Sorry I haven't posted in a couple days - I'm in Utah having a fabulous time with Brandi and the spring skiing is amazing! 60 degrees. Had a tiny snowboarding breakthrough today. :) So let's get on to it...
Omega-3, 6 and 9 essential fatty acids are all the rage these days. Omega-3 is the "it" nutrient, touted for its ability to reduce inflammation, heart disease, depression and a whole host of other things - even aging! Like other health trends, omega-3 will be considered a cure-all for a while, and then someone will find "evidence" that it causes something horrible like cancer or strokes.
Omega-3, 6 and 9 all work together, and they are important for your health - no doubt about it. Omega-3 and 6 are "essential" fatty acids, which means your body can't manufacture them. As for omega-9, your body can make it from 3 and 6, and you can also get it from food.
Let's start with omega-3, the current darling of the nutrition industry. Omega-3 helps with heart health by lowering cholesterol and potentially triglycerides. Other potential benefits include lowering inflammation, arthritis, osteoporosis, and depression. You need this (the FDA recommends 3 grams per day), and it is far better from food instead of supplements. Omega-3 from food sources is better absorbed, and it comes with other nutrients that help it do its magic. The best source is cold-water fatty fish like mackeral, sardines and salmon. It's recommended that you have two 3-4 ounce servings a week. Other great sources of omega-3 are walnuts, flaxseed and soy. See "What to do" below on how to get enough in your diet. If you want the technicals, the omega-3 in food sources is ALA, which your body then converts into EPA and DHA (found in fish omegas) to absorb.
All right, hon, omega-3 is trendy and good, but please don't be a freak and eat too much (3 servings of fish a day) or take too many supplements. Omega-3 thins your blood, and an excess can potentially cause bleeding (nose bleeds) or strokes. Be moderate!
On to omega-6. This works with omega-3 for good heart health. Cool, huh? You get enough of these in your regular diet. This is in meat and vegetable oils. Omega-6 thickens your blood (for clotting) while omega-3 thins it. Yin and yang. Ideally, you want a ratio of 2-4x more omega-6 than omega-3, but since the average person gets more than enough omega-6, you should just focus on getting more omega-3. If you really want to get analytical, since the recommended amount of omega-3 is 3 grams, you should get 6-12 grams of omega-6. Again, please be mindful and don't eat much or you may clot your blood.
Omega-9 works with the others for heart health, helps reduce insulin resistance and improves immune function. Since you are getting enough omega-3 and 6, your body will make enough 9, so you don't need to worry. But it also comes in olive oil, olives, avocados, almonds, and a whole lot of other nuts.
What to do - Get enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- You probably get enough omega-6, so focus on getting more omega-3s. 5-10% of your caloric intake should be from omega-6, which is what most Americans get.
- Boost omega-3 by eating 3-4 oz of cold-water fatty fish 2-3 times a week (mackeral, herring, lake trout, sardines and salmon). If you don't like/eat fish, focus even more on steps 3 and 4.
- Buy ground flax-seeds and keep them in your refrigerator. They are easier to digest when ground. You can put a tablespoon in nearly anything - yogurt, rice, quinoa (grains of any type), cereal, salad, oatmeal, curry, chicken, whatever. It has a great nutty flavor.
- Eat walnuts and soy. Walnut oil is pricy, but it's a great gourmet flavoring and full of omega-3. It's not a cooking oil, but since it has such a great flavor, you can use it in all of your salads.
- Be mindful and moderate. Don't be a freak and eat excessive amounts fish topped with walnut oil and flaxseeds at every meal - omega-3 thins your blood and can promote bleeding, which can have side effects from nose bleeds to strokes.
Want to learn more about omega-3? Check out:
What I ate: 14 oz. green juice, 2 scrambled eggs, 2 oz. smoked salmon, 1 large latte, 1/3 c. brown rice, 1/2 c. tofu + cabbage, 2T ground flaxseeds, 1 c. yogurt, 1 banana, 1 apple, 2/3 cup nuts, 1 cup coffee, 35 oz. water
Exercise: 45 min gym workout