Vegetarians: Are you getting enough Omega-3's?

Get comfy because you are about to get schooled. When I first became a vegetarian I didn’t do any research into it. I just gave up meat and *poof* I was a vegetarian. I always find it ironic that once people go vegetarian they are often asked how they get the right amount of {insert nutrient here}  in their diet. I mean, how many meat eaters are constantly evaluating their diets to make sure they are getting proper nutrition? I certainly never did!

Aside from the usual suspects (protein & iron) there are other nutritional issues vegetarians face. One that I have been struggling with is getting adequate amounts of healthy fats in my diet. Over the course of the day most of my meals are based around a healthy ratio of complex carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables (leaving my fruits as snacks throughout the day.) I’ve realized that aside from a small handful of nuts and maybe a splash of olive oil I rarely have healthy sources of fat in my meals. No bueno! I’ve read that the average diet should get 25-35% of their daily calories from healthy fat and mine was more like 20%. I’m working on bumping it up to 30% and getting my fats from the best sources.

Here's a look at an average day for me (although I'm eating about 1800 calories a day now!)

Calories

One type of fat in particular is very hard for vegetarians to get – Omega 3’s. Omega 3’s are made up of 3 types of fatty acids ALA, DHA and EPA. ALA you can get from flax and walnuts (and I’ve been putting flax seed in my oatmeal every day!)  Most non-vegetarians get the other two, DHA and EPA, from eating fish or taking fish oil supplements. I prefer to get my nutrients from food versus pills when possible (although I do take iron and calcium supplements.) Problem with DHA and EPA  is that, from what I’ve found researching online, it is only available from fish or algae!

So – I’ve started munching on raw algae with every meal.

I kid.

After looking around online I found the two best sources of DHA and EPA are spirulina and chlorella. You can eat spirulina directly (it’s the only ingredient to energy bits!) but you can also find both in supplement form. I actually had the bright idea to look into the ingredient list for AmazingGrass chocolate super food (what a name!) and saw that it contains both spirulina and chlorella. So – I’ve been drinking one serving with breakfast for the last week. I can’t lie – even the chocolate flavor has a bit of a ‘green’ aftertaste but I’ve found sweetening it with a few drops of liquid stevia helps tremendously.

Chocolate

Have I noticed any huge difference? No, not yet. I do feel better knowing I’m getting the nutrients I need and am going to continue doing more research into optimizing my vegetarian diet.

Reminder: I am not a nutritionist or a medical doctor. These are my thoughts/opinions based on personal experience and research. Always talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements!

Further Reading:

8 Ways to Sneak More Omega-3's into Your Vegetarian Diet

Healthy Fats for Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

How much do you think about your nutritional needs?

Do you think there is a nutrient you are not getting enough of?