I have worried about Omega-3s. I've worried when my boys were little that they weren't getting enough, and I've never quite been sure if I was getting enough in a plant-based diet with sporadic dalliances with seafood.
There’s growing awareness that these fatty acids are important for heart health, brain development, mood and inflammation. The debate rages, however, as to how best we should obtain Omega-3s.
For some time, fatty fish seemed to hold out the best promise. However, many fatty fish contain high levels of toxins, like mercury, negating the benefits. Where does that leave us?
Well, fish actually derive Omega-3s through consumption of plants; algae, specifically. Just like fish, we can derive our Omega-3s from plant-based sources. In addition to algae, we can source our Omega-3s from Moringa oleifera, chia seeds, walnuts and flax seeds, some of the richest sources of plant-based Omega-3s.
It's true that plant-based Omega-3s are not the same as those found in fish. We actually differentiate between three important Omega-3 fatty acids:
ALA - alpha-linolenic acid; found in a wide range of foods
EPA - eicosapentaenoic acid; found mainly in fish
DHA - docosahexaenoic acid; found mainly in fish and seaweed
Plants like chia, flax, walnuts and Moringa provide ALA fatty acids, which our bodies convert to EPA and DHA.
It may be surprising that Moringa leaves are a source of fatty acids; they are, after all, a low fat, low calorie food. Yet, Moringa leaves contain about 2% fat, and of that fat, about 35 - 45% is ALA.
There is quite a bit of complexity around the conversion rates, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of these fatty acids. The science is well-summarized in a lengthy article by Jack Norris, RD, on the Vegan Health site.
If you want to get straight to the recommendations, scroll down to the Summary section. In brief, Norris makes three recommendations.
Optionally, supplement with DHA, though Norris has reservations on this count.
Limit the sources of Omega-6 in your diet, to bring the Omega-3s into balance. Avoiding most vegetable oils is a good way to achieve this. Avocado oil and olive oil may be the healthiest alternatives.
Add 0.5 grams of ALA fatty acids to your diet daily.
How can you get 0.5 grams of ALA fatty acids from food? Try one of these:
Each of the above contains approximately 0.5 grams of ALA. *Note that 7 tsp is more than most people will take on a daily basis. This figure is for illustration purposes only, to show that although Moringa is not a fatty food like the other superfoods in this list, it boasts a significant quantity of ALA fatty acids.
So, big sigh of relief. Getting ALA fatty acids in your diet is not impossible. In fact, it's highly do-able. Combine SuperLeaf Moringa powder with chia seeds in your morning smoothie. Throw some walnuts onto your salad at lunch and top your steamed veg at night with freshly-ground flaxseeds. Omega-3 power can be yours with these simple superfoods!