The bad news for vegans is that the best sources of omega 3’s are fish and algae (which most people don’t eat). It’s tougher getting omega 3 fats from plants.
The good news is that vegans typically eat less junk food, and have a better ratio of omega 3 to 6 fats than omnivores.
I’ll give you a brief background on why these types of polyunsaturated fatty acids are important to get in your diet, and then I’ve compiled a list of all the vegan foods with significant amounts of each omega nutrient.
Why You Need Omega 3, 6, 9 Fats
All omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated, meaning that they have more than one bond that is not saturated with carbon molecules.
Omega fatty acids have a variety of uses by the body:
- Omega 3 (essential) – Lowers multiple inflammation blood markers, which improve heart, brain, and eye health, no matter your age. An omega 3 deficiency can also cause fatigue. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) cannot be manufactured by your body (making it essential), but it also not so useful right away. It needs to be converted to EPA and DHA (both types of omega 3s) to be useful.
- Omega 6 (essential) – Some types of omega 6s have anti-inflammatory effects, but most are pro-inflammatory (a bad thing). Most people get way too much omega 6 fatty acids from their diet, so usually you want to avoid these, not get more of them.
- Omega 9 (non-essential) – These can be produced by the body if needed, and you generally don’t need to pay any special attention to getting them from your diet.
One last thing to mention is that research has shown that the amount of omega 3 and 6 fats isn’t necessarily the most important thing for health. Instead, the crucial element is the ratio between omega 3 fats and omega 6 fats.
Most research has found that you want a ratio between 1:1 and 1:4 of omega 3:omega 6 fats.
Daily Recommended Amounts of Each Type of Fat
Most nutritional agencies don’t have recommended amounts for these types of fats (especially omega 9s, which are non-essential).
The National Institute of Health recommends consuming between 1.1-1.6 grams of omega 3s per day for adults. This is in terms of ALA, which then will be converted to DHA and EPA.
Aim to get at least 1.1 gram of omega 3 fats per day, and 1 to 4 times that amount of omega 6 fats. More omega 3 fats are generally a good thing.
The Best Vegan Omega 3 and 6 Sources [Sortable Table]
Almost all vegan sources of fats that contain omega 3 fats are primarily made of ALA (one of the main forms of omega 3 fats). While DHA is preferred, you can be perfectly healthy with just ALA.
Note that algae has EPA and DHA (which is where fish get theirs), and there are vegan supplements that are made from algae sources. Take a look at my guide to the best vegan omega 3 supplements if you’re interested in supplementing.
One important note is that ALA converts to the more useful omega 3s (DHA and EPA) pretty poorly – around 10%. So aiming for the high side isn’t a bad idea.
*All data below is per 100 gram serving.
|Food||Fats (g)||Omega 3 (g)||Omega 6 (g)||Omega 3:6 ratio|
There are only a few types of plant foods that have a significant amount of omega 3 or 6 fats:
- Leafy greens – While they have a good ratio of omega 3 to 6 fats, they have a small amount of both fats overall. You can get your RDA of omega 3 fats from them, but not much more.
- Seeds – Seeds are amazing to get a lot of omega 3 and 6 fats in a good ratio.
- Beans – Even though beans don’t have much fat, they have a surprisingly high amount of omega 3 fats in a great ratio with omega 6 fats.
- Nuts – Nuts are almost all omega 6 fats (and a lot of them). There’s no reason not to eat them, just don’t go overboard.
Seeds are the easiest way to get a lot of omega 3 fats on a vegan diet. However, beans and leafy greens can contribute a good amount as well. Nuts are the best sources of omega 6 fats if you’re lacking them for any reason.
The Best Vegan Omega 9 Sources
Omega 9 fats are important for health, but the body can manufacture them from other fatty acids.
I still think it’s useful knowing which foods have omega 9s in them, but unfortunately no major provider of nutritional information provides data on omega 9 fats. Most people just don’t care about them too much.
Based on my research into this topic, foods that are high in omega 9s are:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Macadamia Nuts
- Sesame Oil
So you can see that it’s not too difficult to get, I just can’t find data that has the specific amount of omega 9 in each foods. I will update this page if it ever becomes available.