Everyone has been hearing for years about the amazing health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. It is certainly true that the health benefits they bring with them are impressive: they have been linked to decreased blood pressure and cholesterol levels and overall improved cardiac health, better brain function, reduced inflammation throughout the body and are beneficial for a number of health conditions. However, many people are under the impression that the only sources of these amazing fats are fish like salmon or tuna. The fact is, however, that there are many plant-based options for this nutrient and five of the most common are listed below.
Seeds and Nuts
Seeds like flax seeds — as well as chia and hemp seeds — are not only important for vegetarians and vegans for plant-based protein: they are also one of the best sources of the Omega-3 Fatty acids. Chia seeds, in addition, are a good source of calcium as well, also important for vegans in particular since they do not do dairy products. Be aware though, that while other seeds like pumpkin, sunflower and safflower seeds have Omega-3’s, their ratios are not as healthy. Nuts that are high in Omega-3’s include almonds and walnuts (those most nuts have them to some extent) which also give high amounts of protein.
Leafy Green Vegetables
It shouldn’t be surprising that dark leafy green vegetables such as arugula, spinach, and romaine are a good source of omega-3’s since they are rich in so many other nutrients as well, including fiber, iron, calcium and Vitamins C and K among others. The great thing about this group, too, is that they are versatile: you can eat them raw in salads but also add them to countless soups, stews and casseroles.
While legumes have lower levels of Omega-3’s than seeds do, it is in the right ratio and again, this is an important group for vegetarians and vegans to be eating from as it is another great source of plant-based protein which is also high in fiber and many minerals. Popular in this category are kidney beans, mung beans, lentils of all kinds, and peas. The fiber and Omega-3’s combined make them a particularly heart-healthy category.
Cruciferous vegetables – including broccoli, cauliflower, Bok choy, Brussels sprouts and cabbages – all have a good ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids, and of these it appears that cauliflower tops the list. What is wonderful about a diet rich in crucifers, though, is that you will not only be getting the Omega-3’s but also fiber, minerals, vitamins and a load of phytochemicals which have both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
This category may surprise some people, but the fact is that many vegetables in this category, including acorn squash, butternut squash and pumpkins, are also good providers or Omega-3’s, not to mention that many of them are also rich in Vitamins A and C, antioxidants and dietary fiber.
In short, if you are looking for plant-based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, you will have plenty to choose from. What’s even better is that these sources will also provide you with other nutrients that you also need for continued good health and wellness.
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