Omegas 3 & 6
Omegas 3 and 6 are called Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s), simply meaning that we must eat them in our diet because we can’t make them from other fats/oils. Also essential because we make many fats, hormones and other substances from them. Omegas 3 and 6 are the only essential fats in the diet.
All About Balance
It is important that we have both omegas 3 and 6 in the diet, but what is also really important is the ratio of one to the other. An imbalance can cause many problems in particular inﬂammation and inﬂammatory diseases.
What is the Ideal Balance?
The latest scientiﬁc research shows that the ideal ratio of omega 3 to 6 is between 1:1 and 1:3. Analysis of our food chain show a ratio of closer to 1:15. Alarmingly out of balance!
The Signiﬁcance of this Imbalance
Omega’s 3 and 6 are both biologically, very active compounds. They carry signiﬁcant electrical charge and as a consequence can make things happen in the body very fast. Much of their role is as hormone like substances called eicosanoids. These are responsible for regulation of many things including blood pressure and circulation, blood platelet stickiness, ﬂuid retention to name a few.
This regulation requires 2 sides that cause the equal and opposite reaction. This is how balance and order is kept in our systems. Omega 3 and 6 are often those opposites. Hence the importance of keeping them in balance in our diets.
Consequence of Too Much Omega 6
Because we have excessive omega 6 and insufﬁcient omega 3 in our food chain, most of us also have the same imbalance in our diet and therefore our bodies. The consequence of this is too many pro-inﬂammatory eicosanoids. Simply put excess omega 6 will cause inﬂammation in the body.
Inﬂammation is the root cause of the modern day big killers – Heart disease and cancer. Inﬂammation is also the root of all auto-immune diseases – diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, coeliac, etc.
In short inﬂammation is bad news. The good news is that by balancing your omega 3 and 6 ratio you can signiﬁcantly reduce your risk of these diseases and improve already existing conditions.
How to Get the Balance Right
Omega 6 is excessive in our diets for a number of reasons. Indoor grain fed meat will have more omega 6 and less omega 3 than free range animals.
One big reason for the imbalance is the advent of vegetable oils. Sunﬂower oil, groundnut oil, corn oil etc, are all predominantly omega 6. These oils have found there way into everything that we eat and really tipped the balance. Avoiding them is key. Use butter rather than vegetable margarines and extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil for cooking.
Eating oily ﬁsh (mackerel, sardines, herring, etc) 3-4 times a week will help increase your omega 3 levels.
Vegetarians & vegans are at particular risk and really need to be eating 1-2 tbsps of ﬂax oil a day (the only vegetable oil with more omega 3 than 6). Hemp and rapeseed oils have a good amounts of omega 3 but still more 6.
Supplementing with omega 3 ﬁsh oils is a good idea for most people. 2000mg a day is a good maintenance level.
Fats & Oils- A guide to using them for good health & reduced intake of omega 6
Fats and oils are precious foods. They are a very important part of the diet so it’s worth putting a little thought into which ones we use for what and why. Here’s a quick guide to help.
What does saturated and unsaturated mean? All fats are quite simple molecules made up of a chain of carbon atoms, with hydrogen atoms ﬁlling up their available bonds.
Unsaturated fats have one or more double bond where they bend. These molecules don’t pack together very well, so they tend to be liquid at room temperature, whereas saturated fats pack together nicely and are therefore solid at room temperature.
Unsaturated double bonds hold an electrical charge making them biologically reactive. Consequently these oils are easily damaged by light, heat and air. This is signiﬁcant when it comes to how we use them in our food. Unsaturated oils when heated in cooking get damaged and can become poisonous to the body.
General guidelines for using fats and oils safely
As a general rule of thumb, a fat that is solid at room temperature, like butter, will have a high saturated fat content and therefore not be easily damaged by heat. These are the best sort of fats to cook with, especially for high heat cooking like frying and baking.
An unsaturated oil that is liquid at room temperature will damage easily on heating and therefore should not be used for cooking, but rather in dressings and added to food on eating.
There are exceptions – Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Cold (ﬁrst) Press Sesame oil. These 2 oils are naturally high in antioxidants and therefore can withstand being heating brieﬂy to around 130C.
Best Fats For Frying With
Oils OK Brief Heating To A Max Of 130C
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Cold pressed Sesame Oil
Healthy Oils To Use in Dressing and to Add to Food on Eating
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Flax Oil (best omega 3 content)