If you haven’t already noticed, veganism in the UK is steadily on the rise. According to a recent study by comparethemarket.com, as much as 7% of the population identifies as vegan, shunning animal products and choosing to stick to a plant-based diet.
This alternative lifestyle is fast becoming the norm for many people – a sharp contrast to the mere 1% of vegans in Great Britain just two years ago, according to a poll by The Vegan Society and Vegan Life magazine.
One of the biggest questions new vegans face is: How can I get all the necessary nutrients I need to stay healthy? The good news is, a well-planned vegan diet can offer all of the essential fats, proteins and vitamins you need – it just requires careful attention.
We all need fats in our diet, and some are classed as being essential because our bodies cannot make them.
A common problem is finding sources of Omega-3 – a ‘good’ fat that may help lower the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and arthritis. With fish and seafood generally containing the most levels of Omega-3, vegans may initially find it difficult to get to grips with the plant-based foods that contain it.
Luckily, we’ve made the process a lot simpler by narrowing down the top five sources of Omega-3 that every vegan should incorporate into their diet.
1. Chia seeds
These super seeds come from the Salvia Hispanica, a flowering plant native to Central America. Research has found that, gram for gram, chia seeds contain eight times more Omega-3 than salmon, and are also packed with protein.
Available from most major supermarkets and health food shops, they are an essential source of Omega-3 in a vegan diet. Whether you opt for a drink like WOW’s chia, apple and kiwi cold-pressed juice, sprinkle them on your porridge or add to puddings for a healthy kick, there are many ways to incorporate these revolutionary little seeds into your daily diet.
2. Mustard oil
Rather than opting to cook your stir fry in sunflower oil, go for mustard oil. Usually made from mustard seeds from India, one tablespoon of mustard oil contains around 0.8g of Omega-3. Its unique, flavourful taste makes it a perfect (and healthy) option for a salad dressing.
One of the oldest life forms on Earth, this blue-green micro-algae grows naturally in warm, freshwater lakes. Usually taken in capsules or added to smoothies in a powder form, spirulina is packed full of Omega-3 and considered a superfood thanks to its staggeringly high protein content.
It’s also one of the only vegan foods that contains EPA and DHEA, the long chain Omega-3 fatty acids shared by fish. Sprinkle a teaspoon of this miracle powder into your morning smoothie or take it as a daily supplement.
Next time you’re tempted to treat yourself to an unhealthy snack, head to the nut aisle instead. Walnuts contain more Omega-3 than any other type of nut, with around 2.5g of the stuff in a one-ounce serving.
Walnuts can be added to cereal, porridge, salads and smoothies, or just taken in a handful as an afternoon snack. Not only are they a great way for vegans to get their Omega-3 levels up, they’re also full of iron, zinc and vitamin E.
Containing around 3mg of Omega-3 per 1mg of Omega-6, this juicy South Asian fruit is the perfect combination when it comes to getting one of your five-a-day as well as boosting your Omega-3 levels. In fact, one mango contains an impressive 77g of the stuff. Whether you opt to eat one for dessert, toss some wedges of it into your salsa dish with avocado and red onion or drink it in liquid form, the health benefits of this exotic, succulent fruit are endless. As a bonus? They’re also packed with fibre and antioxidants.