Omega 6 and 3 fats: Which to eat and which to avoid
For decades, media experts have promoted a diet high in omega 6 fats — found in corn, soybean, canola, and safflower — to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. We now know excess omega 6 fatty acids is connected to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, psychiatric issues, and cancer.
Omega 3 fats, however, are linked with lowered inflammation, better brain function, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Our grandparents ate a much different ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids than we do; omega 3-rich wild and grass-fed meats were the norm, and traditional omega 3 fats such as butter and lard were always on hand.
Omega 6 fats promote chronic illness
Introducing processed seed, nut, and bean oils into our diet while reducing grass-fed and wild fats has resulted in Americans becoming deficient in essential omega 3 fats, while having way too many omega 6 fats on board.
In addition, these processed oils are commonly chemical-laden and rancid, carrying toxic free radicals that promote inflammation throughout the body.
Many studies show a connection between inflammation and chronic health issues. It’s common knowledge in the medical world that omega 6 oils encourage inflammation in the body. They also reduce the availability of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in your tissues, resulting in even more systemic inflammation.
Even more, they reduce conversion of plant-based omega 3 fats into essential, active forms of omega 3s called EPA and DHA—by about 40 percent!
Over consuming omega 6 fats and under consuming omega 3 fats significantly increases the risk of:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Inflammatory bowel syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
In addition, consuming too many omega 6 acids increases the likelihood of mental illness and suicide, due to the connection between inflammation and mental health issues.
Which fats should I eat?
While we do need some omega 6 fats in our diet, we need a higher ratio of omega 3 fats to keep inflammation in check. It’s easy to get plenty of omega 6 fats in the American diet, so our focus needs to be on getting enough omega 3 fats.
Fats that protect the brain and reduce inflammation include:
- Extra-virgin, cold-pressed, organic coconut oil—which is anti-inflammatory and may help improve your cholesterol numbers. It also handles medium to medium-high cooking heat.
- Unrefined, extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil.
- Avocados and avocado oil.
- Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia; avoid peanuts.
- Grass-fed meats and butter, which have about 7 times the omega 3 fats that conventionally-raised beef has (which is near zero).
- Fatty cold-water fish such as sardines, herring, salmon and mackerel, which are all rich in omega 3 fats.
With the epidemic of inflammation-based chronic health issues skyrocketing today, it’s important to reduce your risks for inflammation. Changing the fats you eat is one easy way to boost anti-inflammatory effects. If you have concerns or questions regarding your diet, or your level of inflammation, please contact my office.