Omega 3 is something we’re all at least a little bit familiar with. It’s been in the news quite a bit in recent years because of all the positive health benefits Omega 3s supply.
But a lesser known fatty acid, Omega 6, is one that gets very little press, but is equally important.
These fats are ones that you really want in your daily routine! They’re not called “essential” for nuthin!
These are polyunsaturated fats, which is a fancy word meaning that these types of fats have two or more double bonds in its carbon chain.
I know, and if I try to play Mr. Science here I’ll be way out of my league.
So let’s just say that these types of fats are more desirable in your diet than trans-fats and saturated fats.
The reason is this: Mono and Polyunsaturated fats are thought to reduce the LDL (bad cholesterol) in your blood, and this will in turn decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease.
That sounds great to me!
But of course, life just ain’t that simple, especially when it comes to the world of nutrition.
So let’s examine Omega 3s and Omega 6s individually, and then in a way that almost no one thinks about, because it turns out that the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 is important as well.
And wouldn’t you know it, most of us are sadly out of proportion!
There are a few important fatty acids. A couple, DHA and EPA, are found mostly in certain types of fish such as salmon. Another type, ALA, is found mostly in plants, such as seeds and nuts.
These types of fats are absolutely essential for your body to function, but they also supply some very powerful benefits.
That’s just a partial list, but I think you get the idea, right? Omega 3s are part of the family of “good” fats, and they may even be the “Godfather” of good fats!
Since these fats are so important, I think we should discuss where we can get a good, solid dose of them in our daily diet.
Woah! I hear what you’re saying. Like, “Hey Ted, What the Hell? What if I don’t like fish?”
If you just can’t stomach eating fish, which is the best source of Omega 3 in my opinion, you can always introduce a fish oil supplement into your diet.
Remember that fish supply the most important of Omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, but it’s also worth noting that some foods like eggs, milk, juice, and yogurt are fortified with Omega 3.
ALA is a plant based fatty acid that is thought to be a bit less important than the other 2 types.
The bottom line here is that your body cannot manufacture Omega 3 in any significant amount, but it still requires it, so you’ll need to either find it in food or supplement for it.
Another essential fatty acid, Omega 6, doesn’t get much press and that’s too bad because it’s every bit as important as Omega 3.
However, it’s the places we obtain these and the amounts we ingest that causes scientists and nutritionists to sit up and take notice.
Let me explain.
Ouch! I see a lot of my former self in that second list.
The reason that Omega 6 fatty acids are so prevalent in our diet is largely due to one source.
It’s called soybean oil, and it’s used in all sorts of food manufacturing, including many snack foods and fast foods as well as imitation dairy and meat products.
A lot of the soybean oil has to be what’s called “hydrogenated”, because it’s too unstable to be used in cooking otherwise.
In fact, it’s been noted in some studies that around 20 percent of calories in the Standard American Diet come from this one source.
That is SAD indeed, because while soybean oil may be healthy in certain applications, that’s not the primary way we use it.
Opinions differ a great deal, but most experts agree that the proper amount of Omega 3 DHA/EPA is about 1-2% of your daily caloric intake.
For Omega 6, the number is up around 6-10%, depending on who you trust.
What is troublesome is the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3.
The current recommendation is 1:1 – 4:1, Omega 6 to Omega 3.
Americans, however, currently average about 16:1.
Doctors and other health professionals believe that it’s our obsession with fast foods and unhealthy types of meals here in the US that leads to this imbalance.
To me, it’s pretty easy to fix this issue. Let’s talk about it.
I think we all need to take a long hard look at where we’re getting our calories every day.
If you hit the drive through for coffee and a breakfast sandwich every day, and then run out to a fast food joint during lunch time because you’re in a hurry and forgot your lunch, maybe there’s some changes that need to be made.
Please believe me, I used to be just as guilty of this as anyone else a few years ago. But since I made a few changes in my daily routine, I’ve become a lot healthier as a result.
And it doesn’t have to be radical change, because that’s too easy to fail with.
Instead, just slide into a new way of doing things. You’ll find that you have a better chance of success if you make little changes, and those little changes will add up to huge improvements in your health and wellbeing down the road.
Hey, what’s more important than that??
Yours in good health
Ted is a writer and avid researcher on the subject of nutrition and general wellness. He has recently published books on Sugar Detox as well as the inflammation epidemic, and continues to improve his knowledge by constantly remaining up to date with the latest news and trends in the nutrition world. When not busy writing, you can find him playing banjo and guitar, or outside fishing.