Vegetarian substitutes for cod liver oil allow vegetarians and vegans to benefit from the many health benefits fish liver oil can provide. Cod liver oil, like other varieties of fish oil, including salmon and mackerel, is filled with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fat that your body needs but does not manufacture. In addition to helping maintain vital activities such as brain function, omega-3 fatty acids help reduce cholesterol levels, help maintain proper blood pressure levels, aid in weight loss and also reduce your chances of developing many chronic diseases. Consult with your physician prior to taking any dietary supplements.
Seaweed, Dulse, Kelp and Spirulina
Seaweed, spirulina, kelp and dulse, a type of seaweed, are healthy vegetarian substitutes for cod liver oil as they also contain essential fatty acids. In a March 2008 "Los Angeles Times" article, reporter Susan Bowerman wrote that seaweed and other sea vegetables "contain small amounts of fat with a healthful ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, particularly in the case of dulse." Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae, is commonly available as a dietary supplement in health food stores. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, blue-green algae easily absorbs toxins from the water. For this reason, purchase algae supplements from trusted or commercially-grown sources.
Vegetable Oils, Nuts and Seeds
Vegetarians can receive many of the same benefits that cod liver oil provides simply by changing their cooking oil. Rapeseed, or canola oil, flaxseed oil, and soybean oil are filled with omega-3 fatty acids, according to Dr. Frank Sachs, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Walnuts, pecans and pistachios are another source of omega-3 fatty acids. Snacking on pumpkin seeds or adding poppy seeds and sesame seeds to your salad can also provide a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Green, Leafy Vegetables
Some green, leafy vegetables contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than cod liver oil. According to the New York University Langone Medical Center, a 4 oz. serving of cod contains 0.3 g of omega-3 fatty acids. The same size serving of spinach contains 0.9 g of omega-3 fatty acids. Kale, cabbage and Brussels sprout can also provide a vegetarian substitute for cod liver oil.