Omega 3 Fats Refresher:
It will be helpful to keep these points in mind while reading this post:
- There are 3 main types of omega 3 fats – ALA (from plants), and EPA and DHA (mainly from marine sources).
- ALA is the main vegan source of omega 3s in food, but has a poor conversion rate into DHA (the best form). You’ll need a lot more of ALA if it’s your main source.
- The big benefit of supplementation is that you can get EPA and DHA from algae as a vegan, which are just as effective as fish oil supplements.
You don’t need to take omega 3 supplements as a vegan, but it can make your life easier.
The data is a bit mixed, but some studies show some potential benefits of omega 3 supplements for vegans.
There’s a few other things that you need to know before I can go over the best supplements for vegans.
How Much Omega 3 Fat Do You Need a Day?
There are 2 main parts to this: the quantity of omega 3s you get per day, and the ratio of omega 3 to 6 fats.
First, let’s look at the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of omega 3s.
Note that all numbers in that chart above for anyone over 1 year old is in ALA (the plant sources).
For an adult, you need 1.1 grams to 1.6 grams per day. For reference, you get 1.07 grams of ALA in 0.5 teaspoons of flaxseed.
It’s not hard to find vegan recipes with this amount of omega 3s in them.
So depending on the types of foods you like, you can get more than enough omega 3s from your diet, even as a vegan.
If you’d like to try and get enough through your diet, see my post on the best vegan omega 3 and 6 sources to see which foods you should pay special attention to.
But it’s more complicated than just getting the RDA, because the amount of omega 6s you consume affect how much of your omega 3s are absorbed.
Both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids require the same desaturase and elongase proteins. In plain English, it means that they compete with each other in order to convert to their most useful forms.
If you eat too many omega 6 fats, you won’t get the full benefit of your omega 3s.
This is a problem because most people get way too many omega 6s from their diet.
So What’s the Ideal Ratio Between Omega 3 and Omega 6s?
I’ll say up front that a lot more research needs to be done on this to get a concrete answer.
But for now, most research has found that for every gram of omega 3 fats you ingest, you want no more than 4 grams of omega 6 fats (less is better).
The reason the research is not complete is because there’s 2 ways to improve your ratio, and they may not be equal:
- Up your intake of omega 3s (from food and supplementation).
- Reduce omega 6 consumption.
Not only is the first option more practical, most experts agree that it’s more important to focus on raising your blood levels of EPA and DHA.
In theory, that seems like supplementation is a good option, but there’s not enough research to conclude this yet.
What to Look for in a Good Vegan Omega 3 Supplement
With all that said, I went digging into the different options for vegans to find the best supplements for us.
I ended up looking for a few main things:
- DHA or EPA – These are the most usable forms for your body and the best vegan alternative to fish oil.
- Reputable manufacturer – There’s a lot of sketchy supplement makers, and their product purity may not be great. I only wanted the companies with good reputations.
- Free of ocean pollutants – Serious supplement manufacturers grow or source their algae from algae farms. These are free of heavy metals like mercury and other pollutants.
If we’re on the same page here, I think you’ll find my recommendations useful.
The 5 Best Vegan Omega 3 Supplements
This section goes over the results of my research.
First we’ll look at a short summary table, and then if you want more detail you can scroll down to the mini-reviews of each product.
I’ve included a column that indicates whether or not each omega 3 supplement contains carrageenan. It’s a controversial ingredient that comes from algae, it’s probably safe in the small amounts found in supplements, and only possibly an issue in large quantities. It’s up to you if you want to avoid it to be on the safe side.
|Name||Omega 3 per Serving (mg)||Type||Cost||Carrageenan?|
|Deva Omega 3s||400||EPA/DHA||$$$||No|
Below is more detail on each supplement. I’ve listed them in order of what I think is best, but the best option for you will depend on your personal preferences.
1. Brain Armor
Brain Armor has more omega 3s per serving than any other vegan supplement I could find.
The tradeoff is that the softgel capsules are also larger than the other ones on this list. They’re about the size of a large multivitamin.
Another strength is that it’s reasonably priced.
With just over a gram of EPA and DHA combined per serving, one serving per day is more than enough. For some of the other supplements you’ll need to have 2-3 servings per day (which could be up to 6 capsules).
Here’s the full list of ingredients:
Omega 3s from algal oil, vitamin D3, vitamin E, MCTs, Vegetarian Capsule (Modified Food Starch, Carrageenan, Glycerin, Sorbitol, Purified Water), Sunflower Oil, Rosemary Extract, Mixed Tocopherols, and Ascorbyl Palmitate. Contains coconut.
I just want to make clear that the glycerin and vitamin D3 are both plant-based, as those ingredients aren’t always vegan when used in other products.
The big question mark I have is the “Ascorbyl Palmitate.” This ingredient can come from palm oil (which many vegans don’t consume), however, it can also come from other plant sources as well.
If you want to be safe, go with a different option.
Amala is a popular brand for vegan omega 3s, and the biggest thing that stands out is how small the pills are, and that it’s cheaper than the other options if you compare per serving.
These softgels are significantly smaller than usual, so if you struggle with normal pills, Amala is a great option. Keep in mind that you’ll need to take more pills per day to compensate.
The ingredients list is a reasonable length, let’s take a quick look at it:
Water-Extracted Algae Oil, Natural Tocopherol, Vegan-Softgel (Modified Corn Starch (non-GMO), Carrageenan, Sorbitol, Glycerine, Purified Water).
Again, I have concerns about ascorbyl palmitate. If you want to 100% sure to avoid palm products, keep going down this list, there’s a few options without this ingredient in it.
Zenwise’s Omega 3s stands out for how simple its ingredient list is.
Here’s the full list, which is shorter than the first 2 products we’ve looked at:
Algae, Vegetarian Capsule (Modified Food Starch, Glycerin, Carrageenan, Purified Water)
The glycerin is from vegetable sources, and there’s not much else to note.
The pill size is pretty average, not small but not huge.
Deva is one of the most reputable supplement manufacturers.
While they do sell a capsule version, I chose to include this liquid omega 3 supplement instead. It’s the best option and one of the few options if you have a tough time swallowing pills.
Other than ascorbyl palmitate (for the reasons discussed above), there’s no questionable ingredients:
High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Mixed Tocopherols, Lemon Oil, Stevia, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Sunflower Lecithin, Rosemary Extract, Citric Acid.
5. Eko Pura
The final option is still a good one.
The biggest weakness is that it doesn’t have a ton of DHA per capsule, so you’ll have to take many per day.
However, the capsules are very small, so they’re easy to swallow. The price is also decent.
The ingredient list is pretty typical of vegan softgels:
Algae oil, glycerol, corn starch, carrageenan, high oleic sunflower oil, rosemary extract, antioxidant (tocopherols, ascorbyl palmitate), acidity regulator (disodium phosphate)
Again, it has ascorbyl palmitate, which may come from palm oil. It’s up to you if you want to avoid that, or carrageenan.
Wrapping Things Up
In terms of EHA and DPA, all of these supplements are solid.
The best one for you will depend on whether or not you have strong preferences about:
- Pill size (or liquid vs capsule)
- Certain ingredients (carrageenan and ascorbyl palmitate).
I’ve summarized all the info the best I can, so hopefully that’s enough to help you find a vegan omega 3 supplement that you’ll be happy with.