The omega fatty acids are called “essential” for two reasons. They are necessary for several body functions, but they are also called essential because our bodies cannot make them. We can only get them from food. The food sources are varied and are generally a small part of the typical Indian diet. This is partly because of Indian diets are low on non-vegetarian sources. But there are several vegetarian sources that are not as well known to contain these necessary nutrients.
There is a vast body of research that shows that these polyunsaturated fats lower the risk of heart disease by reducing the bad cholesterol in blood. Some more recent studies have found that these fats lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and improve cognitive resilience preventing age-related brain decline.
Omega-6 comes from linoleic acid which is quite common in plant oils like soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and several others. But it is the omega-3 that is much less easy to find, especially in vegetarian sources. Here is a list of sources you can depend on, without having to resort to supplements.
Flax seeds (also known as linseeds) are among the best sources of omega-3. They contain 6.33 mg of it in every 100g, making them the best vegetable source. Flax seed oil is also a good source, but 100 grams of flax seeds contain 27 grams of fibre! How to eat it? A flax seed muffin or some flax seed added to your atta can set you up not just for your fatty acid intake but also your fibre.
Mustard is a regular part of the Indian diet. But what is not well-known is that they are an excellent source of selenium and a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition they are an excellent source of the trace mineral selenium. Selenium is essential for health because of its antioxidant properties.
Mustard oil is a staple in India. It is generally used in cooking, but also makes a great solid dressing. Dijon Mustard makes a great condiment on sandwiches.
Hemp contains a great mix of fatty acids: it has omegas 3 and 6, and also Gamma Linoleic Acid another important fatty acid. It contains these in perfect balance, making it a great food. It also has a high amount of protein. Along with all these hemp is treasure trove of minerals like iron, zinc, sulphur, potassium, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, and also antioxidants like chlorophyll.
Hemp oil is not really suitable for cooking because it has a low smoking point. But it can be used in salad dressings. You can also drizzle it over pasta or over stir fried vegetables. The seeds are much more easily incorporated into diet. They can be used as sprinkles in your morning cereal. They can also be added to your smoothies.
Every 100 grams of these seeds pack in 24 grams of omega-3s. They are a nutrition packed food containing, as they do, lots of protein, fibre, antioxidants, and calcium. There are studies that examined the effect of eating chia seeds on heart health and found that by the end of the trial the subjects had a 40 percent less chance of cardiovascular issues. This is partly because of the omega-3s, but the antioxidants also make a difference.
Chia seeds when wet have a gelatinous texture. So eating them on their own or as the main ingredient in a dish is out. Mix the chia seeds into oatmeal, yogurt, or other wet foods. One of the most common ways to eat chia seeds raw is to sprinkle them over or mix them into other dishes. Stir them in any wet food to turn the dry seeds gelatinous and mushy, which will help them blend into the food less obviously.
Walnuts not only taste great but are a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and an excellent source of those hard to find omega-3 fatty acids. They are also a source of phenolic acids which are essential for healthy skin. There are also an extremely rich source of vitamin E. They are replete with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients.
How should you eat them? Anyway you like your nuts. But remember, keep the skin on. You can add them to you oatmeal, fruit salads, even eat them on their own. Eat them with some dry fruits. The walnuts will add a crunch while the sweetness of the fruits will offset their bitterness.