Are you getting the right omegas in your diet?
I recently submitted a post about how all Omega are not the same, and off the back of this I was intrigued to know more. As everybody assumes, all Omegas are healthy… which isn’t the case at all. In fact, it’s almost a balancing act with your Omegas, primarily between Omega 3s (the Omegas you get in oily fish, etc.) and Omega 6s (poultry, eggs and wheat, for instance).
What is an Omega?
Omegas are the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in foods and, although they are classed as ‘fats’, some are healthy fats or ‘essential fatty acids’.
The FDA and Food Association in the UK agree that Omegas are essential for our bodies as we don’t naturally produce them and must therefore get them from the foods we eat. Without them we are more likely to get sick from inflammatory diseases and can incur blood clotting if we’re not getting enough.
The differences between Omega 3 & Omega 6
Inflammation is a necessary by-product of infection protection, but too much inflammation promotes inflammatory diseases, so a balance of the right amount of pro- and anti-inflammatory bodies are necessary for good health.
This is where Omega 3 & Omega 6 show their differences – Omega 6s are pro-inflammatory and Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory. The Western diet is currently packed full of Omega 6s, primarily due to the widespread over-consumption of meat products, and this is one of the reasons why inflammatory diseases such as IBS and Celiac disease has become so widespread so quickly in the Western world.
So essentially, a diet too high in Omega 6 but low in Omega 3 increases inflammation, and a diet too high in Omega 3 but low in Omega 6 doesn’t protect you enough against inflammation!
The current state of the consumer world is that Omega 3s are good – and as a result we’re all making a conscious effort to eat more of them. According to recent research around one third or 35% of adults are making an effort to get more omega 3s in their diet in foods such as fish, nuts, spices and seeds. However, most of us, despite these efforts, are consuming far too many Omega 6s in comparison to Omega 3s, and this is tipping the balance.
Tipping the balance
Although we are a health-conscious society, our knowledge of what is best for us in terms of omegas is off kilter. We’re eating many omega 6 foods like poultry, wheat, cereals and vegetable oils and, whilst we are eating a lot of the omega 3 foods, they are nowhere near matching our omega 6 consumption.
Think about what you have for lunch – are you more likely to sit down to a poached salmon dish with a side salad…or a chicken sandwich?
If you’re more likely to have the omega 3 variety, well done. This is a great start. On the other hand, if you’re more likely to eat the omega 6 variety, chances are you will consume a heck of a lot more than you would of the omega 3 variety.
That’s because many of the ingredients which usually come with the omega 6 foods (such as meat –cooked in vegetable oils, or wheat products treated with lots of sugar such as in cereals and biscuits) are prone to over-consumption.
Unhealthy fats from the oils and the insulin spikes from the sugar encourage over-eating – which isn’t ideal when it comes to maintaining a balanced level of omegas.
Unfortunately, the only way we can win the ratio war isn’t to increase both omega 6 and omega 3, but rather cut down on omega 6 and boost omega 3 in our diets. An important final note to make is that only a substitution method will work, and not an add-on method.
Replace poultry with fish, wheat-based cereals with seed-based cereals, sugary-based cereal bars with seeded bars like the Omega Sprinkles bar from Munchy Seeds, and try to bake rather than fry. These simple substitutions are likely to enable greater inflammatory disease resistance and keep your balance in tact!