The omega-3s EPA and DHA make up structural components of every cell in your body, so it’s no wonder that they provide myriad health benefits, from supporting your body’s natural defense systems to supporting your brain, eyes, heart, and joints. Ensuring you get enough of these important fats every single day will set you up for success in every area of your health journey.
Consuming processed foods and fried foods adds an inordinate amount of omega-6 to our diet, which makes it harder to get to the ideal ratio of 3:1 omega-6:omega-3. Some even argue that getting closer to a 1:1 is ideal. Most Americans consume far too little omega-3 and far too much omega-6 and saturated fats. While omega-6s and saturated fats aren’t bad for you on their own, they can lead to a cascade of negative effects in the body when you consume too much of them, and when you aren’t balancing your fats with an appropriate amount of omega-3. This is not to advocate for a low-fat diet, not at all. It is simply to say we need to watch for balance in our diets.
Most Americans consume far too little omega-3 and far too much omega-6 and saturated fats
When you reach your ideal ratio, you’ll notice a few key benefits, from having more supple skin with fewer breakouts to greater joint comfort, clearer vision, and a clearer mind. Your energy levels will be more stable, and your ability to tackle the stressful challenges of your everyday life will seem easier. When our bodies are in balance – when we reach homeostasis – life is simply better. You may not be able to put your finger on it, but you will feel better.
Balancing your fats starts with 1 critical step: reduce overconsumption of omega-6 and augment your omega-3 intake. Taking supplements that contain the critical omega-3s EPA and DHA is a great way to top off your diet and ensure your body receives these powerful omegas every day.
So how do you alter your diet to reach a more ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3?
- Stop cooking with seed oils like canola, safflower, and corn oil. Try instead cooking with olive oil (a neutral omega-9) and coconut oil (high in medium-chain triglycerides or MCT). You might also consider using butter or ghee to sauté certain dishes. While butter and butter oils like ghee are high in saturated fats, they do not negatively impact your health unless you consume far too much of them. Balance and moderation are key.
- Stop consuming breaded and fried foods. Use olive oil and coconut oil to sauté, and olive oil in your dressings instead of soybean oil or canola oil. Read your labels. Some sneaky brands say they are made with olive oil but they are mostly canola or soybean oil.
- Add healthy plant-based sources of omega-3 to your diet including walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. These all contain omega-3 in the alpha linolenic form. While they aren’t a direct source of the EPA and DHA your body needs, they also contain fiber and other phytonutrients that are important for your health.
- Aim to consume more whole foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean protein. Taking a “whole foods” approach to nutrition will limit your omega-6 consumption and point you in a safer direction.
- Follow Michael Pollan’s recommendation of eating “mostly plants” with concentrated protein sources as icing on the cake. This also tends to balance your fats, as you get less arachidonic acid, an omega-6 that’s high in animal meats and seed-based cooking oils.
- If you eat eggs, consume DHA-rich eggs. You can find these at your local grocery store, or even at farmers markets from local producers. Ranchers get their eggs to contain higher levels of omega-3 by feeding their birds a mix of flax seeds and also allowing them to open forage from insect populations. As an added bonus, these eggs tend to be higher in the incredible antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which are responsible for the bright orange hue of a great quality egg yolk. If your yolks are yellow, find another source.
- If you consume fish, consume oily fish, lower on the food chain so you receive the omega-3 benefit without too many additional toxins. Examples include: anchovies, sardines, and mackerel. Many experts recommend consuming 4 ounces of fish (the size of a deck of playing cards) two to three times a week.
- If you consume red meat, shift your meat consumption to exclusively grass-fed beef or bison, as these sources have a better balance of omega-6:omega-3.
- Limit or eliminate consumption of dairy products. They contain saturated fats, omega-6, and sugars. Many people are sensitive to dairy products, without being intolerant, and this can cause over-production of mucus which can impede absorption of nutrients.
- Take an omega-3 EPA + DHA supplement. We like Örlö because it’s algae based and sustainably sourced.
If you’re considering shifting towards a plant-based diet, consider following a recommendation made by Jonathan Safran Foer in his recent book We Are the Weather. He suggests that we consider giving up animal products before dinnertime. Taking this one small step can dramatically impact your consumption of saturated fats and the omega-6 AA (arachidonic acid). This is a great way to help move in the right direction and balance your fat intake, as long as you aren’t consuming fried and processed foods.
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