Alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is derived from various plants. It is found in high amounts in flax seeds and cold-pressed flaxseed oil and in lesser amounts in walnut oil, pumpkin seed oil. Soybeans and tofu are also very popular sources.
ALA is the most common type of omega-3 fatty acid and the most important from a dietary perspective. ALA acts as a precursor to other omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), according to August 2014 research in Food and Chemical Toxicology. Only small amounts of ALA are converted into DHA and EPA.
ALA is tied to many benefits, including anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-osteoporotic, anti-oxidant, cardioprotective and neuroprotective effects, according to research in Food & Chemical Toxicology.
Heart-Healthy Benefits of ALA
Eating foods high in ALA is associated with lower rates of death from coronary heart disease and from heart attack, according to a Circulation study.
Sources of Alpha-Linolenic Acid
Many foods are rich in ALA. You can find this essential fatty acid in many plant-based foods.
Chefs and home cooks have plenty of options when it comes to choosing which type of cold pressed oil to sauté, bake and drizzle with. Some oils, like coconut oil, are well known, and others, like sesame or poppy, are less familiar.