Omega fats are a crucial part of any diet, but what’s the deal with these elusive compounds? For starters Omega 3’s and 6’s are considered “essential” because it is essential that we get them from our diet since we can’t make them ourselves. You may remember the word “essential” from when we talked about amino acids. It is used for the same reason. Both omega 3’s and 6’s are considered polyunsaturated fats.
Some of you are confused and have been given misinformation stating that omega 6’s are good and 3’s are bad. This is not the case. The exact ratio of 6’s to 3’s is still a bit unclear, but most professionals agree that at least a 1:1 ratio of omega 3’s to 6’s is required. As usual, every body is different so our needs vary, but it is widely accepted that a diet dominant in 6’s and deficient in 3’s is not healthy for our hearts, brains, and nervous systems. Studies show that people who get more 6’s than 3’s tend to carry more inflammation in the body and have a greater risk of heart disease.
A big part of why we get more omega 6’s is because they are cheaper to obtain and they are often found in refined foods. Besides being found in nuts and seeds and some of the oil extracted from them, omega 6’s are also found in refined oils like soy and vegetable oil, which is used to make processed foods. In the United States, 90% of all oil produced is Soybean oil at 108 million metric tons. This oil has some Omega 6 fat, but it’s often hydrogenated meaning they add hydrogen atoms making the oil stay fluid even in cooler temperatures. That hydrogenation process makes the oil easier to cook with and much easier to store, but it’s very difficult for the body to break it down. Hydrogenated oils should be avoided at all times regardless of the type of oil that is being hydrogenated. It is extremely unhealthy. Omega 6 oils are also found in meat and chicken, but the Omega 3 content in these foods is much lower.
Omega 3 oils come primarily from fish. Most of you have heard of the Mediterranean diet. This diet is comprised of lots of fish and vegetables and a low intake of meats. The 3’s can also be added and obtained from healthy fish supplements and krill oils. Try to get at least a 1:1 ratio. In other words, if you are able to look at the ingredients of your food and count the Omega 6 content, try to at least match the Omega 3 intake. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least 2 times a week. It is not always easy to prepare and eat fish, so for those of you that simply don’t eat a lot of fish or don’t like fish, taking a fish oil supplement rich in omega 3 is crucial for heart and brain health. The exact amount of fish oil each of us needs is varied and it is a good idea to talk to your healthcare providers to find out the right amount of oil supplementation for you. A good rule of thumb is to try to at least match the amount of 3 to 6 that you are consuming.
In closing, omega fats are crucial for you brain, heart, and nervous system functioning. Be aware of your omega intake ratio, and for most of us, adding 3’s is necessary. Avoid vegetable and soybean oil and definitely cut any hydrogenated oils from your diet. If the food seems unhealthy but doesn’t have hydrogenated on the label, do some digging on line. More than once, I have found that the hydrogenated oil is hidden and not on the label at all. One example is Girl Scout cookies. Pay attention to labels, but also dig deeper to get all the information around the foods you are putting in your body. I am here for any unanswered questions you may have regarding supplementation and omega intake.