Given current healthcare statistics, it is vital to expand our knowledge and awareness, when it comes to our heart health and all aspects of the cardiovascular system. With heart disease today being the number one killer of North Americans and affecting between 1 in 2 to 3 people, it is wise to always be aware of how our lifestyle habits are impacting our health. We know today that heart disease is first and foremost a lifestyle disease and each one of us can do lots to minimize the risk, if not entirely prevent ourselves from getting any aspect of cardiovascular disease.

One of the best ways to care for our heart is to ensure a diet that includes healthy fats. One of these specifically, is the omega-3 family of essential fatty acids—ALA, EPA and DHA. These are beneficial for, and preventative against, cardiovascular disease. In a previous article this month, Evolutionary & Modern Perspectives on the Omega 3 Fatty Acids, I outlined the general ideas of how each of these fatty acids works and which food sources are best at providing them.

Whether you are a vegetarian, vegan or eat animal products regularly, most research shows that we are simply not getting enough of these protective essential fatty acids in our diet today. One of the key aspects throwing off our balance, is the presence of too many unhealthy fats. Often they contain omega-6 fatty acids—which we are getting too much of today—and which can play a role in competing in the natural conversion process that should take place within each of our bodies of ALA to EPA to DHA.

If you do eat animal products, many eggs and dairy are fortified today with omega-3 and of course fish and seafood is naturally rich in them. However, you are not out of the woods just yet, as a diet high in unhealthy fats or low in the different types of omega-3 fats can still hinder your health.

For those who are vegans and vegetarians, while ALA plant food sources are abundant and a healthy body should convert ALA into EPA and then DHA successfully, this is not guaranteed. Various vegetarian or vegan foods today are fortified with DHA for example, but normally these also come at the price of being processed foods. The original source of DHA are marine microalgae, however these are not widely available in most parts of the world. Thus, some of us may benefit from an omega-3 supplement.

In this article I will share with you two vegetarian options, which are plant sources of omega-3, specifically DHA supplements. While the omega-3 family of fats supports our cardiovascular health, DHA is especially important for healthy mental, eye and brain function.

Nature’s Way EfaGold Neuromins DHA

Nature’s Way is known as America’s leader in herbal medicine for over 40 years. They have a wide selection of reputable products, with the EfaGold Neuromins Plant Source Microalgae Oil being one of them. I decided to try a bottle of this company’s product as it was one of the very few available which provides a non-animal source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Nature’s Way Neuromins provide a source of the essential fatty acid DHA directly from the source—marine microalgae. It is labelled as being PCB and mercury free. It is a vegetarian formula, most likely suitable for vegans as well.

The product comes in a bottle of 60 softgels of 100mg strength. The softgels are red in color and small, making them very easy to swallow. The Neuromins come in 2 strengths: a 100mg DHA, which recommends taking 1 softgel, twice daily with food and a 200mg DHA, which recommends taking 1 softgel daily with food.

Upon opening the jar there is a faint marine-like fish smell, however nothing strong or repulsive. I found no flavor or scent coming back up during the digestion process. When it comes to the ingredients, as with most supplements they are not perfect but I do like that this product is labelled as containing no chemical solvents, sugars, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

Omega-3 Composition: 100mg of DHA from Algal microalgae oil of the Schizochytrium species

Other Non-medicinal Ingredients:

Vegetarian softgel [modified starch, glycerin, carrageenan, sorbitol, purified water, beta-carotene (natural color), carmel (natural color)], high oleic sunflower oil, sunflower lecithin, mixed natural tocopherols, ascorbyl palmitate.

If you are interested in trying this supplement it can cost between $15-$35 per bottle. It is available on Amazon.com:

NATURE’S WAY, Neuromins Vegetarian DHA – 60 caps

It is widely available for US residents on sites like SwansonVitamins.com ($13.00), iHerb.com ($14.78) and other online stores, plus can be found at some major health food stores.

It does not seem to be widely available in Canada. Aviva.ca sells it for $34.99 plus shipping. Most of the US online stores above will also ship to Canada, which may work out to a better price.

