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Choosing the Best Fish Oil

New Omega-3 Options for Vegans

written by Vin Kutty

comments 41 comments

vegan fish oil omega-3

Vegans and Vegetarians Finally Have a Couple of Good Alternatives for Fish Oil

Quite a few customers have called asking about vegan alternatives for fish oil.

Before I give them options, I first must have the Flaxseed-oil-is-virtually-useless talk. People are usually disappointed and surprised that Flaxseed isn’t a substitute for fish oil. One pleasant fellow recently hung up the phone when I gave him this news.

After the Flaxseed oil discussion, I steer people towards algae oil.

Until recently, taking algae oil meant getting mostly DHA with very little if any EPA Omega-3. If you don’t eat fish or fish oil, algae oil is a blessing. So people don’t complain about the cost. They’re happy to pay a premium that allows them to remain vegans and yet gives them the benefit of taking fish oil pills.

It’s a win-win.

Still, many consumer who buy algae oil will eventually ask the following questions:

  1. Where’s the EPA? Well, the algae species (grown in vats) used to make Omega-3 produce mostly DHA. They don’t generate much EPA.
  2. Most fish oils have more EPA than DHA, should I be worried that I’m not getting enough EPA Omega-3? No need to be worried. Your body can convert small portions of DHA into EPA. So you won’t be EPA deficient.

But if you want non-fish derived EPA, you were out of luck.

Not any more.

There are a couple of new products on the market worth a look:

  1. Futurebiotics New Harvest EPA
  2. Ovega-3

I have tried both products. And like them both. But I prefer one over the other – keep reading.


450 mg Omega-3 Per Pill

Vegetarian alternatives to fish oil

This is a brand new item, just launched in April 2011.

This product is made from algae. Except, unlike older algae oil products, this one has both EPA and DHA. Each pill has 320 mg DHA and 130 mg EPA for a total fo 450 mg Omega-3 per pill.

That’s 2.5X more DHA than EPA. But still, 130 mg of EPA is more than we’ve ever had in any algae oil. So, hurray!

I bought 60 pills for $19.99 and $5.99 shipping for a total of $25.98. I bought it at The product arrived within a day or two of ordering.

I opened the bottle and stuck my nose in it. Funky. But no funkier than most fish oil bottles. I’ve been taking 3 pills every morning for about a week and I’ve not had any issues with burping or reflux.

Good product!

Futurebiotics New Harvest EPA

600 mg EPA Omega-3 Per Pill

yeast derived Omega-3
This product was introduced last year and is just gaining distribution.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you need to try this product. It’s not made from algae, but yeast. I bought a 30-capsule box for $16.99 + $4.95 shipping for a total of $21.94.

It’s got 600 mg of EPA Omega-3 per softgel. There is 1200 mg of oil per pill so the strength is 50% Omega-3. 50% would be mid-pack for fish oil. But for vegetarian Omega-3 sources, 50% is great!

Two of these pills and you’d get 1200 mg of EPA. Wow! Again, not bad for non-fish-derived oils.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I prefer EPA to DHA. The folks at Futurebiotics illustrate this very well with the following graphic.


This product also has a better antioxidant brew: rosemary extract, Vitamin E and ascorbyl palmitate. Nice.

The obligatory nose-in-the-bottle test passed although the odor reminded me a wood shop.

Just Can’t Help Spooking People

The marketing materials and websites of both products try very hard to put fish-phobia into you. ‘None of the unhealthy fats or toxins found in fish’ says one. ‘100% free of ocean-borne pollutants,’ ‘free of allergens associated with fish,’ and ‘nothing fishy,’ says the other.


Fear is a powerful (and profitable) weapon. Or may be it was just lazy marketers feeling pressured to justify charging a higher retail price.

Either way, fear-mongering is not needed. These are both great products that will attract flocks of vegans and vegetarians. I’ve already recommended it to my vegetarian relatives.

And, oh, after these two products, now there is absolutely NO REASON to take flaxseed oil.



Join the conversation

  1. @B Walker – thank you! Did not know that Rosemary could interfere with pregnancy. We have removed Rosemary from our formulation – did not notice the anti-oxidant benefit that we thought we would.


