Your diet might be missing something essential: fat.
While this idea may seem unlikely for most people living in developed countries throughout the world, it is actually a big concern due to the imbalanced fat content found in most popular foods throughout North America.
- People in North America tend to consume 14 to 25 times as many omega-6 fatty acids as they do omega 3 fatty acids.
- On average, adults should consume more omega-3 fatty acids in the form of 0.3 to 0.5 grams of EPA and DHA, and 0.8 to 1.1 grams of ALA, per day.
So, what does that all mean? Let’s delve a little deeper into these important building blocks to better health.
Omega-3 versus Omega-6
Both of these essential fats are required at every stage of human development, from pre-natal care until old age, and provide numerous benefits to the human body. Both promote healthy brain function, as well as healthy development for children. Both are also required for bone health, metabolic health, and even reproductive health. This is why many people choose to incorporate them into their diets, or to take supplements from health stores in Toronto to ensure they get the proper amount.
One of the main differences between certain omega 3 fatty acids versus omega 6 is that generally, most omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, while many of the omega-6 fatty acids will actually increase it. Not every source of these fatty acids will hold true to this trend, but it is important to be aware so that you can regulate your intake accordingly.
This difference also helps to explain why the current average diet in North America is problematic. If we look at the average Mediterranean diet by comparison, there are reduced instances of heart disease due to the better balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Sources of Fatty Acids
Omega 6 fatty acids are not difficult to come by in the foods generally available in the Western world. The best sources tend to be in the form of gamma-linolenic acid, which you can consume via a number of oils derived from plants, like blank currant seed oil and evening primrose oil. You can increase your absorption by ensuring you are also getting enough essential nutrients, like vitamins B3 and B6, zinc, magnesium, and vitamin C.
Obtaining omega 3 fatty acids is also not difficult. They are contained in many different foods typically found in a healthy diet, including fish, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy oils, and garlic. You can even enjoy getting some omega-3 fatty acids with your daily glass of wine.
One recommendation to consider following in order to ensure you are getting the right amount is laid out by the American Heart Association. They recommend having two servings per week of fatty fish. The serving should consist of 3.5 ounces of cooked fish, or ¾ of a cup of fish that has been flaked. The best sources are fish and shellfish that do not contain excessive amounts of mercury, like salmon, light tuna, shrimp, catfish, and pollock.
Other potential sources that can be helpful for people who follow a vegetarian diet and have trouble getting enough omega 3 fatty acids include tofu, canola oil, and walnuts.
It is important to balance out the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Having an excess of omega-6 fatty acids can decrease absorption of omega-3 fatty acids, as they compete within the body. Increasing your omega-3 fatty acids may therefore be as simple as reducing your intake of omega-6, in order to make room.
Experiencing the Benefits
The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids vary, depending on your age and stage of life.
Prenatal and Children
Pregnant women may experience a reduced likelihood of early labor, based on a study done in 2003 whereby women who ate omega-3 enriched eggs had fewer instances of premature birth versus those who ate regular eggs.
Furthermore, children whose mothers supplemented with the omega-3s EPA and DHA experienced better scores on cognitive tests when they turned four years old compared to those who did not take such supplements. This suggests a strong correlation between cognitive development and omega 3 fatty acids early in life. In fact, there is promising evidence suggesting that these fatty acids could prevent certain other childhood conditions like asthma, attention deficit disorders, depression, and diabetes.
Did you take omega-3 fatty acids during your pregnancy? What kinds of benefits do you feel you experienced? Share with us in the comments.
Continuing with supplementation in omega-3 fatty acids is highly recommended for adults. Congruent with the recommendations of the American Heart Association, studies show that there is a reduced risk for heart disease among people who eat at least two servings of fatty fish per week. Additional evidence suggests that there may be a reduced risk of cancer associated with higher omega-3 intake. If you have trouble with mental health issues, like depression, omega-3s can also help you improve your brain chemistry, as reduced levels of depression are associated with higher blood levels of omega-3s.
As you age, omega-3s become even more important. They can improve your overall heart health, and help keep your triglycerides low. Evidence also suggests that these supplements can help manage conditions like osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and even reduce the risk of mental health issues like dementia.
Omega-3 fatty acids provide numerous benefits at all stages of life. We at Better Living can help you find the right omega-3 fatty acid supplements that will work for you, giving you the safety net that supplements provide if you have a difficult time fitting them into your daily eating habits. Stop in and visit our health store in Toronto to find the best supplements available.