Can vegans get omega 3?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Can vegans get omega 3?” and will discuss the vegans’ sources of omega 3.

Can vegans get omega 3?

Yes, vegans can get omega 3. Omega 3 is mainly present in seafoods which are prohibited for the vegans to eat. So, for the vegans to make their omega 3 requirement there are many omega 3 supplements available derived from plant sources.

 A lot of focus is placed on omega 3 fats in the nutrition industry since it is a great source of health benefits. Omega 3 fatty acids are vital for human health and provide a long list of health advantages. Because vegan diets may be deficient in this vitamin, vegans must know how to get enough Omega 3s in their meals. vegetarian populations have omega-3 indices up to 60% lower than those who consume marine products (1).

Studies show that the supplementation of DHA using algae sources are effective in raising the levels of these fatty acids in serum and plasma. Increases in omega-3 indices were reported to range from 55% to 82% within groups supplemented with algal DHA. Similarly, DHA serum total phospholipids and platelet phospholipids were also elevated after algal supplementation, with increases ranging from 238% to 246% and 209–225% in total and platelet phospholipids, respectively (1).

What are omega 3s?

DHA is one of the two most prevalent polyunsaturated fatty acids in brain and retinal phospholipids (along with arachidonic acid) and plays a key role in normal neurotransmission and visual function and can be incorporated into cardiac and skeletal muscle. DHA is a long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid with a range of proposed health benefits, including assisted fetal development, improved cardiovascular function, a reduced incidence of dementia and improved cognitive functioning (1).

Fatty acids such as omega 3s are found in foods like salmon and walnuts. Omega 3s and omega 6s are the two kinds of important fatty acids that humans need. Even though omega 3 fatty acids are sometimes lumped together, there are several distinct forms of omega 3 fatty acids. ALA, EPA, and DHA are the three forms of omega 3s that people should pay attention to. They all play distinct roles in the body and consequently have diverse effects on health outcomes.

Omega 3 fats cannot be synthesized by the body, hence consuming them (together with omega 6s) is critical. According to research studies, diets with a high ratio of LA:ALA suppress the synthesis of DHA and favor the production of docosapentaenoic acid (22:5 n-6; DPA-n-6), which replaces DHA in retinal and neural tissues. It has been suggested, however, that synthesis of DHA from ALA is inefficient and that the consumption of DHA would augment the supply to the brain (2). Therefore, vegans need to supplement their diets with DHA supplements.

Recommended Daily Omega 3 Intake for Vegans

There are guidelines for omega 3 consumption for the general population. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommends 450-500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per day. Those with coronary heart disease should consume 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acid per day, preferably from fatty fish. .

However, what about EPA and DHA, two additional omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical for good health?

Vegans who consume enough quantities of omega 3 fatty acids, such as those described above, may not need to worry about EPA. However, since a substantial quantity of ALA is needed to create acceptable levels of DHA in the blood, some vegan healthcare practitioners go one step further in their recommendations. When it comes to omega-3s, vegans should ingest an extra 200-300 mg of DHA  per day (found in plant-based foods as ALA) or take an omega-3 supplement. However, studies show that most humans (except those with inborn errors of metabolism) can convert LA to AA and modestly convert ALA to EPA and/or DHA. The human conversion rate of ALA to EPA and DHA is about 5%–8%. This low conversion rate suggests humans should consume dietary sources of EPA and DHA (3).

Before making any dietary or supplement changes, talk to your doctor or a dietician. There’s no maximum limit on omega 3 consumption, but taking too much might have adverse effects like increased bleeding and bruising, so getting more isn’t always better.

Deficiency in Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The essential fatty acid shortage is exceedingly unusual, due to the minimal dietary need for omega 3s and omega 6s for fundamental function. Omega 3 deficiency is more common in infants and people who are in the hospital. In times of poor nutritional intake or malabsorption, the body may store omega-3 fatty acids in adipose tissue (body fat).

Reduced central nervous system development and lowered IQ in children are two signs of omega 3 deficiency. Other symptoms include impaired visual acuity and retinal development. Rough, scaly skin and dermatitis may also be caused by a deficit. Most people’s diets include enough omega 3 fatty acids to keep these side effects at bay.

Studies show that breast fed babies have been shown to have more DHA content in their brains with 8 points higher IQ compared to formula fed babies. The studies have shown that breast fed infants of mothers who were supplemented with DHA during lactation, had significantly better psychomotor development, eye-hand coordination and visual acuity at 2.5 years compared to breast fed infants of mothers who received a placebo). Until recently, baby formulas available in the developed countries were not supplemented with DHA (4).

Researchers haven’t found a threshold of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood or tissues below which we’d observe these effects. Optimum long-term health is distinct from only addressing one’s body’s fundamental demands.

How to Get Enough Omega 3s in Your Diet Despite Being Vegan?

Vegans can acquire adequate omega 3 fatty acids from their diet. Given the prevalence of specific omega 3s in plant-based foods, getting the daily recommended amount is not difficult. ALA, on the other hand, requires conversion in the body to EPA and subsequently DHA, which the body isn’t very good at accomplishing.

Many vegan meals include large amounts of omega-3 ALA fatty acids. Vegans may get omega 3s from a variety of plant-based sources, including hemp, chia, and ground flaxseed, as well as walnuts and soy products (such as tofu, tempeh, and soy milk). Canola oils, which are vegan, contain substantial levels of the anti-inflammatory amino acid ALA (3).

As mentioned above, marine algae, the primary producer of DHA in the marine food chain, offer an alternative source of DHA for those who do not consume marine or animal products (1).

Omega 3 supplements for vegans

To satisfy DHA production demands, additional study is required to discover the best quantity of vegan omega 3 dietary sources. Plant-based diets include omega-3s in the form of ALA, which must be processed into EPA and then DHA before they can be used. The conversion from DHA 2 to DHA 3 occurs slowly in the body.

Doctors now advise vegans to ingest more omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) from diet or take a DHA supplement, depending on their personal preferences (always speak to your doctor before starting any supplements) DHA supplementation is often advised at 200-300 mg daily (3).

Most people don’t need an ALA supplement if they consume enough omega-3-rich meals already. EPA may or may not be required, depending on one’s diet’s consumption of omega 3 fatty acids. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning or discontinuing any new supplement regimen, and consider working with a nutritionist to develop a meal plan that suits your dietary requirements.

Numerous vegan omega 3 supplements are available on the market, most of which come from algae (1). 

Other FAQs about Vegans that you may be interested in.

Can you eat fish on a vegan diet?

d’vegan menu

Do vegans actually make a difference?


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Can vegans get omega 3?” and discussed the vegans’ sources of omega 3.


  1. Craddock, J. C., et al. Algal supplementation of vegetarian eating patterns improves plasma and serum docosahexaenoic acid concentrations and omega‐3 indices: a systematic literature review. J Human Nutr Diet, 2017, 30, 693-699.
  2. Sanders, Thomas AB. DHA status of vegetarians. Prostagland, leukotr essent fatty acids, 2009, 81, 137-141.
  3. Burns-Whitmore, Bonny, et al. Alpha-linolenic and linoleic fatty acids in the vegan diet: do they require dietary reference intake/adequate intake special consideration?. Nutrients, 2019, 11, 2365.
  4. Singh, Meharban. Essential fatty acids, DHA and human brain. Ind J Pediatr, 2005, 72, 239-242.