Nutrilite Veggie 150 Omega Complex

Nutrilite is a leader in high quality dietary supplements. Nutrilite is part of the Amway brand, which has been around since the 1950′s and have products available in over 80 countries worldwide to date. I have tried a bottle of their Veggie 150 Omega Complex and found it to be a good supplement option of DHA for vegetarians, and most likely vegans as the Neuromins above. I am not sure if it is 100% animal-product free, as it is not specified so.

The product comes in a bottle of 30 softgels. The softgels are yellow in color and on the larger side, which while I found easy to swallow, others may find problematic. It is recommended to take one softgel daily with a meal. The only thing that stood out for me in taking these, was that about an half an hour or so after taking them—while they were being digested—I had a mint falvor/aroma come back up my esophagus. It didn’t necessarily bother me, but it did make me wonder if their digestion was taking place in the most optimal way.

When it comes to the ingredients, I was a little surprised to find 3 different versions of them, however I am assuming there must be some regulatory US versus Canada differences, or some formula changes. The ingredients, as with most supplements, are not perfect. I really wish that so much of the fillers or flavors did not need to be added, and hence this is another reason why I really only recommend supplements very minimally, only if really needed. Like with the Neuromins above, there are various ingredients that can be picked apart below for being less than optimal for our health.

Omega-3 Composition: 150mg of DHA from Algal oil of the Schizochytrium species

Other Non-medicinal Ingredients:

My Bottle Canadian Web Site US Web Site
MODIFIED FOOD STARCH MODIFIED CORN STARCH TAPIOCA STARCH
GLYCERIN GLYCERIN SORBITOL SYRUP
CARRAGEENAN CARRAGEENAN MALTITOL
SUNFLOWER OIL HIGH OLEIC SUNFLOWER OIL SUNFLOWER OIL
PEPPERMINT OIL PEPPERMINT OIL GLYCEROL
DISODIUM PHOSPHATE DISODIUM PHOSPHATE PEPPERMINT OIL
ROSEMARY EXTRACT ROSEMARY EXTRACT GLYCERYL MONOSTEARATE
SOY LECITHIN SOY LECITHIN ROSEMARY EXTRACT
ASCORBYL PALMITATE SOY LECITHIN
TOCOPHEROLS EXCIPIENT

If you are interested in trying this supplement it can cost between $20-$40 per bottle. It is available on Amazon.com:

It is available for US residents for $30.50 from Amway.com

It is available for Canadian residents for $36.59 from Amway.ca

Conclusion

In conclusion both of these supplements offer vegans or vegetarians an option of a DHA supplement without any fish or animal seafood products. The ingredients of both are extremely comparable, so I cannot really say that one is better than the other. Price and availability may dictate this decision for you. For those also who cannot or prefer not to swallow large capsules, the small capsule size of the Neuromins may make that a better choice.

In terms of ALA while it never hurts to get more and it is nice that the Nutrilite brand has it, I wouldn’t make this a large deciding factor as part of your choice. Remember ALA is easily obtained from food, as long as you eat omega-3 rich plant foods regularly such as flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, etc.

In terms of EPA, neither of these supplements provides that, and if your health is compromised or you feel concerned about your body’s natural ability to convert ALA into EPA, you may want to look into other options or talk to your natural health care provider if this is even a concern for you.

If you are not a vegan or vegetarian and interested in an omega-3 supplement, then you will probably want to go with a seafood animal-based supplement. I would personally recommend krill oil over any fish oil supplement. Visit your local health food store, natural health care provider or do more of your own research as to which brand of krill or other animal based omega-3 supplement would be best. Many brands today do not offer mercury or PCB free guarantees, nor do they all have the same quality of freshness.

In the end, plant omega-3 supplements are more expensive than animal based ones. There are also not many yet available, with most health food stores offering no choices. As the demand grows, naturally both availability and prices will improve. If comparing fish and krill supplements, krill are more expansive, but they are thought to offer a higher value. There are a lot of cheap and poor quality fish oil omega-3 supplements, so indeed looking for a high quality one is key. As always looking further into all of our food and supplement choices is a smart way to ensure that what we put in, is best for our health and not a waste of our money.