Sit tight I am about to reveal to you a secret that will enhance you brain and heart-health. Okay, so maybe it’s not a secret but it might as well be – since the information that is out there on this topic is complicated.
What I’m talking about is the story of Omega 3’s 6’s and 9’s or fatty acids. Let’s face it the numbers can be confusing but this article will provide you with a base to begin to understand this complicated subject and ways to drastically change or tweak the way you eat – depending on your current eating patterns.
Do you know the differences between Omega 3, 6 and 9?
In a nutshell the difference between one fatty acid and other comes down to tiny molecules. Fatty acid names and numbers correspond to where the double bond in the molecule is located, the 3, 6, 9, positions. Slight differences in molecular configurations allow each of these fatty acids to work wonders in their own unique way, which is why it’s best not to think about one being better than another – instead a good balance of all three is optimum for health.
Michael Crowford a researcher at the Institute of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition in London believes that eating fatty fish which a very good source of Omega 3 is responsible for the dramatic increase in the size of the brains of humanity. In support of this, he says to think of the differences in the sizes of brains in zebras and dolphins. Zebras and dolphins are about the same size yet the dolphin brain is about 3 times the size of the zebra brain due to its eating more omega 3 in the form of fish. Archeologists found that six million years ago apes came out of the trees, arrived at the coast and found a ready supply of omega 3 in fish and this is when apes’ brain size dramatically increased. It is said that getting omega 3 into their diet was the important step in evolution.
Nature developed over time the optimal proportion of only 2 omega 6’s to each omega 3. But in today’s world of fast food, frozen entrees, and high calorie snacks, it is not uncommon for most people to actually be getting about 10-30 omega 6’s for each omega 3.
From studies, a dietary shift happened between 1909 and the early 21st century when we increased our consumption of omega 6’s, in the form of vegetable oils, margarine and changes in cooking and food processing. The trend I’m talking about is the inclination for us to eat proportionally and more omega 6’s and 9’s than we did in the past. Researchers believe this reduced intake of omega 3 is leading to depression, suicide, obesity and its companion diseases.
What are the benefits which distinguish the fatty acids?
Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids because although they are necessary for human health, the body can not make them. We must get omega-6 through the food we eat. Omega-6 along with omega-3 fatty acids plays a crucial role in brain function, normal growth and development as well as the reproductive system.
Omega 9 fatty acids on the other hand, are not essential which means our bodies can make omega 9 itself. Our bodies need omega 9 fats, for healthy immune functioning.
Omega 3 fatty acids are probably the MOST important of the three. One major reason for this because they tend to suppress inflammation, which is the cause of so many of the degenerative diseases. Researchers indicate that omega 3’s encourage the production of body chemicals that help control inflammation in the joints, blood stream and tissue.
It’s not so much that one omega is inherently bad and another good; we just need them in the proportions Mother Nature spent so much time — 40,000 years or so! —meticulously fine-tuning. Omega 6, 3 and 9 fatty acids compete for enzymes so the amounts of the three need to be properly balanced
The issue is that when we adhere to the typical American diet we take in stacks of omega-6’s and 9’s, (if not balanced by 3’s), fuel the inflammatory fires. And we know that inflammation can lead to heart problems as well as a litany of other health issues. The ratio of omega-6’s to 3’s should be about four omega 6s to one omega 3. But instead, most of us are getting about 20 omega 6s to one omega 3.
The simple way to address this is to become aware of what foods contain which fatty acids. We want to balance the amounts and the ratios of each fatty acid so that they are at the optimal levels of each.
It is suggested that one get all omega fatty acids from fresh whole foods. Foods which contain high portions of omega 3’s besides fatty fish are chia seeds, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds. The best sources of omega 6 fatty acids are nuts and grains and green leafy vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, and kale, and certain raw vegetable oils. Borage oil contains both omega 3 and 9, oils. (Care should be taken to use raw cold pressed vegetable oils because cooking destroys the benefits of the fatty acids.)
One simple yet powerful food preparation technique that will help one take in less omega 6’s and 9’s is to learn to use water instead of oil when you sauté your food. Start sautéing with a small amount of oil when food is browned; add water, cover and steam to complete the cooking process.
To reverse the trend of overloading ourselves in omega 6 and 9, many find it beneficial to keep a list of the more common foods that contain omega 3’s, 6’s and 9’s. Armed with list and information about fatty acids it is no longer a secret how one can easily balance eating patterns to bring about healthy brains, healthy hearts and healthy families.
If you need more help figuring out how to reduce the unhealthy fats in your diet and including more of the healthy fats call Rebecca at 410-868-5178 and schedule a consult today.