Best Plant Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Plant-Based Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Hemp, chia and flax seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
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Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain and nervous system function, plus they have anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 fatty acids must come from your diet -- the human body can't make them.

Three forms of omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in fish, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in plants.

Health experts suggest eating fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids at least two times per week to the meet your EPA and DHA requirements. 

But, what if you don't like fish or just prefer a vegetarian or vegan diet? While your body can't make omega-3 fatty acids from scratch it can convert some ALA to either DHA or EPA. However, it's not clear if plant-based omega-3 have the same impact on heart health.

But even if you do like fish, it's a good idea to get more plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Here's a look at some of our favorites.

Flax Seeds

Flax seeds and oil are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
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Flax seeds are high in alpha-linolenic acid as well as vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytosterols, which may have additional health benefits. You'll find whole flax seeds, milled flax seeds, and flax seed oil. Plus, many 'natural' snack foods include flax. Sprinkle flaxseeds on cereal, soup, and salads.

Pro tip: keep your flax seeds and flax oil in the refrigerator to keep them fresh. 

Nutrition Information for Flax Seeds

Healthy and Delicious Recipes With Flax Seeds 


Edamame is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
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Edamame is young soybeans that are boiled and left to cool before served, usually still in the shell. They're high in alpha-linolenic acid and a number of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, plus they're high in protein. Edamame is often served at Japanese restaurants and is available in the freezer section of most grocery stores.

Pro tip: serve edamame as a healthy afternoon snack.

Nutrition Information for Edamame

Learn More About Edamame

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Chia seeds. Kristin Duvall/Getty Images

Seeds and nuts tend to be the best sources of healthy fats and chia seeds are no exception. In addition to their high ALA content, chia seeds are a good source of dietary fiber, plus a few vitamins and minerals.

Pro tip: try chia in place of flax seeds, or as a healthy addition to cereal or salad.

Nutrition Information for Chia Seeds

Learn More About Chia Seeds

Canola Oil

Canola oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
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Canola oil is an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid, and it's such a versatile cooking oil. Canola oil withstands high temperatures well and has a mild flavor, so it's an appropriate choice for almost any type of cooking, baking, or for use as an ingredient in dressings and sauces.

Pro tip: use canola oil as a lighter tasting alternative to olive oil.

Nutrition Information for Canola Oil

Learn More About Canola Oil


Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
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When it comes to overall nutrition, walnuts are some of the best nuts around. They're tops as far as total alpha-linolenic acid content, and they're high in protein and several vitamins and minerals. Walnuts make a great snack, salad, cereal and yogurt topping, or delicious ingredient in both baked goods and savory dishes. Use walnut oil to make salad dressing.

Pro tip: buy walnuts in the shell for maximum freshness and keep all nuts refrigerated.

Nutrition Information for Walnuts

Healthy Recipes With Walnuts

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
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Pumpkin seeds are an excellent snack choice for increasing your intake of ALA. Plus they've got calcium, magnesium, ​and protein. They're also high in fiber. You can find pumpkin seeds in your local grocery store, or you can make your own toasted pumpkin seeds at home.

Pro tip: buy pumpkin seeds that have already been shelled -- they're much easier to eat.

Nutrition Information for Pumpkin Seeds

Prepare Your Pumpkin Seeds

Pine Nuts

Pine nuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
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Pine nuts are another good source of ALA, plus they're high in protein, monounsaturated fats, manganese and some B-complex vitamins. You can find pine nuts at your local grocery store. They're usually already shelled.

Pro tip: serve pesto made with pine nuts with whole grain bread for an excellent appetizer.

Nutrition Information for Pine Nuts

Recipes Featuring Pine Nuts

Navy Beans

Dried White Navy Beans
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Navy beans are a good plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. Plus they're ann excellent source of non-dairy calcium. They're also high in fiber and manganese. Navy beans can be used in most recipes that call for dry white beans.

Pro tip: keep a few cans of navy beans on hand to add to soup or quick recipes.

Nutrition Information for Navy Beans

Healthy Navy Bean Recipes

Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
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Hemp seeds won't get you high, but they might help you get healthy. They're rich in omega-3 fatty acids and minerals such as iron and magnesium. They're not as common as flax seeds, but you should be able to find hulled hemp seeds in health food stores or the natural food section of your local grocery stores. 

Pro tip: use hemp seeds as an alternative to flax seeds -- they're tiny and can be added to just about anything.

Nutrition Information for Hemp Seeds

Healthy Recipes Featuring Hemp


Harvard School of Public Health. "Ask the Expert: Omega-3 Fatty Acids." Accessed April 16, 2016, 2015.

Lane K, Derbyshire E, Li W, Brennan C. "Bioavailability and potential uses of vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids: a review of the literature." Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(5):572-9. Accessed April 16, 2016.

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. Accessed April 16, 2016.

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