Good morning friends,
I hope that you're well.
It's nearing the end of the year, which seems crazy. It feels like we have lost a few months somewhere along the way and 2020 has been a year like no other.
I can't say I'm sad about this year ending but at the same time, I'm holding onto the good memories and connections I made despite the circumstances in which we found ourselves.
Before I begin this blog post I want to stress that I'm not a nutritionist, nor an expert in supplements. This is written from my experience, research and what I've learned about supplements as someone who eats a plant-based diet. If you want to learn more about nutrition or changes to your own diet please consult a registered nutritionist.
In an ideal word we would all get everything we need from our diets.
I try my best to eat a varied and nutritious diet full of plant-based whole foods.
However, it's not always realistic or possible for me to consider everything I need all of the time. As a busy mum, and someone who doesn't always have the time to cook fresh food, I take a few supplements as an insurance policy. I also give my children supplements that are suitable for their age and needs.
As someone who eats a plant based diet there are very FEW things I can't get from nature but a few things I consider more carefully. The most common vitamin you'll hear talked about in relation to a vegan diet is Vitamin B12, which is mainly found in animal products.
It's something we all need and thankfully many vegan products are fortified with it (most shop bought plant mylks, fortified cereals, yeast flakes and yeast extract). I take a multi-vitamin that includes this every day.
Other common vitamins and minerals you may have heard talked about in reference to a plant based diet are Vitamin D, iodine and choline. These are not however unique to a vegan diet and non vegans can als0 be deficient in these. Vitamin D is recommended as a supplement for all people living in the UK (vegan or not, children and adults) especially over the winter months. This is because the main source of Vitamin D is the sun and other sources are animal products such as eggs and fatty fish.
Iodine is most commonly found in dairy and fish so anyone who has a diet low in these may not be getting enough. I choose to supplement this in my diet as part of a daily multivitamin. Choline was recently spoken about by a certain celebrity, who claimed a vegan diet doesn't provide enough of this, despite it's presence in a wide variety of vegetables, nuts, seeds and beans.
OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS
Finally, lets get on to Omega 3, which is what this post is about. Omega 3 are essential fatty acids. Our bodies can't make them, hence why they are called 'essential'. They are said to influence various processes in the body "including brain and visual development, inflammatory reactions, thrombosis and carcinogenesis."
There are 3 types of Omega 3 fatty acids. Plant based Omega 3 is called ALA. DHA and EPA are animal sources of Omega 3. Most people identify oily fish, like salmon, as the main source of Omega 3.
Something I'd never considered prior to eating a plant-based diet myself was how fish become a source of Omega 3. It turns out certain algae provide natural sources of DHA and EPA and fish don't themselves produce these fatty acids. Fish eat algae, which makes them a source of Omega 3 for humans. This makes algae the original source of Omega 3.
Fish & seafood can also be a source of harmful substances, such as heavy metals and microplastics. As our oceans have become more polluted there is a growing area of research on how these microplastics found in seafood can impact on humans too. In addition to this, much fish is farmed rather than wild, and often contains antibiotics and pesticides.
Thankfully, the human body is very clever and has the ability to convert ALA into DHA & EPA, which means we do not need animal products to provide us with the latter two. However, it has been found that this conversion can be negatively impacted by other foods.
We need to consider foods that contain Omega 6, which is present in things such as hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, soya spreads, because this can reduce the body's ability to make the conversion from ALA to DHA & EPA. It's more about "getting the right balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6", rather than banishing Omega 6 completely because it also has health benefits. The key is to increase the amount of Omega 3 we consume.
Flaxseeds are the best source of Omega 3 for vegans. They're my favourite food source of Omega 3 because they're so easy to incorporate in different meals. 1 tablespoon a day can easily be added into porridge, cereal, smoothies or pancakes. Ground flaxseed also makes a great egg substitute for baking with the added bonus of extra fibre.
Cooking with vegetable oil is another way to get more Omega 3 in your diet. Rapeseed oil is the oil I use when cooking. It's heat stable at high temperatures and has the highest amount of Omega 3 and least amount of Omega 6. I switched away from cooking with coconut oil not that long ago after realising that it was not as healthy as it was made out to be.
Vegums are a vegan supplement brand I came across when I was looking for multivitamins that were vegan and more sustainable.
Three months ago I set up a subscription for Vegums Omega 3 supplement for my son and I.
This really appealed to me because it means we receive a top up each month, without having to remember to go online and order more. I have a hard enough time trying to keep on top of food shopping, school lunch payments and having snacks for school every day, never mind supplements for everyone.
One of the things I really like about Vegums is that I don't need to order a separate child-friendly version with more packaging. Children age 3-12 years can take one gummy bear per day and children over 12 years old can take the same as an adult (2 gummy bears per day). They're very popular in our house because of the similar appearance to sweets and they taste great too.
Vegums fish free Omega 3 gummies contain 80mg of vegan DHA per dose.
The DHA comes from marine algae, which is where fish themselves obtain DHA. They eat the algae directly, or marine life that have consumed algae.
In terms of the environment, this is also beneficial because obtaining Omega 3 from algae means less harm caused to the marine system overall. Over fishing is a huge problem with an increasing gap between the supply and demand of fish for human beings. The Journal of Science study (Nov 2006) predicted that, at prevailing trends, the world would run out of wild caught seafood in 2048.
"We want to be the most sustainable food supplement provider, anywhere. ever"
One of the main reasons I signed up to Vegum's subscription service for their Omega 3 supplements was their sustainability policies and practices.
The main issue I've found with most supplements is the plastic packaging they come in. Supplements are generally sold in 30, 60 or 90 day supplies. They're most often provided in little plastic cylinder tubs that are thrown out and repurchased and then thrown out again. I always try to buy bigger quantities but the plastic tube still ends up in the bin every 90 days.
This is why Vegums appealed to me. There is no plastic tube that ends up in the bin every time I order more.
Your first order comes in a cardboard tube to store your supplements. These can be recycled and upcycled. Think plant pots, pen holders and piggy banks. Your first Vegums order also comes with a little click and clack tin that can hold a month's supply of vitamins and it's perfect for using on the go.
When you get your monthly refill of Omega 3 they arrive in a plastic-free, cellulose bag, made from cornstarch.
The bags are 100% biodegradable and can be thrown in with your compost or disposed of in your food waste bin.
The envelopes they arrive in are Jiffy green envelopes - padded and filled with recycled cerated paper. This keeps your supplements safe and secure.
There's no such thing as perfect packaging or the perfect product that ticks every single box but when I compared Vegums with other supplements (in terms of sustainability), I was happy with their service and sustainability policy. They provide me with an opportunity to move away from disposing of plastic tubes every few months and recycling as little as possible. The only thing I have to get rid of each month is a few cellulose bags that go into the compost.
If you are keen to try Vegums Omega 3, I have a 10% discount code (cupboard10) which is valid for your first Omega 3 subscription payment.
NB. I received a gifted product in order to take the above images and I also receive a small commission based on any purchase you make using my code above.