If you’ve spent much time learning about health, no doubt you’ve heard of the importance of Omega-3 fats in our diet. We are told to emphasize Omega-3 intake and to lower our Omega-6 intake. Meanwhile, very little is said about Omega-9 and most of us have no idea where Omega-9s come from. Today let’s take a look at the various fatty acids available in our diets and learn about their roles in health.
The Standard American Diet offers an excessive amount of Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats in the form of industrial seed oils. Omega-6s can lead to increased inflammatory markers, which then lead to various chronic health conditions. On the other hand, Omega-3 fats are known to lower inflammatory markers, which can then be protective of chronic disease.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats are considered “essential fatty acids” since one must obtain them exclusively from their diet. Omega-9s are considered “non-essential fatty acids” since the body can produce them on its own.
Omega-3s get their celebrity status by protecting the heart, lowering inflammation, moderating moods, protecting fetal development, and more. Omega-3s lower triglycerides and may also lower the risk of cognitive illness, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Omega 3s are also linked to lower cancer risks, lower incidence of age-related macular degeneration, lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis, and improvements in dry eye disease.
There are three sub-types of Omega-3 fats: DHA, EPA, and ALA. DHA and EPA are primarily found in fish, while ALA is found in nuts and seeds. ALA can be converted to DHA and EPA in the body, but this conversion process if often inefficient. Excessive linoleic acid, which comes from Omega-6 sources, such as processed seed oils, inhibits the ALA conversion process in the body. This is often an issue for those following a vegan diet, as processed vegan foods such as burgers and meat replacements, are very high in Omega-6 fats, which will inhibit the ALA conversion process. A well-planned vegan diet based on whole foods will be less likely to result in an Omega-3 deficiency.
Common foods containing Omega-3 fats include:
- Mackerel, salmon, tuna, herring, & sardines
- Cod liver oil
- Walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, & hemp seeds
- Brazil nuts, cashews, & hazelnuts
- Natto – a fermented soy product
- Egg yolks – organic and free-range eggs contain more Omega-3 than conventionally raised eggs
- Grass feed beef contains some Omega-3 fats
Omega-6s have a bad reputation for good reason, but they are still required for good health. In the appropriate quantity, Omega-6s can be protective against heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, breast cancer, obesity, and nerve pain, just to name a few. The problem lies in the fact that in processed foods, Omega-6s are pervasive. If your food came out of a box or bag, it’s highly likely that it was made with a seed oil such as soy, cottonseed, sunflower, corn, canola (rapeseed), and so on. Seed oils are coveted in the processed food industry for two reasons: they are cheap to produce, and they don’t go rancid quickly. And they are hiding in plain sight. You may think you’ve eliminated extra seed oils in your diet by getting rid of packaged foods, but if you are eating at restaurants, your food has been cooked with them. Even a plain steak will have been cooked on a grill coated in seed oil.
Common foods containing Omega-6s include:
- Grapeseed, sunflower, soybean, safflower, sesame, peanut, corn, & cottonseed oils
- Walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, & nut butters
- Salad dressings & mayonnaise
- Meat, dairy products, poultry & eggs
Omega-9s are instrumental in reducing high blood pressure, triglycerides, and “bad” LDL cholesterol. They may also improve insulin sensitivity and lower the risk of diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke risk. When combined with Omega-3s, they may also help reduce nerve pain and anxiety.
Common foods containing Omega-9s include:
- Cashew, almond, sunflower, canola, avocado & peanut oils
- Olive oil & olives
- Walnuts, almonds, & cashews
- Avocados & avocado oil
You might notice that several of these foods appear on multiple lists. In nature, most foods are a combination of all three types of fat. The emphasis for diet should be balance. How does one achieve that? Many experts recommend a ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 between 2:1 and 4:1. This equates to eating two to four times the amount of Omega-6 as Omega-3. In our modern diet, however, many of us are eating between and 14 and 25 times as much Omega-6.
Dietary Approach to Omega-3/6/9 Balance
Eating whole foods, limiting seed oils, and consuming a few servings of seafood or fish each week can go a long way toward solving an Omega-3/6/9 imbalance. That said, each of us have unique needs where our diets are concerned. At Body in Harmony, our nutrition staff is highly trained to help you design a way of eating that meets not only your nutrient needs, but also any other requirements such as food sensitivities, allergies, and healing diets.
Supplements for Omega-3/6/9 Balance
For the month of January, we are pleased to feature the following supplements at a 10% discount:
- Standard Process Olprima EPA/DHA – Supports cardiovascular health, healthy inflammatory processes, brain health, cognition, & mood.
- Standard Process Tuna Omega-3 Oil – Basic Omega-3 support for anyone. Nutritional support for those with chronic pain, poor memory or brain function, heart disease and more.
- Standard Process Wheat Germ Oil – Nutritional support for thyroid function, improves blood flow, improves hormone balance and fertility, eases menopause symptoms, nourishes hair, skin and nails. Improves pregnancy stretch marks, tissue integrity, and muscle oxygen levels.
We would also like to introduce you to a new supplement that we now carry in our office:
- Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil (Made in O’Neill, NE) – Rich in Vitamins A and D in their naturally occurring ratio, as well as EPA and DHA Omega-3’s. Produced without heat or chemicals to maximize nutrient bioavailbility.
At Body in Harmony, our whole-person healthcare approach includes educating you on the best ways to support your health with whole nutrition. If you need more targeted nutritional support, we are here to help! Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.