What is DHA?
Docosahexaeonic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid. Understandably, this important compound usually goes by its nickname, DHA.
Omega-3s are incredibly important for good health. DHA, in particular, is critical for brain, eye, and skin health. It also plays a crucial role in the brain and eye growth of a developing fetus.
Where does DHA come from?
DHA comes from tiny algae. Animals can either get DHA from eating the algae or from eating other animals that eat algae. As a consequence, it is typically more concentrated in animals that are higher up in the food chain.
There are also some natural forms of DHA found in certain seed oils.
There are many DHA supplements, and they derive their DHA from a variety of plant and animal sources.
What are the Different Sources of DHA in Supplements?
Finding the best source of DHA is a bit of a balancing act.
On the one hand, you want to find a source that is easily absorbed. Yet, you also want to find one that is ethically sourced. You also want to make sure that there are no other unintended side effects.
Your main options for DHA are fish, natural fish oil, processed fish oil, other animal oils, ALA oil, and algal oil.
One way to get enough DHA is to eat a lot of fatty fish, especially salmon, tuna, herring, and trout. Though this seems like the most natural way to get enough DHA, most fish contain high amounts of heavy metals. Consuming enough to meet your DHA requirements could result in you consuming too many dangerous toxins and metals.
In addition, many people don’t eat much fish because of the cost or the taste. Others, including vegetarians and vegans, do not consume animal products for a variety of reasons.
Natural Fish Oil
For people who do not oppose eating meat, fish oil is one DHA supplement option. Though it is cheaper and easier than eating a lot of fish, it does run a high risk of contamination with metals.
Processed Fish Oil
Processed fish oils have a higher concentration of DHA than natural fish oil and are generally filtered of toxins.
Unfortunately, however, processing the fish oil means that it is not absorbed as easily and that it goes bad quickly. Since it is still ultimately derived from a living creature, it is also not a realistic choice for vegans or vegetarians.
Other Animal Oils
Other animals, such as mussels, krill, and even seals contain high amounts of DHA. Some supplements are made using oil from these animals. They can be easily absorbed like their fish cousins, and are less prone to contamination. They also tend to taste better.
On the other hand, however, these supplements (especially mammalian seal oil!) are certainly not vegan or vegetarian friendly.
Seeds such as hemp, flax, and chia all contain high amounts of DHA, which is great news for vegans and vegetarians!
Except that the DHA found in these seeds, namely ALA, is not easily absorbed. In fact, plant forms of DHA usually contain more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. Although these two compounds sound similar, omega-6 fatty acids cause inflammation and other health problems. It’s best to steer clear of them!
But what about the original source?
Animals at the bottom of the food chain get their DHA from algae. Algal oil contains DHA that is also easily absorbed by humans with virtually no toxins. Unlike seed oils, it is not high in omega-6 fatty acids and can be harvested in an eco-friendly way.
The best part? Algal oil is allowable regardless of how you eat! Vegans and vegetarians can finally rejoice!
Differences Between Vegan DHA Supplements and Regular DHA Supplements
The difference between vegan DHA supplements and “regular” DHA supplements is that vegan DHA sources do not involve killing any living creatures. Consuming “regular” DHA means that a mussel, a fish, or even a seal had to die so that you could get omega-3. The harvesting practices for these sources are often terrible for the environment on top of everything else.
Instead, vegan DHA gets you the vital nutrition you need without doing any harm.
Where Can You Get Vegan DHA?
You can get vegan DHA by eating seeds or by taking supplements. If you want optimum health, however, seeds may not be your best bet since they also contain high amounts of inflammation-inducing omega-6 fatty acids.
If you opt for supplements, we recommend one derived from algal oil. Diet Standards makes a vegan DHA supplement for pregnant women in this way.
Why is Taking DHA Even More Important for a Vegan?
Most people need DHA supplements. In fact, some studies estimate that only about 2% of people get enough from diet alone.
But vegans may need supplements even more. Fish are a huge no-no for vegans, but they are also the most bio available source of DHA from food. Though some vegans try to get enough by eating seeds, the low absorption of ALA means that most will not be able to meet their body’s needs that way. They may also inadvertently over consume omega-6 fatty acids and make their health worse.
