Vegans tend to consume less fat than diets containing animal products, which is why vegans on average have lower cholesterol levels than meat-eaters and vegetarians. But our bodies do need some fats in order to maintain and function properly – these are known as essential fats because our bodies cannot produce them. These fats can easily be obtained on a vegan diet.
Omega 3, or alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), and omega 6, or linoleic acid (LA), are needed to maintain a healthy immune system, brain function and vision. Omega 6 is easily obtainable in things such as hemp seeds, walnuts and vegan butters, but getting adequate omega-3 (ALA) may require more planning.
Vegan sources of omega 3
- Chia seeds
- Rapeseed oil
In order to ensure your ALA levels are high enough, it is important to ensure there is a balance between your omega 3 and 6 intakes – this is easy to do.
The Vegan Society recommends using rapeseed oil as your main cooking oil instead of sunflower oil or other oils that contain high LA levels, and to take care with servings of pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
In order to reach the recommended ALA intake in your diet, vegans can consume a tablespoon of seeds (hemp, chia, flax) or six walnut halves per day.
Ways to boost your omega 3 intake
- Add chia seeds to your breakfast (they are great on porridge!)
- Add a few walnuts to dishes like stir-fry and curry, and top salads off with flaxseeds or chia seeds; this will also add a bit more protein to the dish.
- Use rapeseed oil for cooking.
- If you prefer, you can also take a supplement.