What are Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids?
These are our essential fats; essential meaning that our body cannot produce them on its own. We need to consume these fats as part of our diet to survive. Udo Erasmus, nutritionist and author of “Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill” states, “If you removed all the bad fats from your diet and did not bring in the good ones, you would still die from degenerative disease because you cannot live without the good essential fats.” So contrary to popular belief, fats are not evil! Let’s make sure we’re getting an adequate dose of our healthy fats!
What foods contain Omega 3 and Omega 6?
High contents of Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish (salmon, sardines, halibut, oysters, trout, fresh tuna), avocado, flax seeds, chia and hemp seeds. High contents of Omega 6 fatty acids are present in most nuts and seeds as well as their oils (pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts and almonds).
So, you need both Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s, but there is a fine balance.
Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and Omega 6’s are pro-inflammatory. The immune system needs pro-inflammatory substances in order to ward off infection, however, chronic inflammation can lead to longer term diseases. So, when we consume more Omega 6 fatty acids than Omega 3’s, there is a greater inflammatory response, creating prime conditions for inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, Crohn’s, and high blood pressure.
The ideal ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is anywhere between one to one and one to two and a half. However, those of us eating a standard American diet have created a ratio that ranges between 20:1 and 40:1. We are overdosing on Omega 6 and creating inflammation! To give you a comparison, the Japanese have a healthier ratio of 3:1.
How and when did this problem begin? (a little history)
As our society moved away from small oil operations to large scale oil production, oils started to become chemically altered in order to increase shelf life. Omega 3 fatty acids as well as other critical nutrients (carotene, vitamin E, lecithin) were removed in order to keep oils from going rancid. The Omega 6 content remained. With a greater supply, the prices on these oils decreased, and are now widely used. As a result, our processed foods and oils you find in the middle of the grocery store often contain loads of Omega 6 and little to no Omega 3.
Another reason we’re consuming more Omega 6 fatty acids is because of what our animal food sources eat. Conventional cows, chickens and goats typically consume GMO corn and grains, which are high in Omega 6 fatty acids. Animals that eat foods found in their natural environment, such as grass, weeds, bugs, and leafy greens have a much higher Omega 3 content, almost as high as fish. Grass fed organic meats and pastured eggs are where Omega 3 content is highest.
How Can You Get Back to Balance?
Boost Those Omega 3’s!
Eat a diet high in real food: organic + fresh fruits and vegetables
Eat pastured eggs
Eat grass fed meats
Add flax, hemp and chia to uncooked foods (pesto’s, smoothies, salad dressings, trail mix)
Eat avocado (anywhere, anytime, with anything)
Eat fatty fish (sardines, salmon)
Load up on leafy greens
Consume marine phytoplanktins (algae)