ALA: Plant-Based Omega-3 Supports Heart, Cognition - Dr. Axe

Fact Checked

This Dr. Axe content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure factually accurate information.

With strict editorial sourcing guidelines, we only link to academic research institutions, reputable media sites and, when research is available, medically peer-reviewed studies. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to these studies.

The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by our trained editorial staff. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to medically peer-reviewed studies.

Our team includes licensed nutritionists and dietitians, certified health education specialists, as well as certified strength and conditioning specialists, personal trainers and corrective exercise specialists. Our team aims to be not only thorough with its research, but also objective and unbiased.

The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

Alpha-Linolenic Acid: Plant-Based Omega-3 Supports Heart, Cognition


Alpha-linolenic acid: Plant-based omega-3 supports heart, cognition - Dr. Axe

It’s no secret that heart disease is an epidemic in the United States. After all, the American Heart Association reports that nearly half of Americans have heart disease, and according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it continues to be the No. 1 killer in the U.S.

The good news is there are many ways you can prevent and combat this deadly condition with lifestyle and dietary changes, and this is true no matter what type of diet you follow. In fact, new research published in February 2022 in the journal Advance in Nutrition found evidence that a plant-based omega-3 supports heart health — and as an added bonus, this type of omega-3 also benefits cognitive health.

Study: Plant-Based Omega-3 Supports Heart, Cognition

Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Nutrition, this analysis examined several different bodies of research on alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a vegetable-based omega-3 fatty acid. The examination spanned the globe, including studies and researchers from the Fatty Acid Research Institute in South Dakota, Penn State University’s Department of Nutritional Services and several organizations in Spain.

The researchers looked at meta-analyses, observational studies, randomized controlled trials and epidemiological studies specifically on ALA to determine its effects on heart and brain health. Here’s what they found:

  • Increasing dietary ALA is linked with a 10 percent lower risk of heart disease and 20 percent lower risk of fatal coronary heart disease.
  • Dietary ALA can reduce cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure.
  • Epidemiological studies and trials show ALA’s anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Research points to ALA helping decrease diabetes risk as well.

That’s not all. According to the study authors, “The role of ALA in cognition is in the early stages but shows promising evidence of counteracting cognitive impairment. Much has been learned about the health benefits of ALA and with additional research we will be better positioned to make strong evidence-based dietary recommendations for the reduction of many chronic diseases.”


All of this evidence points to ALA helping boost both heart and brain health. This isn’t surprising given all the benefits of omega-3s.

How to Get ALA Into Your Diet

Two of the top sources of alpha-linolenic acid are walnuts and flaxseeds. There are innumerable ways to get these into your diet.

You can add walnuts to salads, munch on a handful as a snack or try some of the following recipes:

Flaxseeds can be used in many of the same ways. Here are a few flaxseed recipes to try:

Other sources of ALA include:

Consume more of these foods, especially nuts and seeds as opposed to some of the oils, to get more plant-based omega-3 into your diet and support heart and cognitive health.


  • Alpha-linolenic acid is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid.
  • Research published in February 2022 found evidence that ALA supports heart health and shows promise for cognition.
  • Examining a wealth of studies, the authors noted that dietary ALA consumption was linked to a lower risk of heart disease and reduced cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure — all risk factors for heart disease.
  • They also noted ALA’s anti-inflammatory effects to combat chronic disease, its potential in preventing diabetes risk and even promise for cognitive benefits.
  • To get more of this plant-based omega-3 into your diet, consume walnuts, flaxseeds, along with other nuts and seeds and their oils.

More Health