    • Hello, reading your comments about Rosemary Extract being removed from the formula made me order Ovega-3 as I am trying to get pregnant. I just received it and sadly your statements are not true. Rosemary extract IS listed under Other Ingredients on the label and I was told by my Dr. that Rosemary Extract is harmful while pregnant and not advisable even if you are just trying to conceive! I am not sure what to do now since I just wasted $20 for a product I can’t use. And I think you should stop spreading false information about it.

      • Hi Vessi – I was talking about OmegaVia when I saw ‘we have removed rosemary from OUR FORMULATION.’ I was not talking about Ovega3. I do not work for Ovega3. I have no association with them. Any reputable retailer should give you your money back if you are not happy with the product. Please read carefully before you accuse me of spreading false information about any product.

    • futurebiotics no longer carries the omega 3 maybe because it contains traces of hexane gas and yeast –
      The other choice you listed contains carrageenan, also not good I don’t think. So now what should I buy?

      • Hi Vikki – the carrageenan that’s often found in supplements is one of a few distinct types of algae extract. The potentially questionable kind is called poligeenan, but all of these distinct compounds are called carrageenan for some reason. The kind in foods and supplements (that’s unnecessarily freaking people out) is not poligeenan. I have yet to see any science that convinces me that the carrageenan used in foods is harmful. People stirring up fear online, I find, are relatively uninformed about the details.

        Hexane is a problem. Carrageenan isn’t.

  2. What is the issue with rosemary extract?

    Thank u for promoting a vegan product! That says a lot about the integrity of your company.

    I like New Harvest, but the fillers worry me, particularly the Carrageenan, corn starch, and the sorbitol. Are these something to be concerned about, especially if taking 3 or so pills a day? Carrageenan raises cancer risks and sorbitol can give people GI upset.

    What are the other fats that make up the remaining 600mg in the pill?

    • Hi Bee – there is no issue with Rosemary extract other than that it only has a minor incremental protective effect.

      We have a lot of readers who are vegans or vegetarians, who need to pay more attention to their Omega-3 and Vitamin B intake. So, yes, we’ll be talking about any vegan alternatives that get developed. There are a lot of new algae oils being worked on by companies and the next 5 years should be great for vegans.

      I would not spend a second worrying about carrageenan or sorbitol. If I were a vegan, I would take the New Harvest product. The risk of NOT taking Omega-3 is far, far higher than the risk of what these ingredients might or might not do.

      I dont know what other fats are in the pill besides Omega-3. My guess is it’s a mix of several polyunsaturated fatty acids – again, nothing to worry about.

      • Thanks SO much! It’s exciting to know that there will be more vegan EPA sources in the near future! Are there any u can tell us about now?

        I asked about the Rosemary extract bc of the reader above who said it is contradicted for pregnant woman..can u elaborate more on this?

        Also, how much of the New Harvest would be good for mood and joints?

        Is the vegan source of EPA more absorbable than a fish oil source?


        • Hi again, Bee – there are about a half dozen companies trying to develop ‘algae technology’ to produce EPA, DHA or both. They are in their infancy, so it will be a few years before they are ready to market their oils.

          Yeah, I have heard the same concern about rosemary and pregnancy. Not sure how much truth there is to it. Still, pregnancy is not a time to experiment.

          For depression, I’d take 3-4 New Harvest EPA per day. It is not more absorbed than fish oil EPA – probably about the same.

          – Vin Kutty

          • Thanks! Last question:

            How do I balance out the EPA with DHA (since the New Harvest brand is only EPA)? Are there any food sources that I ought to focus on in order to not risk an imbalance of EPA:DHA? Or, should I take a DHA supplement (and if so, how many mg of DHA)?

            What are possible side effects/health issues that can occur with taking a lot of EPA but no DHA?


            • Bee – if you’re a vegan, you should be thinking about taking a vegan DHA supplement as well. There are lots of those, made with Life’s DHA brand oil. It is made from algae. You only need about 100 mg of DHA per day, if that. Unless you’re pregnant, in which case, a lot more – like 500 to 1000 mg per day.

              If you’re a vegan, it’s not a good idea to take JUST EPA and no DHA. Your body needs both. The body converts one to the other, but not very well.

