Bow to the queen of … the fats. That’s how Susan Allport refers to omega-3 fats in her book, “The Queen of Fats.” When omega-6’s were found to be essential, they were deemed the king for being, at the time, the only truly essential fatty acid. But we all know that behind every man is a strong woman. She doesn’t need an iPod to make her feel important. All she seeks is recognition as the true ruler of fats, for in nature she dominates the fat world.
If you read my previous two articles, you learned that ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is the essential omega-3 fatty acid that we must obtain from the diet. She (ALA) is the mother of EPA and DHA which we associate with fish and marine oils.
Both the omega-6 and the omega-3 fats compete for the same enzyme that converts them to their more usable forms. Omega-6’s promote inflammation, the basis of diseases, while omega-3’s inhibit inflammation which helps prevent diseases. Although most media attention has focused on simply getting more fish and flax in the diet, the true solution is to decrease sources of omega-6 fats while increasing omega-3’s, essentially getting back to nature.
Admittedly, this is not a simple task since the foods we commonly eat contain a combination of both omega-6’s and omega-3’s with a disproportionately high ratio of omega-6 fats. The imbalance is due to the fact that food manufacturers, in an attempt to decrease saturated fats, replaced them with polyunsaturated fats (PUFA’s.) The PUFA’s used in processed foods have been altered to purposely contain fewer omega-3 fats as a way to extend the product’s shelf life. Omega-3’s, while beneficial in the body, are susceptible to oxidation, meaning they hasten food spoilage.
Omega-3’s are found in highest concentrations in leafy green vegetables as well as flax seeds, walnuts, canola oil and seafood. Green vegetables contain omega-3 fats in their chlorophyll which helps them harness energy from the sun. The plant’s seeds (beans, nuts, legumes and grains) contain the majority of omega-6 fats. Omega-6’s provide stored energy for the plant. With obesity on the rise, most people do not need to eat foods that help their bodies store more energy as fat.
Omega-3 fats are found in higher concentrations in plant foods that live in harsh climates such as leafy greens that can grow in cold weather like spinach or romaine lettuce as well as greens from the ocean. Cold water under various pressures, it doesn’t get harsher than that. Sea animals that eat these sea greens have the highest concentration of omega-3’s in their cells so that they can survive the same harsh, cold, high pressure ebb and flow oceans.
Flax and purslane, two omega-3 rich plants, actually thrive in the hot sun. There’s something about these omega-3’s that helps plants and animal persevere. Omega-3’s can do the same for you.
Omega-3’s can be incorporated into your cell walls making each cell more flexible, adaptable and better able to convert food to energy. Of course, being active helps too. By getting more omega-3’s in your diet, you may find it difficult to sit still. You will have more zing in your step, more get-up-and-go, more energy overall.
To ensure you have omega-3 rich cells, eat lots of vegetables and fruits, especially leafy greens. Use grains, beans and animal proteins as “compliments” to your vegetables. Choose seafood or grass-fed, free-range animals when you eat animal protein. Buy omega-3 rich eggs with 400 to 600mg per egg. The more omega-3’s, the less likely saturated fat will increase cholesterol. Use flax, canola or walnut oil to make dressings. Olive oil has 12 grams of omega-6 fats for every one gram of omega-3’s. Our goal is a ratio of four omega-6 fats for every one omega-3. Decrease processed foods overall.
Elizabeth is the queen of Omega-3 Fat information. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.