Vegan omega 3 supplement

vegan omega 3 supplement

Omega 3 is one of those nutritional buzz words that has been ringing in my ears for well over a decade. I remember hearing about a teaspoon of cod-liver oil as a child, and fish oil capsules as being good for concentration when I took exams at school (2000s). Omega 3 is common to both, and is associated with a variety of positive health claims. But I’m less fussed about seeking the fishy elixir, and more interested in achieving a healthy and rounded diet. If you’re also trying to maintain a nutritionally complete diet as a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian, read on and consider if a vegan omega 3 supplement is for you.


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What is a vegan omega 3 supplement?

A vegan omega 3 supplement is an additional dietary source of the nutrient omega 3, produced from vegan sources. Most omega 3 supplements are produced from from fish oil. However, omega 3s can be produced directly from algae – algae are the primary source of omega 3 in marine creatures.

Types of omega 3, where you find them, how much you need

Omega 3 is technically a class of fatty acids, more specifically a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), and are important for normal metabolism in humans. There are 3 types that are most important, outlined in the table below.

TYPE SOURCES TYPICAL INTAKE
ALA – α-linolenic acid Nuts and seeds, such as walnuts and flax (Flax seeds contain huge amounts of phytoestrogens, in excess of soy, so be wary if you’re trying to limit phytoestrogen intake). 0.5g – 1.5g
(500 to 1500 mg)
EPA – Eicosapentaenoic acid EPA and DHA are found more generally from animal sources such as certain fish (sardines, salmon) but also eggs. Vegans and vegetarians can obtain them directly from algae products. 0.25g to 0.5g
(250 to 500mg)
DHA – Docosahexaenoic acid

Humans can’t synthesise ALA, so must obtain it through food. Humans can synthesise EPA and DHA from ALA, but only at a low rate of approximately 5%. So it’s helpful to obtain some EPA and DHA in some other way other than relying on ALA.

There’s no disputing that we need some omega 3 for our bodies to function, but the types and minimum quantities needed are uncertain. When the Institute of Medicine attempted to set a recommended daily allowance (RDA), there was insufficient evidence, so the recommended figure is based instead of average intake of the population. This is around 0.5g – 1.6g of ALA daily, with no RDA or AI figures for EPA or DHA. Typical daily intakes are 250-500 mg combined EPA and DHA.


non vegan omega 3 supplement

The health benefits of omega 3s

Omega 3 fatty acids are touted as being good for a lot of ailments, and are currently investigated in relation to health areas such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Child health and neurodevelopment
  • Cancer prevention
  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
  • General cognitive function
  • Eyesight degeneration
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

But, the evidence remains weak or inconclusive about causation between dietary omega 3 and the health conditions or outcomes of the above. There are sensational claims from various websites like Healthline (17 science-based benefits of omega 3 fatty acids), an excellent technical deep-dive from the National Institute of Health, and a more concise summary from the Association of UK Dieticians. Like with most dietary items, it’s difficult to be sure that it’s the omega 3 responsible for any improvement seen. (Correlation doesn’t equal causation!). It’s nearly impossible for people to change just one thing in their diet and lifestyle over a prolonged period. A reasonable intake of omega 3 is likely to be good for some people, we’re just not certain exactly how good.

Should I consider a vegan omega 3 supplement?

In the midst of all the health claims, it’s worth noting that last year the NHS commented that increasing omega 3 intake beyond that of a standard diet didn’t seem to affect health outcomes. But as a vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian, you may have a significantly reduced intake of omega 3 containing foods, and you may be able to only obtain ALA omega 3 from your diet. If you want to avoid animal-based foods but maintain a rounded diet and so intake EPA and DHA, what should you do? It may be worth considering supplementing.

What are the key points when purchasing vegan omega 3 supplements?

You can easily pick up any old vegan omega 3 supplement, but here are some key things to look out for to make sure you don’t get mugged off:

  • Seek out a product that contains DHA and EPA, not just DHA, and not just ALA (flaxseed based supplements).
  • Plant-based vegan omega 3 supplements can be found cheaper as oils than pills. If you’re less bothered about taste than price, opt for the bottles instead of the capsules.
    • The oils often come in 200ml or 500ml bottles, and although the 500ml does seem expensive in comparison to other supplements, you are getting a LOT of product at the best price.
  • Watch out for the ‘serving size’ being 2 or even 3 capsules! This distorts the DHA / EPA amounts per serving size, as shown on the back of the pack.
  • Sometimes plant-based options are similarly labelled to fish oil supplements, which can seem alluring as they’re cheaper, so carefully check the label for the ingredients!
  • Canada has less choice than US and UK, so consider shopping abroad, subject to taxes and duties.

We’ve personally tried oils (Nutravege) and capsules (Testa, Deva), and found that the oil flavour and texture is an acquired taste. A bit like green tea, marmite, or vegemite, that perhaps takes a period of adjustment, or a non fussy palate!

 

Which vegan omega 3 supplements give the most bang for your buck?

Giving both an oil and capsule choice, we’ve reviewed a big bunch of vegan omega 3 supplements in the UK, Canada, and the US, and presented the highlights of our results below. We reviewed each product’s general description, ratings, reviews, amount of DHA, amount of EHA, and price. We also normalized the prices, which means we calculated which products gives you the most oil for your £ or $, commonly known as bang for your buck! There are different recommendations for each country as product availability and the best selection depends on which country you’re in.

The UK market is fairly level and competitive. There are a few leading brands, but we found that most cost-effective and well-regarded choice in the UK as follows:

Norsan Vegan Omega 3 oil Opti3 Omega 3 EPA & DHA capsules (2 Pack)
norsan vegan omega 3 supplement opti3 vegan omega 3 supplement

As discussed above, Canada has less choice, but we found that the most cost-effective and well-regarded brands in CANADA are:

NutraVege Omega 3 Plant Sourced oil Deva Omega 3 DHA EPA capsules
nutravege vegan omega 3 extra-strength supplement deva omega 3 dha epa supplement

The US has good competition too, lots of choice like the UK, but we found the the most cost-effective and well-regarded products were:

NutraVege Omega 3 Plant Sourced oil

Testa Omega 3 DHA EPA capsules

nutravege vegan omega 3 extra-strength supplement testa vegan omega 3 supplement

 


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We hope you find the content useful! FYI, the links I’ve shared above are to the products on Amazon, which means if you click through and make a purchase, the team here gets a very small % commission at no extra cost to you. See our disclosure page.

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