Well hello there! Welcome to a new section on my blog devoted to vegan family – everything from vegan weddings to vegan kiddos! Anyhoo, let’s dive into today’s topic: where to get vegan omega-3 during pregnancy.
Omega-3 is important for brain and cell development. Babies can get it from their mother, but it is key that she focuses on including omega-3 in her diet so that she does not get depleted. There are vegan sources of omega-3, both in food and supplement forms.
HOT OFF THE PRESS:
Given its role in the development of a baby’s nervous system, it’s quite important to ensure adequate amounts of it… So where can you get it from?
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What is omega-3? And why is it important during pregnancy?
Let’s head over to our good friend Wikipedia:
Omega−3 fatty acids, also called Omega−3 oils, ω−3 fatty acids or n−3 fatty acids, are polyunsaturated fatty acids. […] The three types of omega−3 fatty acids involved in human physiology are α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).Omega-3 fatty acid
Research shows some benefits from taking omega-3 during pregnancy?
Omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy can exert favorable effects against pre-eclampsia, low-birth weight, pre-term delivery, and post-partum depression.The effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids supplementation in pregnancy, lactation, and infancy: An umbrella review of meta-analyses of randomized trials
Don’t worry, you won’t be tested on this later! 😉 The main things you need to know are that:
- Omega-3 is an important nutrient for a healthy pregnancy and
- It comes in three types: ALA, EPA and DHA (more on that later).
Vegan food sources of omega-3
Oily fish is often recommended as a source of omega-3. But if you like your nutrients to come in a cruelty-free package, here are vegan sources of omega-3:
- Some vegetables, such as green leafy vegetables and peas
- Tomato paste
- Nuts and seeds*
* The NHS (National Health Service in the UK) recommends for all vegans to eat nuts and seeds rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as walnuts) every day, not just pregnant people. They specifically recommend the following oils, nuts and seeds:
- Ground linseed (flaxseed) oil
- Vegetable (rapeseed) oil
- Chia seeds
- Shelled hemp seeds
While omega-3 is present in several vegan foods, you might want to take a supplement as an “insurance policy” to make sure you’re covering all your + the baby’s needs. Which brings us to…
Can you take any omega-3 while pregnant? What omega-3 should I take?
Vegans can get ALA from the whole food plant sources above, but we convert ALA into DHA and EPA poorly (between 2-10% conversion). Therefore, pregnant women may benefit from an algae-based DHA/EPA supplement.
ISSFAL (the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids) has established the following minimum daily recommended dosages:
- 500 mg EPA+DHA (with a minimum of 220 mg EPA and 220 mg DHA) for people over the age of 15
- 300 mg of DHA for pregnant women.
Assuming you are both over 15 and pregnant, you’d therefore need at least 220 mg of EPA and 300 mg of DHA.
Please note that the NHS recommend avoiding high dose multivitamins or any supplements with vitamin A during pregnancy. Also, First Steps Nutrition Trust warns against the specialist vitamins for pregnant women:
There are a range of expensive vitamin supplements marketed for women planning a pregnancy or during pregnancy, many of which contain a whole range of other vitamins and minerals that are not needed by most women. […] Unless someone has been specifically recommended to take supplements containing additional nutrients there may be a risk associated with taking them.Eating well for a healthy pregnancy: A practical guide
So that brings us to vegan omega-3 supplements!
What is a vegan alternative to fish oil for pregnancy?
Did you know that an estimated 25% of the global fish catch is being used to produce omega-3?! This is the NHS’s advice regarding cod liver oil:
Do not take cod liver oil or any supplements containing vitamin A (retinol) when you’re pregnant. Too much vitamin A could harm your baby. Always check the label.Vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy
But are there safe vegan alternatives to fish oil? Yes, because you can cut out the middle man / fish and get omega-3 straight from algae! Which as an added benefit is a lot more environmentally-friendly.
If you’re in the US, you could take the Complement Omega Complex, and have a bit more than the recommended dose, as that only provides 150 mg of EPA (but discuss it with your doctor / midwife first!!).
In the UK, you could take two of these a day to cover the EPA and DHA recommended amounts above.
Together Natural Algae DHA Omega 3 30 Softgels
Disclaimer / sources
I am neither a doctor, nor a nutritionist, nor a midwife… Just someone who has had two healthy vegan pregnancies! You know the drill: this article does not constitute medical advice, use your common sense and consult with health professionals. 😊
That being said, I have referred to the work of actual health professionals when writing it. You might find the following resources helpful:
- Eating well for a healthy pregnancy: a practical guide
- The vegan diet
- Foods to avoid in pregnancy
- Plant-based nutrition for kids by Dr. Pamela Ferguson – included in a No Meat Athlete bundle that is no longer available
This blog post was all about vegan omega-3 during pregnancy
I hope you found it useful! If so, don’t be shy, come say hi on Instagram and tell me! 😊