Omega-3 for Vegans

Fishes and Fish oils have long been and are considered as the very rich source of Omega-3 PUFA throughout the world which lies to be very true and supported with loads of research article and blogs. But the question remains what for the vegans who would not like to take fish or are uncomfortable in galloping fish oil pills. Is there any such source which would compete with the nutrient value of sea fishes and fish oils available in the market?

Well, the answer is Yes! there are alternatives for vegans to gain the omega-3 from the diet. One such popular source is “Flaxseed”.


Flaxseed or Linum usitatissimum, is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is commonly found plant around the world. Textiles made from it are commonly known as Linen and oil is also known as Linseed oil. The major omega-3 found in this oil is ALA (Alpha –linolenic acid, C18:3 n-3) which get metabolized to EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid, C20:5 n-3) and DHA (Docosapentaenoic acid, C22:6 n-3) the major omega-3 PUFAs in our body. Hence,  referred as “parent essential fatty acid”.


Source: Bailey N. Current choices in omega 3 supplementation. Nutrition bulletin. 2009 Mar 1;34(1):85-91.

All the omega-3 fatty acids have multiple beneficial roles and are used as a therapeutic agent for different disease conditions such cardiovascular diseases, cancer, inflammatory diseases, diabetes, psychological disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, TBI, stroke, etc. Flaxseed is unique as it not only provides the essential parent fatty acid but also with lignans, a type of type of phytoestrogen which has many health benefits. It acts as a good source of fiber and laxative and also ameliorates dyslipidemia. Although marine sources are a good source of omega-3 they lack lignans and are at the risk of containing traces of harmful metals such as mercury. Probably that is the reason that FDA and Health Canada advice pregnant women and young children to refrain from consuming certain sea fishes. Flaxseed has other advantages  over the consumption of fish sources of omega-3 due to concerns regarding the cost, sustainability of seafood and limitation in global availability.

How much to consume? What is the recommended dose?

Before knowing the specific dose of flaxseed, let us know the recommended dose for omega-3 PUFA. Based on this, the dose of flaxseed could be decided as flaxseed oil has around 51-55% of ALA and ground flaxseed has 23% of ALA as a major source of omega-3.

Based on the above recommendation consumption of flaxseed either in the form of oil or ground powder either mixed with water or juice can be calculated and followed.

Approximately 1 tbsp. of flaxseed oil has 8 g of ALA and 124 kcal of energy. 1 tsp. of flaxseed oil has 2.8 g of ALA and 44 kcal of energy. Whereas 1 tbsp. of ground flaxseed has 1.8 g of ALA and 36 kcal of energy and 1 tsp. has 1.1 g of ALA and 12 kcal of energy.

Doses in the table have been collected and calculated from different sources. Patients are requested to consult the concerned physicians before starting the supplementation.

World Health Organization. Fats and fatty acids in human nutrition. Report of an expert consultation. FAO Food Nutr Pap. 2010;91:1–166.

Fao J, Consultation WHOE, Acids F, Nutrition H. Interim Summary of Conclusions and Dietary Recommendations on Total Fat & Fatty Acids Summary of Total Fat and Fatty Acid Requirements for Adults, Infants ( 0-24 months ) and Children ( 2-18 years ). Children. 2008;10–4

International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids. Control. 2004;(June):1–22.

Simopoulos AP. Summary of the NATO advanced research workshop on dietary omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids: biological effects and nutritional essentiality. J Nutr. 1989 Apr;119(4):521–8.

Vannice G, Rasmussen H. Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics: Dietary fatty acids for healthy adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014 Jan;114(1):136–53.

Evert AB, Boucher JL, Cypress M, Dunbar SA, Franz MJ, Mayer-Davis EJ, et al. Nutrition Therapy Recommendations for the Management of Adults With Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2013 Nov 1;36(11):3821–42.

Freeman MP, Hibbeln JR, Wisner KL, Davis JM, Mischoulon D, Peet M, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006 Dec;67(12):1954–67.


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