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Most people know that omega-3 fats are good for you. Do you realize that it’s the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 that is really important? Omega-6 and omega-3 are inversely related, so the more omega-3 you eat, the less omega-6 you have available and vice versa. Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory and the typical American consumes too much in his/her diet. The proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 should be 1:1 (it was in our ancestors’ day anyway); however, in the American diet it is closer to 20:1, or even as high as 50:1, depending on the source.
An overabundance of omega-6 leads to inflammation, which can cause or contribute to a slew of chronic conditions such as arthritis, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. I believe this shift in the omega 3:omega 6 ratio is a huge contributing factor to many of our modern diseases.
Which foods contain omega-6 and should they be limited? A diet high in omega-6 would be high in grains and refined oils (safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, sesame oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, and soybean oil). Nearly all processed/packaged foods contain these vegetable oils and these are commonly used in restaurants since they are cheap. So if you eat out of a box and in restaurants regularly, you are probably getting too much omega-6 in your diet.
Omega 3 has been found to decrease inflammation. There have been studies of using omega-3 for pain instead of anti-inflammatory medications. It is also associated with lower risk of heart disease, strokes and heart attacks. Omega-3 is associated with better brain function, especially in the development of newborn’s brains when given to pregnant women, and lower incidence of depression.
Fish and fish oil are good sources of omega-3. (There is also a prescription fish oil on the market. Of course it is name brand only and quite expensive, but drug companies are hoping you will think it is better and safer since it is a prescription and spend the money on it). Currently, I take a teaspoon of liquid fish oil daily (the taste grows on you), but plan on switching to krill oil once I’m all out. I recommend krill oil in place of fish oil because there is less risk of contamination with mercury and it is a more sustainable food source.
Other sources of omega-3 include certain nuts (chestnuts, macadamia, acorn, and hazelnuts), algae, pumpkin seeds, and flax (although flax contains ALA which is broken down to EPA and DHA and many are not able to convert appropriately to get the EPA they need).
Tips to help balance the ratio: limit carbs, replace corn oil and soybean oil with olive oil (best not to cook at high temperatures though), and coconut oil and Ghee butter which are great for cooking.
Written by: Dr Christine Arseneau Check out her blog at: http://www.tinaspharm.com/
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