Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats are called essential fatty acids as they are crucial in maintaining health and an optimum functioning body. Your body cannot make its own, so these fats must be derived from your diet. They help regulate triglycerides or blood fat levels, prevent high blood pressure, prevent inflammation in the body which can lead to problems such as arthritis, fight infections, help brain function, prevent skin problems, help vision and help metabolize fat and aid weight loss.
For optimum health, the ideal balance of omega-3 to omega-6 in your diet should be 2:1 or 3:1. However, the excess consumption of unhealthy, predominantly omega-6 refined polyunsaturated oils in western diets has pushed the ratio to about 15:1. This causes an increase in inflammatory diseases and ill health.
The essential fatty acids are derived from a variety of plant and animal sources:
Plant Sources of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats
Use cold pressed flax seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, or hemp seed oil to obtain the health benefits of these essential fats. Seed oils are light and heat sensitive. The best variety come in opaque or dark bottles to protect them from light, which can cause oxidation–a chemical process similar to metal rusting. Always store cold pressed oils and seeds in your refrigerator. Cold pressed oils are infinitely healthier than refined oils, but spoil quicker and go rancid in moderate to warm temperatures.
Do not cook with these oils. Because of their unstable molecular structure, flax seed oil, hemp, seed oil or pumpkin seed oil release harmful free radicals when subject to heat. Use them as condiments on your food. For example, hemp seed oil’s smoky flavor makes a delicious salad dressing.
If you prefer, use the ground seeds as a condiment, or add them to a fruit and protein smoothie.
Animal Sources of Omega-3
Organic free range eggs, organic grass fed meat, and oily fish such as mackerel, herring, sardine and salmon are rich in omega-3. A study by the School of Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, found high amounts of this essential fatty acid in grass-fed livestock, compared to those fed concentrated commercial feed. A study by the School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, reported in the January 2011 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition, found that eating grass-fed meat for only four weeks will increase your levels of this essential fat and reduce levels of excessive omega-6, which causes ill health.
In Support of Omega-3 Fats
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies have shown this essential fat may help:
- Combat lupus, which causes fatigue and joint pain
- Improve bone density and combat osteoporosis
- Prevent the development of prostate cancer
- Prevent the risk of colon cancer.
- Prevent macular degeneration