Alpha-Linolenic acid (or ALA) is a triple-bonded unsaturated fatty acid that the human body needs but cannot produce on its own, so we need to consume sufficient quantities in our food. Our organism synthesises alpha-Linolenic acid into two fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. They help protect the nervous system, generate neural tissue and support normal brain function.
Which foods contain alpha-Linolenic acid?
Fatty types of fish, such as herring, mackerel, salmon and tuna, seafood and various vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and peas are particularly rich in the essential fatty acid. Dietary supplements such as fish oil capsules are widespread, but there are vegetable-based alternatives, too. Vegetable oils that are known for their high amount of alpha-Linolenic acid include linseed oil, hemp oil and walnut oil. With an ATA content of around 50%, linseed oil is the clear pick of the litter.
Vegetable fats for a healthy diet
Vegetable fats are an excellent source of ALA and can form a regular part of a healthy diet. Put a spoonful into your breakfast cereal, your lunch salad dressing or a dip to have with a vegetable platter for dinner. You will cover your ATA requirements easily, even if you are not a fan of fish. High-grade oils have more benefits than ATA alone, and they are essential for a healthy, balanced diet.
Good to know:
Our body converts approx. 10% of alpha-Linolenic acid into DHA and EPA. Athletes need to be aware that their body requires more. There are many studies on the differences between animal sources and plant-based sources.