You must have heard about how crucial it is to get enough Omega 3s and to reduce Omega 6s in your diet. But what does that actually mean? And where do Omega 3s and 6s come from?
Before the introduction of seed and vegetable oils (sunflower, rapeseed, soy, chia seed oils, etc) into our diet in the 1900s, humans actually ate very few processed seed products. Seeds and seed oils are very high in Linoleic Acid, the principle Omega 6 which becomes very inflammatory when we consume too much–particularly if the oil has been oxidised, heated or chemically processed.
The increase in seed oil consumption has warped our Omega 3 to 6 ratios and we have transitioned from a healthy 1:1 ratio to a 1:20 ratio in the last few centuries. Elevated Omega 6 levels cause high inflammation in the body which is highly correlated with heart disease, diabetes, obesity and dementia. It is essential to balance your omega 3 and 6.
Since humans evolved on a coastal diet, we nourished ourselves with seafood and it is argued that the main factor contributing to our large IQs was the anti-inflammatory Omega 3 DHA and EPA found in seafood. DHA and EPA are essential fatty acids that we need for our cell membranes. Factory farmed poultry and cattle have a more inflammatory Omega 6 to 3 ratio (because of the grains they are fed), compared to grass fed cows and free range chickens. The food that our food consumes impacts their fat profile to be either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory.
So eat your fatty fish and pastured cattle and poultry where possible! Many people supplement with fish oil, however fish oil easily oxidises and can go rancid, even without you knowing until the ‘fishy burps’ and GI distress come in. If you must supplement, Algae derived DHA and EPA is unoxidised and is the only effective plant based form.
Unfortunately flaxseeds and chia seeds contain ALA which has a very poor 1-10% conversion rate to DHA and therefore, seeds are not a viable source of Omega DHA and will not help balance your omega 3 and 6 nor increase your anti-inflammatory, healthy omega 3s.
To reduce inflammation and improve your health, eat fewer processed fats, foods and industrially produced meat and eat more healthy saturated fats (butter, coconut oil, ghee) and lots more small, fatty fish such as anchovies, sardines and small mackerel.
Like to learn more? Read my latest blog over at Virun.