              – Vin Kutty

              • Ok thanks…So I should take 3-4 New Harvest EPAs (1800-2400mg) and then find a DHA that has approx 100mg? That seems like a huge difference between the two, since most fish oils have closer range of EPA:DHA ratio

                • Hi Bee – how much EPA and DHA you need depends on your health and age. Like I said before, if you’re a chile or pregnant or nursing, you need a LOT of DHA. Otherwise, 100 mg to 200 mg of DHA is plenty for most people. EPA on the other hand is very handy to counter the effects of consuming too much vegetable oil (they are rich in Omega-6.) Yes, most fish have somewhat equal parts EPA and DHA. Some have more EPA and others have more DHA. But when fish were created, nobody thought that we’d be consuming so much Omega-6 from processed foods and vegetable oils. You need EPA to offset the damage from the excess Omega-6. That’s why I suggest people take more EPA than what’s naturally found in fish. Hope this complicated (and somewhat delayed) response helps.

      • Polyunsaturated fats are the worse. The latest scientific evidence shows that hence the rise of ketogenic diets. They are also relatively new (in terms of people eating) them less than 100 to 150 years old. Saturated fats have been eaten far longer and do not get oxided. The double bonds in unsatuarted fats leaves a free electron to get oxidised in the body. And gives rise to bad Lipoprotiens namely LDL-3 (least oxided) LDL-4 (kills 10 percent of cells it interacts with) LDL-5 (kills 40+ percent of the cells it interacts with). LDL 1 and 2 being fine. Thats why people prefer monounsaturated olive oil with one double bond, but why take it at all!!!!

  3. Hi

    I bought recently the ovega3 and i started taking for the past 3 days one pill per day as it says one pill per day and is it OK ti take 3 pills as you mentioned ?
    can i take any milk with DHA content in the same day while i am taking the pills.
    Last, can we have a glass of wine or beer with few hours gap of Ovega3?

    • Hi Sam – Ovega3 does not have much Omega-3, so you can definitely take 3 per day. That’s actually a good dose. Yes, you can take milk with DHA in it. There is hardly any DHA in DHA-supplemented milk anyway, so no worries. Alcohol does not interfere with Omega-3 absorption as far as I know. Since you brought it up, stick with wine. Beer is liquid wheat and wheat is one of the worst things you can put in your body – wheat proteins like gluten, gliadin, glutenin etc. trash your intestines and many other parts of your body.

  4. Hi
    I wanted to know hoe much potassium is there in ovega?
    Since most Algae are rich in potassium, is this safe in patients with high potassium levels who need to follow low potassium diet?

    • Hi RF – I don’t know. This is something you will have to contact Ovega customer service about. If you find out, please share with us. My guess is that there is very little potassium in the product, as potassium salts are generally water-soluble and Ovega only contains the oil extract from the sea weed.

  5. Hi Vin,
    My Doctor told me that I have fibroid in my uterus. can I take Ovega 3? I am vegetarian. I can’t eat fish oil, no egg no meat and gelatin & gluten.

    • Hi Kelly – Ovega3 is probably a very good idea. So is not eating gluten. But ‘no eggs’ is going to eventually get you in some trouble with Vitamin B12 deficiency. I’ll bet money that you already are.

  6. Hi Vin,

    I am a vegetarian and was thinking of starting on a marine algae derived omega 3 supplement? What are your thoughts on opti3 omega? how many of these should one take to get the benefits? Thanks.

  7. Hello,
    Can you compare Chia seed/Omega nutrition (amount of EPA/DHA) to Ovega 3 or Futurebiotics?

    Thank you,

    Mary Dax

    • Hi Mary – I would go with Ovega3 if you’re a vegan. The futurebiotics product is no longer available. Chia seed is fine to sprinkle over salads but it has no EPA or DHA. Chia only has ALA, which is not very well absorbed. So while Chia may be tasty and makes a good garnish, it is not a good source of Omega-3. If you eat fish, then you don’t need any of these products. Just get it from Salmon or some wild coldwater fish.

