Plant Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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? Though your body can't make omega-3 fatty acids from scratch, it can convert some ALA to either DHA or EPA. Some studies have indicated that plant-based omega-3s could have the same heart health benefits as DHA and EPA, but more clinical research is still needed.

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


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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 flaxseed oil. Plus, many natural snack foods include flax. Sprinkle flaxseeds on cereal, soup, and salads.

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




Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Edamame are young soybeans that are steamed and boiled, usually served while they're 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.


Chia Seeds

Chia seeds

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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, smoothies, or salads.


Canola Oil

Canola oil

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Canola oil is an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid, and it's such a versatile cooking oil. Canola oil withstands high temperatures 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.




Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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: For maximum freshness, keep your walnuts refrigerated.


Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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.


Pine Nuts

Pine Nuts

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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.


Navy Beans

Navy Beans

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Navy beans are a good plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. Plus they're an excellent source of non-dairy calcium. They're also high in fiber and magnesium. 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.


Hemp Seeds

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

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 always 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 many grocery stores. You can also order them online.

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

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Article Sources
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  3. Cleveland Clinic. Boost Your Cholesterol-Lowering Potential With Phytosterols. Updated October 5, 2019.

  4. American Heart Association. Pumpkin seeds pack a healthy punch. 2018.

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  6. Rodriguez-leyva D, Pierce GN. The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010;7:32. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-7-32