Pictured Recipe: Vegetarian Sushi Grain Bowl
Omega-3 fats are essential for heart health, brain health and fighting off inflammation, and unfortunately, most of us don't get enough of them. Adult women only need 1.1g per day, while adult men need 1.6, but that can be easier said than done if you eat a typical American diet. And it can be even more difficult for vegans and vegetarians who avoid fish.
This powerhouse nutrient is actually abundant in several different plants that will not only boost your omega-3 intake, but also deliver dozens of other important nutrients for optimal health. Omnivores may want to incorporate these vegan sources of omega-3 fats into their diets, too!
It's important to note omega-3 fats are found in three different forms—DHA, EPA and ALA. ALA is most abundant in these plant-based sources, but DHA and EPA are a little more difficult to obtain on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
ALA can be converted into the other two types, but it isn't the most efficient method of obtaining EHA and DHA. You might want to ramp up your intake of omega-3 fats as a vegan or vegetarian to help give your body the nutrition it needs.
Flax delivers more ALA omega-3 fatty acids than any other food on the planet, offering more than double the amount of your daily recommended needs in a tablespoon and seven times the recommendation in a tablespoon of flaxseed oil.
A two-tablespoon serving of flaxseed has six grams of fiber and four grams of protein. Not to mention, it is a great source of Vitamin A, Magnesium, and Manganese. You can buy them whole to use in our Homemade Multi-Seed Crackers or buy them ground to add to your favorite smoothie or morning bowl of oatmeal.
Related: Healthy Flax Seed Recipes
While a variety of nuts are considered superfoods, walnuts just might be one of the best for optimal health. Studies have found walnuts lower blood pressure, help us lose weight—and maintain a healthy one, help us age better and even boost our gut health!
Just one ounce of walnuts contains 2.7g of omega-3 fats, which is more than double the daily recommendation for women. You can easily get all the omega-3's you need in a day by topping walnuts onto a favorite salad, baking them into brownies and other treats and adding them to your vegetable sides.
Related: Healthy Walnut Recipes
Seaweed, spirulina, nori and chlorella are all forms of algae that are rich in omega-3 fats. These foods are especially important for vegans and some vegetarians to consume, because they provide one of the only plant-based sources of EPA and DHA omega-3's.
We love using nori in our homemade Brown Rice & Tofu Maki Rolls, and it provides a fantastic umami flavor to our Rice Noodle and Edamame Salad. You can purchase spirulina and chlorella powders and supplements to make the most beautiful smoothie bowls or sneak them into other recipes, like pancakes, without altering the flavor.
Many people feel strongly about which cooking oil is the best, and canola oil gets our seal of approval. One tablespoon of canola oil contains 1.28g of omega-3's, which is more than a day's serving for women.
We also love canola oil for its versatility—thanks to a light and neutral flavor, low saturated fat content and that it is a great source of Vitamins E and K. We love using canola oil in a tasty vinaigrette or when roasting our favorite veggies.
Related: The Best Oils for Cooking
Hemp isn't just for hippies! We love hemp seeds for their amazing nutritional profile. A three tablespoon serving of hemp seeds contains more than half of your daily omega-3 needs, but that's not all. Hemp seeds—also called hemp hearts— are also an excellent source of plant protein, fiber, iron and magnesium, to name a few!
These seeds are super versatile and can make their way to your plate at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Try adding hemp hearts to a favorite granola recipe or smoothie in the mornings, and you will love them in our Avocado Pesto.
Related: The 10 Best Vegan Protein Sources
Edamame is another nutritional powerhouse that certainly needs to find its way into your diet (assuming you're not avoiding soy). A half-cup serving of edamame provides about 20 percent of your omega-3 fat needs as well as offering tons of protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients.
While you may typically think of using edamame in Asian food—and it is pretty darn tasty in our favorite lo mein—these soybeans can be used in a wide variety of dishes. Our Greek Salad with Edamame and Egyptian Edamame Stew are delicious proof of that!
While kidney beans are one of are lower sources of plant-based omega-3's—offering about 10 percent of your daily needs—they are definitely still worth eating. Kidney beans are an excellent source of plant protein and are packed with fiber to keep you full until your next meal. They are also a great source of iron and folate, making for a pregnancy superfood!
Kidney beans are super versatile and used in a wide variety of cuisines to add texture and plant protein. We love them in our Morroccan Kidney Bean & Chickpea Salad as well as in a hearty vegan chili.
Related: Healthy Bean Recipes
Last but *certainly* not least are chia seeds, which pack 5g omega-3's in just one ounce! Chia seeds have become a popular superfood in recent years and for good reason.
One ounce of chia seeds is packed with almost half of your daily fiber needs, protein, and is an excellent vegan source of calcium. Chia seeds make for a super easy two-ingredient jam and is most commonly used to make creamy, dreamy puddings.
Related: Healthy Chia Seed Recipes