Food pyramids, weight charts, food labels are good reference sources for people who want to watch what they eat. I am also realizing that vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more and more common even in the densest meat eating populations, which is heartening indeed. However, diets based mainly on plant sources have to be supplemented in order to incorporate some micro nutrients and essential acids which are in short supply in the food that is generally consumed. For e.g. calcium is readily available in dairy products, but if you are a vegan then you have to depend on soy products, dark green leafy produce. Vitamins B and B12 are not processed by either plants or animals. Vegans and vegetarians can get this essential nutrient ( required for cell division and blood formation) by including fortified cereals and milks in their diet .Nutritional yeast is also a good source of Vit. B12.
Another essential nutrient that I want to pay attention to today are Omega 3 Fatty Acids. These are not produced in the human body but are required for well being. Omega 3's are readily available in fish, eggs and some meat products. This often poses a problem for diets abstaining from meat.
Why do we need Omega 3 acids , you ask ? Well, these acids are deemed essential to normal growth in children. After much debate and research it has also been shown that this component reduces the risk of coronary heart diseases. People suffering from Depression, strokes, blood circulation problems all seem to benefit from this essential nutrient. Its also a point to note that a small amount of Omega 3 fatty acids was sufficient and increasing the quantity had no additional benefits !
So, coming back to Vegetarian sources of Omega 3's, without further ado:
- Flax Seeds
** Eggs, Milk and cheese are also good sources of Omega 3.
I was always partial to nuts and had no problem retaining them in my diet. But my husband and I also started using Flax seeds to reap its nutritional benefits. Flax seeds are available as whole form as well as ground. Whole seeds pass through the human body undigested,so if you buy the seeds, then you have to grind it to a fine powder before using it.
Both forms of flax are available in grocery stores and whole food stores. The seeds have a very high content of oil, so its recommended that they be stored in the freezer.
Now for some advertising for the tiny flax seeds that pack such a nutritive punch !
- Flax seeds are one of the best plant based sources of Omega 3 fatty acids
- They contain both soluble as well as insoluble fiber.
- They are also one of the best sources of lignans and phytoestrogens which are supposed to prevent breast, colon and prostrate cancer.
- Flax is safe for everybody, including pregnant and lactating women.
How to use Flax Seeds:
- Flax seeds have a distinctive nutty flavour. Ground seeds can be mixed in smoothies and fruit drinks.
- Ground flax seed can be sprinkled over any kind of sandwich or salad for a nutty, crunchy taste.
- Flax seeds can also be sprouted and used in salads.
- Flax seeds can be used as an egg replacer in baked goods.
- A couple of tablespoons of flour can be replaced by ground flax seed in baked products.
Excess consumption of flax seeds can cause diarrhea.
The flax plant is grown for both its seeds as well as for its fibers. Various parts of the plant have been used for making fabric, dye, paper, medicines, fishing nets and soap.
The use of flax for the production of linen goes back 5000 years !!!
Please note that this article is for reference purposes only...something for you to start your own research. It is not intended as a diagnostic article..I have no medical background ! Please consult a physician if you are troubled by any of the above mentioned ailments. However, if you are looking to supplement your vegetarian / vegan diet for Omega 3 fatty acids, then don't hesitate to grab a box of milled flax seed on your next grocery run !
Here are a few more links about Flax and its benefits: