Whether you’re a seasoned vegetarian or only recently jumped onto the veggie bandwagon, it can often be challenging to make sure you’re getting all your necessary nutrients. Sure, you can take supplements and multivitamins, but it’s always great to know you’re meeting your nutritional needs the natural way. For the most part, staying healthy with a meatless diet isn’t a huge strain. Between leafy greens, beans, and nuts, your diet is packed with superfoods. But for a few notoriously meat-based nutrients, finding non-animal sources can be a challenge.
One example that stands out is omega-3 fatty acids, which you know by now are crucial to helping your body function. Plus, they pack all kinds of other health benefits like lowering your risk of depression, protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s, and even controlling asthma. But think about it: What food do you automatically associate with omega-3s? Salmon. However, if you live the “fish are friends, not food” lifestyle, where are you supposed to get an adequate amount of this important nutrient? Good news vegetarians: Salmon isn’t the only source of this staple. Here are 7 veggie-friendly foods rich in omega-3s.
Flaxseeds are among the most commonly known veggie-friendly sources of omega-3s. Just 1 tablespoon boasts 7,980 milligrams of the fatty acid. The good news about this superfood is it’s super easy to incorporate into your diet. Since they’re basically tasteless, you can toss flaxseeds into cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, or really anything you don’t mind adding a tad of texture to. You can even use flaxseeds as an egg substitute in baking, as in this recipe for vegan chocolate chip cookies from Oh She Glows. The possibilities are endless!
2. Chia seeds
Another big source of omega-3s packed into a tiny package is Chia seeds. Chia seeds actually provide even more omega-3s than their flax counterpart, as well as calcium, phosphorus, and fiber — all nutrients we could use a bit more of in our diets. Like flaxseeds, chia seeds have minimal flavor, so they can be added to everything from salad to stir-fry. To satisfy some dessert cravings while getting your omega-3 fix, enjoy some easy-to-make chocolate chia pudding from Minimalist Baker.
When it comes to packing in the protein, nuts are a vegetarian’s best friend. But did you know they’re also a fantastic source of omega-3s? The best choice for optimal fatty acids: walnuts. Just a quarter cup provides 14% of the ALA — a type of omega-3 fatty acid — you’ll need every day. Have a handful as a snack or toss them into your salad to boost your omega-3 intake for the day.
4. Brussels sprouts
One of the top omega-3 veggies out there is none other than trendy Brussels sprouts. This one might seem strange considering we normally associate omega-3 fatty acids with, well, fatty foods. But believe it or not, a single 100-calorie serving of Brussels sprouts contains 430 milligrams of ALA — more than one-third of the daily amount recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. Sauté these sprouts with some lemon and pecan for a tasty side dish to boost your omega-3s.
Another surprising low-calorie source of omega-3s in the cabbage family is cauliflower. Just one cup of cauliflower contains 37 milligrams of omega-3s, as well as necessary nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and niacin. Cauliflower often gets a bad rep for being uber-bland, but you it doesn’t have to be. Try this recipe for “the best cauliflower ever” from Food Network.
Sticking with the shocking veggie theme, another great source of omega-3s is everyone’s favorite food fad: kale. Yet another reason to hail kale, along with other dark leafy greens, is it’s a fantastic source of omega-3s. Just one cup fills you with 56% of the recommended value. For something a little different than your basic salad or green juice, try this recipe for braised kale fritatta.
7. Navy beans
Beans may not boast the same amount of omega-3s as nuts and seeds, but in a plant-based diet, they meet many necessary nutrient needs. Not only are beans a great source of omega-3s, but they also provide protein and fiber. When it comes to picking the optimal bean, navy is a great choice since it contains the highest amount of omega-3s compared to other varieties. Considering beans are already a major protein staple, they shouldn’t be hard to maintain in your diet. But if you’re looking for a new way to dish out this particular variety, try Cooking Light’s recipe for hearty navy bean soup.