    • Hi Laura – you are right, it is. This article was written before NutraVege was introduced. For those interested: I’ve not tasted the product, so I cannot vouch for that…but the formula looks good. Echium oil has a lot of stearidonic acid, which converts quite well to EPA.

      My only concern is the relatively high level of Omega-6 at 500 mg per teaspoon. Also, 210 mg of GLA sounds nice at first glance, but not many people do well with a steady supply of GLA. GLA is much better to cycle on and off, especially if you have somewhat high insulin levels from a diet that is high in starch/carbs.

      Still, it is a good product overall. Thanks for sharing the idea.

  8. So what is a good option for DHA/EPA for someone who is allergic to shellfish and who is attempting to get pregnant?? Help please!!

    • Hi Sara – if you are allergic to shellfish, that does not automatically imply that you are allergic to fish oil. I suggest you work under your OB/GYN’s supervision to find out. BTW, I am allergic to shellfish and so is my son – we both can take fish oil without issues. Your mileage may vary.

      If you are opposed to trying fish oil, you have plenty of algae-based DHA supplements on the market. Any of those would work.

  9. Hi Vin,

    Thanks so much for this informative post. I’ve taken Omegavia for years, but I want to switch to a vegetarian source. I see that the Futurebiotics product has been discontinued, and I’m wondering if you could recommend any other high-EPA supplements. Ideally, I would like around 1500 mg / day of EPA, but I’m concerned about taking that many (say 10 pills / day) of the low EPA supplements, either potentially getting too much DHA from the combination products or too much carrageenan / sorbitol, etc from the inactive ingredients in each pill. What do you think?

    • Hi Thomas – unless you are a vegan, there is no NEED to switch to a vegetarian source. I have not seen a good high-EPA on EPA-only algae oil that I like. I suggest either going with an EPA + DHA blend made from algae or sticking with OmegaVia EPA 500.

  10. Interesting information! Why do you most vegan Omega 3 products use carageenan–an inflammatory agent (so inflammatory that it is used in inflammation research!!!!!!!)–in their product? We might as well not take anything or break our vegan ethics and take fish oil!

    • Hi Mara – the ‘bad news’ about carrageenan is most to do with a specific type called poligeenan that is rarely used or found in foods or supplements. People tend to lump it all together and throw the baby out with the bath water. I don’t know if your vegan Omega-3 contains the harmless or not-so-good type of carrageenan. So it’s hard to say…but most supplements do not use poligeenan.

  11. I am looking for a DHA EPA supplement that is vegan. Carrageenan is very concerning due to the link with inflammation and cancer. If you had a product without that I would be interested.

    • Hi Kasey – there are a few vegan products on the market that contain DHA and/or EPA. You may want to search Carrageenan is a non-issue blown out of proportion by people who do not understand science. Once a concern, valid or not, has been raised on the internet, it gets life of its own and somehow becomes real. Fear spreads much faster than knowledge, especially on the internet.

      Here is what I said about Carrageenan a few months ago to a similar comment:

      Carrageenan that’s often found in supplements is one of a few distinct types of algae extract. The potentially questionable kind is called poligeenan, yet all of these distinct compounds are lumped together as carrageenan for some reason. The kind in foods and supplements (that’s unnecessarily freaking people out) is not poligeenan. I have yet to see any science that convinces me that the carrageenan used in foods is harmful. People stirring up fear online, I find, are relatively uninformed about the details.

      We do not sell anything with Carrageenan or Poligeenan. So my defense of it is not financially motivated.

        • Hi M – we don’t currently have plans for a liquid version of our product.

          As I’ve stated in the comments section here previously, the initial concern about carrageenan began when people associated carrageenan with poligeenan. Most of the negative studies have been with poligeenan on animals.

          Personally, I still feel like carrageenan is on the fence. I’d prefer to avoid it, but a little bit here and there from processed foods/drinks isn’t a concern because there are far greater risks to our health. Anyone consuming large quantities of carrageenan assumes the risks that comes with ingesting vast quantities of processed foods. If you are eating a mostly whole foods diet (stuff that was alive last week) with an active lifestyle that focuses on sun exposure, sleep discipline, stress management, circadian-rhythm-conscious eating, then, a little carrageenan is not an issue.

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