To counter the typical American diet, we can boost our omega-3 intake for better health.
We all need essential fatty acids – omega-6 and omega-3 – for our bodies to function properly. Both are polyunsaturated fatty acids that the body cannot make adequately on its own. So we must get them from our diet.
But most of us get too much omega-6 fatty acids. Primarily, these come from processed foods and cooking oils. And too much omega-6 can lead to inflammation run amok in our bodies.
How much omega-3 you need depends on how much omega-6 you consume.
For optimal health, ideally we would consume them in a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Unfortunately, most Americans eat too many pro-inflammatory foods. Estimates today range from an average of 10:1 to 20:1, omega-6 to omega-3. And in some people, the ratio is as high as 25:1.
And that causes problems.
Why Is Too Much Omega-6 Bad?
Do you eat a lot of foods containing or cooked with vegetable oils? Do you eat chips, crackers, baked goods, or other processed or prepared foods?
Check the ingredient labels of the foods you’re consuming. Do they include canola, corn, safflower, and soybean oils? If so, you probably get too much omega-6 in your diet. And too much omega-6 can cause inflammation that leads to chronic disease.
That excess inflammation drives some of the most serious chronic illnesses in the Western world today. Those include heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and many types of cancer.
The first step to reducing your consumption of omega-6 is to not consume seed- and vegetable oils or the processed and prepared foods that contain them. Soybean oil is especially prevalent because it’s cheap. Read labels.
What Happens When We Boost Omega-3 Intake?
Omega-3 fatty acids have been tied to many improved health outcomes.
A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and phytonutrients provides the body with an arsenal of nutrients to fight inflammation. And scientific studies show the benefits of omega-3s in lowering heart disease, arthritis, depression, asthma, ADHD and dementia.
There are three main omega-3s. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) come mainly from fish. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found in some vegetable oils and nuts, flax seeds and flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables, and the fat of grass-fed animals.
Foods highest in omega-3 include mackerel, walnuts, chia seeds, salmon, flax seeds, and tuna. And if those are foods you don’t enjoy eating, it’s possible to get more omega-3 in your diet through supplements.
It’s your turn. How much omega-3 do you get in your diet? Have you seen results from using it? Comment below on what’s working for you.
Welcome! I’m Amy, an integrative health coach, offering grace and space for a healthier you. This article is Step 28 in the “31 Steps to a Healthier You” series. You can access all posts in the series here. And I hope you’ll want to stick around for a while. If so, please subscribe at this link so you’ll get updates.