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The Truth about Omegas 3 and 6

When it comes to eating healthy, you have probably heard a lot about Essential Fatty Acids…EFAs…or Omega 3s and Omega 6s.  You also probably know that there is good reason to eat these, and that they are essential, pardon the pun, to a healthy diet.  What you might not know, however, is that all Omegas are not created equal.

In truth, yes, both are important to a healthy diet.  Why?  Because they are fatty acids that your body can not produce on its own…as a result, you depend on the foods you eat to get them.  They are good for us because they lower bad cholesterol, and support and regulate the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous systems.  Further, they help to manufacture and repair cell membranes and maintain the oil barrier of the skin.  The commonly unknown fact, however, is that the ratio in which you eat these EFAs is even more important than consuming them.

An ideal intake ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is between 1:1 and 4:1.  Unfortunately, American diets tend to have way too much Omega-6 in relation to Omega-3 fatty acids with ratios of 20:1 to 50:1.   Why is this an issue?  Because this imbalance can contribute to long-term diseases such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, and depression. As a result, it is important to amp up your intake of Omega 3s.

How has this imbalance become so prevalent?  In part, it is due to the abundance of Omega-6s in processed foods.  Processed foods heavily rely on these oils to make foods taste good and have a longer shelf life. So how can you ensure you are getting enough of Omega-3s in your diet?  Start eating these Omega-3 rich foods:

  • Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower
  • Cooked Soybeans
  • Dried Ground Cloves
  • Dried Ground Oregano
  • Salmon, Halibut, Cod
  • Seeds (Flax, mustard)
  • Walnuts

And, start cutting back on some of these popular, and somewhat overused Omega-6s:

  • Corn oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Soybean oil

Other sources of Omega-6s to keep to a minimum include: Black currant seed oil, Borage oil, Evening Primrose oil, Hemp oil, Pumpkin oil, Walnut oil and Wheatgerm oil.

So next time you reach for the safflower or corn oil and think ‘It is an EFA, it must be good,’ make sure you are eating an equal amount of a food rich in Omega-3s.

Are you getting enough Omega-3s?  Is your diet high in Omega-6s?

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Posted in Brett's Blog, Nutrition Tagged with: , , , ,