You may have heard a lot of buzz recently about omega-3s, as well as chatter about good fats and bad fats. You may be wondering which fat is good for you, and which fats are the good fats. Despite omega-3s’ rise in popularity, there are actually three kinds of omega fats, and you need all three for your body to perform at its highest capability. Read on to discover which foods are the best sources of which omegas, how to incorporate them into your diet, and the benefits of each.
What Are the Omega Fats?
Omega fatty acids are often called healthy fats because they are unsaturated. Omegas are found in food and they help to regulate cholesterol and metabolism. The three omega fatty acids, omega-3, -6, and -9, are all essential for your health. Unfortunately, the standard American diet is abundant in omega-6 fatty acids and very low in omega-3s. This is because omega-6s are found in vegetable oils, which are used in making many processed foods. Omega-3s are found in foods which are underutilized in the standard American diet, such as hemp seeds and wild-caught coldwater fish. This imbalance can result in issues with heart health, high cholesterol, and inflammation.
The importance of adequate omega-3 consumption cannot be over stressed. Omega-3s keep cells in tiptop shape, keep hair shiny, and even help combat depression. You need to get 2 to 3 grams of omega-3s each day. The best sources for omega-3s are walnuts and flax seed, as well as certain fish that eat omega-3-rich algae. Because farm-raised fish don’t eat wild algae, they are not a good source of omega-3s. Be wary of mercury levels when consuming wild-caught fish by checking out the Environmental Defense Fund”s groovy guide for health-friendly seafood choices.
I recommend to my clients that they take a fish oil supplement (make sure it”s molecularly distilled to remove mercury and other pollutants) and eat a handful of flax seed or walnuts every day to make sure they’re getting omega-3s in their right ratios.
Omega-6 are fatty acids are found in corn, canola, sunflower, and other vegetable oils. This nutrient is essential to optimum health and is just as important as omega-3s, but because these oils are used in abundance in packaged and prepared foods, they are overconsumed in our modern diet. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in the diet is about 1:1, but in the diet of the developed world, with its reliance on fried and processed foods, this ratio is closer to 16:1. When this balance gets out of whack, it can lead to inflammation and cholesterol problems. Aim to lower your omega-6 consumption by choosing whole foods rather than processed ones.
Omega-9 is the least-buzzed-about omega fatty acid. You may have heard about it when called by its other name, monounsaturated fat. These kind of fats can be found in olive oil and avocados, and are necessary for cell and brain function. They also contribute to soft skin and hair.
Remember, you need all three omega fats in the right ratios for optimum health. Decrease your omega-6 intake by reducing your reliance on processed foods, and increase your omega-3s by supplementing with a quality fish oil, as well as by eating a serving of walnuts or flax seeds every day. Try to get two to three servings of omega-9 every day by adding guacamole or olive oil into your diet.