By most accounts, it’s safe to say a vegan or vegetarian diet is much healthier than the average American diet. By electing to forgo processed meats and other products that pose certain health risks, plant-eaters can lower their risk of cancer and heart problems. Furthermore, fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrition, providing substantial amounts of fiber, antioxidants, and other important vitamins and minerals that are proven to promote health.
Many Americans, whose diet is low in fruits and vegetables and high in starchier and fatty foods, have a far greater risk of high cholesterol, cancer, and heart disease. In fact, people who are vegan or vegetarian are 29% less likely to die from heart disease and 18% less likely to get cancer than their meat-eating counterparts.
But that doesn’t mean vegetarians and vegans are necessarily getting all the valuable nutrition they need. They, like many Americans who don’t eat enough fish, may be deficient in very important omega-3 fatty acids. And because they can’t take fish oil supplements, getting sufficient omega-3s poses a challenge.
Omega-3s are associated with combatting major killers like cancer and heart disease, along with a number of other conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other mental conditions. The active fatty acids exclusive to fish oil that offer its therapeutic effects are DHA and EPA.
And although the ability of these fatty-acids to lower cancer and heart disease risk are still being explored, there is evidence they can help with the mental conditions mentioned above, elevating the risk of vegetarians and vegans to experience them down the line. Being deficient in omega-3s can boost the risk for some serious health conditions.
Thankfully for vegans and vegetarians, new research has shown vegan, algae-based omega-3 supplementation can help. The supplement, called Ovega-3, increased DHA and EPA levels in vegans and vegetarians by 55% in a four-month trial period. The research was conducted by a team at the University of South Dakota, and the lead doctor said it is just as good as an omega-3 fish oil supplement.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, I’d strongly suggest getting some Ovega-3. If you’re a meat eater, purchase some fish oil. These supplements are available at most supplement retailers.
Heid, M., “What Are Vegetarians Supposed to do About Omega-3’s?” Prevention web site, March 2014; http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/natural-remedies/what-are-vegetarians-supposed-do-about-omega-3s, last accessed April 2, 2014.