Most people today are eating an alarming amount of Omega-6 fatty acids and not enough Omega-3s (the healthy fats we need!). An unbalanced ratio of these polyunsaturated fatty acids may be one of the most damaging aspects of the Standard American Diet (SAD).
Why Care About Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Our bodies don’t have the enzymes to produce these essential fatty acids, therefore we must get them from the diet. If we don’t get any, then we develop a deficiency and become sick, which is why they are termed “essential” fatty acids. These fatty acids are different than most other fats becayse they are biologically active and have crucial roles in processes like blood clotting and inflammation.
What’s the Difference between Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-6s and Omega-3s have very different effects in the body. Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, while Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is essential for our survival because it helps protect our bodies from infection and injury. However, excessive-inflammation can cause severe health damage and contribute to disease; including heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, many types of cancer, etc.
The Problem With The Standard American Diet (SAD)
Not only are people eating much less Omega-3s, but they are eating large amounts of processed seed and vegetable oils, which are loaded with Omega-6s. We simply didn’t have the technology to process these oils until about 100 years ago and our bodies haven’t had time to adapt to these high amounts of Omega-6s. People who eat a non-Standard American Diet have an Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio of about 4:1 to 1:4, most being somewhere in between, whereas the Standard American Diet today is 16:1!
You can see on this graph the dramatic increase in soybean oil consumption in the US over the 20th Century.
Here are the essential 3 steps to regain a healthy balance of the Omega fatty acids in your diet:
- Avoid vegetable oils high in Omega-6s (especially processed foods which contain them).
- Eat plenty of Omega-3 rich foods, including something from the sea at least once or twice a week.
- If seafood isn’t accessible, supplement with an Omega-3 source like premium-quality, Wild Caught Omega-3 Fish Oil.
Avoid Most Vegetable Oils
The single most important thing you can do to reduce your Omega-6 intake is to avoid processed seed and vegetable oils high in Omega-6s, as well as the processed foods that contain them. These “foods” were only introduced to humans in the past 100 years and they have completely distorted the natural balance of these essential fatty acids.
Here is a chart with some common fats and oils. Blue = Avoid!
Eat Omega-3 Rich Foods and Supplements
Omega-3 rich animal foods are the best sources of the preformed Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.
One problem today is that animals are usually fed grain-based feeds with soy and corn. This reduces the Omega-3 content, so the polyunsaturated fats in the meat are mostly Omega-6. Therefore, if you can afford it, grass-fed meat is definitely optimal. However, even conventionally raised meat is healthy, as long as it is not processed.
By far the best and healthiest way to increase your Omega-3 intake is to eat seafood once or twice per week. Fatty fish like salmon is a particularly good source. Wild caught fish is best, but even farmed is better than no fish at all.
If you eat a lot of conventionally raised meats and/or don’t eat much seafood, then consider taking a premium-quality Omega-3 supplement. Omega-3 Wild Caught Fish Oil is best because it is also loaded with EPA and DHA. Look for a combined EPA and DHA number greater than 1,000 mg per serving. Avoid supplements that read only “Fish Oil” or “Krill Oil” and you absolutely get what you pay for.
Additionally, there are some plant sources of Omega-3, like flax and chia seeds. However, these contain a type of Omega-3 called ALA. Humans are bad converters of ALA into the active forms, EPA and DHA, which means you’ll need to eat a LOT of these to absorb a necessary amount into your system.
The Bottom Line
Most people are storing alarming amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids in their body and it can take years to get rid of them. It’s important to realize that this is a long-term process, try analyzing your Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio and focus on regaining balanced ratio of 4:1 to 10:1.