Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fat that is very beneficial for the health of the brain and cardiovascular system, protecting our body from serious problems such as stroke and heart attack.
Although we think of omega-3 as one thing, it is actually composed of three different fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
While EPA and DHA are mostly found in saltwater fish such as salmon, sardines and herring, ALA is found in seeds and nuts. A small part of the ALA we consume is transformed into the other two fatty acids, in order to complement the omega-3 family.
Check out 6 of these non-animal foods that are rich in omega-3s and include them on your menu today along with fish:
1. Seaweed oil
Do you know why fish contain so much omega-3? Because they feed on algae, which are rich in this good fat. When these animals feed, the omega-3 is deposited in their tissues – and that’s how it gets to you.
Seaweed oil, which is often sold in supplement and health food stores, is rich primarily in DHA, one of the fatty acids that make up omega-3s.
Flaxseed is an excellent source of ALA, which is part of the omega-3 composition. In addition, this seed is rich in protein and fiber, helping to satisfy hunger.
An important tip: our body cannot digest flaxseeds whole. So, to get the benefits of omega-3, you need to grind them before adding them to breads, cakes, yogurts and smoothies.
3. Hemp seeds
Like flaxseeds, hemp seeds are rich in fiber, protein and ALA. In addition, they contain all 9 essential amino acids, that is, those that our body cannot produce and must be obtained through food.
Despite its benefits, Brazilian legislation is controversial regarding the use and import of hemp seeds. This is because this plant is a subspecies of Cannabis sativa, that is, marijuana, but it contains only traces of THC (substance responsible for the intoxicating effect).
The name “hemp” is also used for other products obtained from this plant, such as fiber, oil, resin, rope, fabric and paper.
4. Chia seeds
As you can already imagine, chia is also rich in ALA: 100 grams of the seed contains 18 grams of this fatty acid, 2.25 times more than flaxseed. Compared to salmon, chia has up to 12 times more omega-3s in the same serving (however, salmon’s fatty acids are different and it offers far fewer calories).
It is very versatile and can be added to yogurts, smoothies, salads and breads, as well as giving consistency to puddings and being an excellent egg substitute to bind together in various preparations.
Nuts, like chia, are very rich in ALA. A 100-gram serving of these nuts offers 9 grams of this fatty acid – but it also offers 700 calories, so consumption should be moderate. For their flavor and texture, walnuts are a good addition to pancakes, cakes, muffins and salads.
Legumes such as beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils also contain omega-3s, although in much lower amounts than seeds.
Soybean is the legume that stands out in the content of this fatty acid, but its consumption is controversial due to the transgenic origin of most of the grains.
Can you substitute fish for these foods?
While there are non-animal-derived options when it comes to omega-3s, it’s important to note that they are often only rich in ALA, not DHA and EPA.
Our bodies can actually transform some of the ALA into the other fatty acids that make up the omega-3, but this part is very small: about only 2% of our intake. Thus, it is important to have nutritional guidance to replace fish properly and, if necessary, make use of supplements.
The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only. They do not replace the advice and follow-up of doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, physical education professionals and other specialists.
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