The Lowdown on Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are a family of three types of fatty acids considered essential for body and brain health—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Although we need these fatty acids to stay healthy, the body doesn’t create them on its own. The only way to get the Omega-3s we need is through food or supplementation. Ensuring intake of these fatty acids is definitely worth it—research studies show that Omega-3s play a crucial role in reducing our risk for heart disease, depression, cancer and other ailments.
Where to Get Them?
The best place to find Omega-3s is in certain fish—especially salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout, sardines and halibut. Adults can get a healthy dose by eating fatty fish twice a week. ALAs, which the body converts into usable fatty acids, can also be found in the seeds and oils of flax, soy, pumpkins and walnuts.
Finding the Right Balance
To strike the right balance between Omega-3s and Omega-6s—a ratio of about 3:1—a dietary overhaul may be needed. According to some studies, the average American diet contains 14-25 times more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3s. This is very concerning, especially in light of research from the Center of Genetics, Research and Health that explains too much Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio, promotes disease, including heart disease, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The same research shows increased levels of Omega-3 PUFA (a low Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio) have disease suppressing effects.
The Right Stuff
To get the right amount of Omegas, limit foods that contain high levels of Omega-6, such as processed foods, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds,
oils, cereals and wholegrain breads. Opt for grass-fed beef, which initial research show has a more balanced ratio of Omega-3s and Omega-6s when compared
to grain-fed beef.
A Mediterranean diet, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids from fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, olive oil and garlic, provides a better balance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids as well. And research on the diet supports those claims; studies show people who follow it are less likely to develop heart disease.
Please discuss supplements with your primary physician before adding them to your diet.