Benefits of Going Vegan for your DHA
So is choosing a vegan DHA supplement an inferior choice?
In fact, algal oil is probably the best overall option for a DHA supplement. It is harvested in an environmentally conscious way. It is easily absorbed. It has a very low risk of contamination.
The fact that it is vegan-friendly too is only the icing on the cake!
Can Non-Vegans Take Vegan DHA?
Have you ever had an avocado? A tomato? a potato?
Good. Then you’ve had vegan food.
Only 2% of the population has adequate DHA intake, so a supplement would help most people. Although non-vegans could take fish oil or other types of supplements, algal oil will still be lower in toxins and more environmentally friendly. Since it is just as easily absorbed, both vegans and non-vegans can enjoy the benefits of taking algal oil-based DHA supplements.
Overall Benefits of Taking DHA Supplements
DHA is one of the main building blocks of your brain, eyes, and skin. It is critical to overall health.
Adequate intake of DHA is associated with lower risk of heart problems and improved blood pressure. It has also been shown to help fight inflammation and boost muscle recovery after a workout. It can even lower cancer risk and prevent or slow Alzheimer’s disease. It really is a sort of miracle compound!
On top of all of that, DHA can help with mental health and reproductive health for both men and women.
In particular, DHA has great benefits for pregnant women and developing babies.
Why is DHA Important for Pregnancy?
Our brains and eyes are made of omega-3 fatty acids. Humans need DHA in order to have a healthy brain and healthy vision.
And, in particular, we need it most when our brains are first developing in-utero.
This is why it is critical that pregnant women get enough DHA. Not only do they have to keep themselves healthy, but they need to make sure that their developing baby gets enough too.
Is Prenatal DHA the same as a Prenatal Multivitamin?
Prenatal DHA and prenatal multivitamins are usually NOT the same. Though a select few prenatal multivitamins contain DHA, most do not.
PLEASE do not use prenatal DHA to replace a prenatal multivitamin. Though you would get the benefits of DHA, you would miss out on the benefits of iron, folate, and other necessary supplements found in prenatal multivitamins. These are also essential for healthy fetal development!
Prenatal DHA is meant to be taken along with a prenatal multivitamin. The two complement each other by ensuring you and your baby get all of the vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids necessary to help you stay healthy.
As with any supplement, however, make sure you talk to your doctor about your prenatal DHA. Since there are a few multivitamins that do contain DHA, you don’t want to accidentally overdo it.
Should someone continue taking vegan dha if they are breastfeeding?
Did you know that breastfeeding mothers use even more energy than pregnant mothers?
As a consequence, breastfeeding mamas need even more healthy nutrients than they did during pregnancy.
Just as you should continue taking your prenatal multivitamin while breastfeeding, you should keep taking your prenatal DHA while breastfeeding. It will keep you healthy and help your baby grow up strong.
When should you stop taking a vegan prenatal DHA?
Technically, you don’t have to.
Prenatal multivitamins are recommended for women who may become pregnant. In a similar way, prenatal DHA can be beneficial to any woman who can become pregnant, is already pregnant, or is breastfeeding.
In fact, 98% of the entire population could benefit from supplementing DHA in their diet — that includes many people who are are not expecting a baby any time soon!
It is not recommended that people (pregnant or not) take more than 2 grams of DHA supplement per day. As long as your supplement is less than that (or about 2000 mg), it is safe to use outside of pregnancy and lactation as long as you have your doctor’s oversight.
DHA is an important source of omega-3 fatty acids. These are vital for healthy brains and eyes. They are also especially critical for developing babies.
Since most people do not get enough DHA from diet alone, supplements can be used to achieve adequate levels. This is especially important for women who may become pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
A good DHA supplement will supply DHA in a form that is easily absorbed, free from toxins, and environmentally friendly. The best DHA supplements will also be compatible with all eating plans, including vegan and vegetarian ways of eating.
Diet Standard’s Prenatal DHA supplement is derived from algal oil. It checks all of the boxes so you can be sure that you and your baby will be getting the highest-quality omega-3s you need for optimum health!