There are certainly a lot of health benefits in going vegetarian. Not only will you be consuming a lot less chemical meat treatments such as salt, nitrates, colourings and other nasties as your meat-eating friends, you will likely gain a lot more vitamins and minerals from your new diet higher in vegetable matter. But even though it is possible to gain the essential fatty acids (EFA) from plant sources, it is easy to slip into deficiency of these vital nutrients when on a vegetarian diet, because vegetarian sources of these nutrients are harder to assimilate. Particular diets can have deficiencies that are necessary to fix and recommended through supplements.
Most people, regardless if they are vegetarians or omnivores, are most probably deficient of two omega-3 fatty acids: DHA and EPA. These two EFAs are vital in keeping the body healthy, so how can a vegetarian get ample amounts of these without having to resort to omega-3 fats from animal sources?
One of the things you need to keep in mind is that it’s not just important to get enough omega-3 fatty acids; you need to get the right proportions of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids as well. Too much of omega-6 and not enough omega-3 will throw the body out of balance and this imbalance can present as skin problems, inflammation problems and/or heart problems, to name but a few issues.
Another thing you need to consider is how your body converts the omega-3 it gets from plants. Omega-3 plant sources include walnuts, flaxseeds, krill oil, hempseeds, and canola oil just to name a few. However, these foods contain a different type of omega-3 fatty acids called ALA (alpha linoleic acid). ALA is converted into DHA or EPA once it is consumed by the body; the problem is that only a small percentage of the ALA gets converted.
The good news is that vegetarians today have a lot more options besides omega 3 vitamins (which are actually nutrients, not vitamins – but you may have heard them referred to as omega-3 vitamins) derived from animal sources. It was just recently discovered that the seed from the echium plant carries an omega-3 fatty acid called SDA (stearidonic acid), which is quite similar to ALA, the difference is that once ingested SDA yields a far greater amount of EPA and also at a much faster rate. Not only does echium seed oil contain omega-3 fatty acids, it also has an omega-6 acid (gamma-linoleic acid or GLA) and an omega-9 fatty acid (oleic acid) which is beneficial for their anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular health benefits. And just like EPA, echium oil is found out to lower cholesterol levels as well.
So, if you’re worried that you aren’t getting enough amounts of omega-3 from your vegetarian diet, then its best to take an omega-3 supplement that contains echium seed oil to supplement your diet.
One of the best ways to take an omega-3 supplement is to buy a liquid form rather than capsule form of the supplement, and take it by stirring or blending into a glass of juice or a smoothie. The stronger tasting oil supplements may need a stronger tasting juice or smoothie to hide. Try beetroot, kale/collard greens, or tomato juice for covering up strong tastes from the echium seed oil or other oil supplement.