly heated vegetable oils that are unhealthy for your heart and rancid. Be sure you don’t heat hemp oil if you choose to use it since the high heat will also change the structure of this healthy fatty acid source. Hemp seeds are a power superfood for people of all kinds, especially athletes or those on a grain-free diet. Add them to your next healthy protein bar recipe!
5. Flax and Chia
Both flax and chia are often paired together because they’re similar in their overall nutritional benefits. Both are two of the absolute highest sources of Omega 3 fats in a plant-based diet. They’re also a great source of fiber, B vitamins, protein, and magnesium. Be sure you use them raw when possible and add them to anything you want. Flax and chia both have a nice texture either ground or whole, but keep in mind your body can’t absorb the nutrients in flax in whole form, so be sure to consume it ground. Chia, on the other hand, can be consumed whole or ground and the benefits will be the same either way. Flax and chia are both great to add to breakfast, so give them a shot if you haven’t already!
And there you have it – these foods will provide your body with plenty of Omega 3 fats to keep your body alkaline, thriving, and also enhance your digestion since they all contain fiber. Though these are the densest sources among common foods rich in Omega 3 fats, other plant-based sources include: butternut and other winter squash, romaine lettuce, sacha inchi seeds, blue green algae, some leafy greens, and a few beans and legumes.
What’s your favorite fish-free source of the amazing Omega 3 fats?
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Lead image source: Almost Raw Walnut Burgers