Use this healthy eating guide to balance the omegas in your diet
As we’ve said elsewhere, inflammation is considered by most researchers to be the basis of all disease.
One of the important discoveries that too few people know about, however, is that one of the great causes of inflammation is the imbalance between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in our diet.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that fully three quarters of US healthcare spending goes to treat chronic diseases, most of which are preventable and linked to diet: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and at least a third of all cancers.
The typical American diet (and increasingly diets around the world) is absolutely loaded with foods containing omega-6s. Why? Because omega-6s are in practically everything that is commercially prepared – fast foods, fried foods, processed grocery store meals and snacks, soft drinks … the list is endless.
Conversely, omega 3s are found most abundantly in marine creatures from cold water, like salmon, herring, sardines, krill and the like. How many of us are eating an abundance of seafood … or even the USDA’s recommended 8-12 oz of fish per week?
What omega 3 / omega 6 imbalance means to your health
Omega 3s produce hormones that are anti-inflammatory. Omega 6s produce hormones that support inflammation. Inflammation is an important process for healing in that it helps in acute injury or microbial attack. When the site of a wound becomes hot or swollen, for instance, this is due to the presence of omega-6s in the body. Omega 3s and omega 6s are meant to balance each other, like demolition and construction tools.
However, when omega 6s begin to outnumber the omega 3s, they overwhelm the body’s ability to tone down the inflammatory response. This inflammation begins to manifest in things such as increased cholesterol, asthma, cardiovascular disease, many forms of cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, immune diseases such as Crohn’s and Lupus. Inflammation also is associated with obesity, depression, hyperactivity and more.
What is the proper balance of omega 3 to omega 6?
Scientists generally agree that one should be taking in only about two to four times as much omega 6 as omega 3 (2:1 or 4:1). However, the balance in most Americans’ diets is now variously estimated to be from 10:1 to 50:1. Is it any wonder we are experiencing an explosion of inflammation-related diseases?
Again, this is largely due to the presence of omega 6-loaded oils used in fried and processed foods – corn, soy, cottonseed, grape seed, sunflower – because they are cheaper last longer on store shelves. Fatty acid experts say that if we were to simply replace these oil with high-oleic oils such as extra virgin olive oil or high-oleic safflower oil, it would go far in reducing the inflammatory response in our body.
Nix the 6s and eat the 3s
So the takeaway message is simple: Nix the 6s and eat the 3s. However, this is going to require some attention and care on your part. Here are some steps for you to take to help you get this omega balance correct.
• Cut way back on fried and processed foods — those fast-food meals, TV and frozen dinners, prepared cereals. Ramp up the amount of fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts in your diet. However ...
• Become a chronic label reader —We know some people will think you are overly obsessed, and you will have to put up with some kidding. But remember that you are doing it because you know the consequences of eating ignorantly. Even if you are buying nuts (which we've said are healthy), read the label look to see if they are processe with vegetable oil (corn, soy, cottonseed, grape seed, sunflower, safflower, etc), which loads them up with omega 6. Olive oil is best, high-oleic safflower oil is next best, canola oil is ok, no oil (raw) is even better. Canola, corn and soy are all GMO.
• Use this omega balancing tool —
One of the world’s most respected authorities on essential omega fatty acids is Dr. Bill Lands. He is the former Senior Scientific Advisor to the Director of the National Institutes of Health, has authored more than 250 papers on this subject, and was one of the world’s 1,000 most-cited scientists in 1965–1978. Now in his 80s, Dr. Lands is on what he calls his “final mission,” to get this information to you.
Dr. Lands has created a free tool by tapping the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Nutrient Database, which quantifies the nutrients in thousands of foods. Dr. Lands has created a simple rating system for the omega 3/6 balance in each of these foods: Foods with numbers on the plus side have more omega 3, those on the minus side have more omega 6. For instance, canned red kidney beans rank .5, but garbanzos (chick peas) rank -6.8, and roasted soy beans rand a whopping -23.2! So choose the foods with the highest positive score, and you're well on your way to an omega balance.
Here is your eating guide for omega balance:
Your healthy eating guide
The foods are grouped into the seven categories below. Click on any of them to download the PDF, and see how your numbers add up. Then begin building your healthy shopping lists.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is a public service of WellWise.org, and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended to constitute personal medical advice.