Friday, February 17, 2012

Food Facts Friday: From Alpha to Omega-3

I'm trying to get a handle on the omega fatty acids (f.a.). It's very confusing and I have a biology and chemistry (organic and inorganic) background. I can't imagine what it's like for someone who has been told by their doctor to consume more omega-3 f.a. to beat inflammation, improve their cardiovascular system or immune system, or protect themselves from breast, prostate or colon cancer. 

I can just hear it now, in the doctor's office:
Doctor: "Oh yeah, and to those omega-3 fatty acids, add some omega-6 fatty acids to lower your cholesterol! Just keep in mind that you are going to want to balance your Omega-3:Omega-6 fatty acid consumption to a 4:1 or 3:1 ratio!"

Huh? What just went down? When did eating salmon, tuna, nuts, eggs or avocados get so complicated?

Omega-3 and omega-6 are both essential fatty acids - meaning the body doesn't make them - so we should be concerned, right?

Well, it turns out that omega-6 f.a. are pretty abundant - especially in the American diet. This has to do with the abundance of refined and processed foods, of which almost all contain the omega-6 rich soy oil, most of which is genetically modified

Mark my words, one day, soy oil is going to be recognized, from a health perspective, as the next high fructose corn syrup! It has been figured that 20% of calories in the US diets come from soy oil alone!

Even though omega-6 fatty acids offer some excellent health benefits, too much of this good thing has its drawbacks. Apparently, too many omega-6 fatty acids can increase inflammation and lead to lots of negative health problems, such as arrhythmia, arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity and cancer!

The key to avoiding these conditions: Balance!
But how? 

The best part about nutrition, that most peeps screw up, is that just small adjustments yield tremendous benefits.. So, just by cutting back, a little, on omega-6 fatty acids and making a conscious decision to eat a bit more omega-3 fatty acids, you can achieve balance!

To eat less omega-6 fatty acids, simply cut back on processed and fast foods and polyunsaturated vegetable oils, like corn, safflower, soy and cottonseed oil  - which are usually found in snack foods.

To eat more omega-3 fatty acids, choose to eat salmon, tuna and cod a few nights a week. Or buy some walnuts, chia seeds or flax seeds and add them to cereal, yogurt or salad. Omega-3 fatty acids are antioxidants, which is how they help fight inflammation and  maximize cellular health!

It doesn't get much better than this....
For your next pre-morning work out eats or instead of your
mid-morning coffee break try 
Yogurt (branched chain amino acids and probiotics)
Flax Seeds (omega-3)
Mmm mmm good!
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