Beautiful Fats: Omega-3 and Omega-6

heart and brain

Hi, Friends. It’s Brooke here. Have you ever asked yourself, “What’s so great about fish oil?” Turns out, a lot! But as a vegetarian who doesn’t partake of fish, I always felt like I was missing out. Good news! You can absolutely enjoy the fatty acids so abundant in our fishy friends and still eat compassionately. If you are confused about omega-3’s and omega-6’s, keep reading. I even found some great veggie sources to try!

Benefits of Omega Fatty Acids*

Omega fatty acids are incredibly important for our body’s optimal functioning. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, meaning the body doesn’t manufacture them, so we must get them from the food we eat. Here are a few reasons why these fats are great:

  • Maintain structure of the cell membrane
  • Improve cognitive function
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Maintain joint health
  • Help treat ADHD, depression, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Keep skin and hair supple
  • Boost immunity
  • Lower blood cholesterol
  • Reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers
  • May slow age-related decline in memory and possibly Alzheimer’s disease

*Omega-3 tends to thin the blood, so if you are on blood-thinning medications, be sure to talk with your doctor before ramping up your consumption or supplementation of omega-3.

The Big Three

The most crucial omega-3 fatty acids are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are found in cold-water fish and shellfish. Another important omega-3 fatty acid is ALA, or alpha-linolenic acid. ALA is found in plants such as flaxseed, nuts, and seed oils. EPA and DHA provide the greatest immediate benefit, as they are highly bioavailable. ALA, however, must first be converted into DHA and EPA before being used by the body. This means that if you are vegetarian or vegan, you must consume more plant-based sources of omega-3’s to ensure you’re getting your fair share of these fabulous fats.

Mind Your 3’s and 6’s

Turns out you can have too much of a good thing. Case in point: omega-6’s are definitely a good thing—heck, they’re essential, remember? They‘re found in eggs, baked goods, poultry, vegetable oils, and margarine. They are important for your blood’s ability to clot and for maintaining good cholesterol. Omega-6’s make the blood “sticky” and more able to clot, while omega-3’s thin the blood. So you can imagine the problems that arise when this balance is out of whack. Because of their “stickiness,” too many omega-6’s in the diet can lead to increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Unfortunately, the typical U.S. diet is way too high in omega-6’s while lacking in the omega-3’s that balance them out. Sources say that the ideal ratio between 6’s and 3’s should be anywhere from 2:1 to 4:1. Compare that to current estimates of the typical U.S. diet—10:1 and as high as 20:1. Wow!

Common Food Sources of Omega Fatty Acids

Omega-3’s can be found in:

  • Flaxseeds and flax oil
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Algae and other seaweed
  • Avocado
  • Kale, spinach, collard greens, and purslane
  • Cold-water fish
  • Shellfish
  • Meat
  • Fortified foods

Omega-6’s can be found in:

  • Corn oil
  • Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil
  • Pistachios
  • Soybean oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Borage oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Eggs
  • Poultry

On the Move? Try This!

To get a jump on my daily omegas, I toss a tablespoon of healthy oil into my morning protein smoothie. Sometimes, finding vegetarian or vegan sources of DHA, EPA, or ALA is tricky—you’ve got to watch out for the gelatin coating on those capsules. Here are 2 of my favorite vegetarian sources:

Udo's Oil 3 6 9 Blend--love it!

Udo’s Oil 3 6 9 Blend–love it!

Barleans Flax Oil

Barlean’s Flax Oil

 

Barlean's Swirl--a perfect match for your smoothie goodness

Barlean’s Swirl–a perfect match for your smoothie goodness

 

Enjoy these beautiful fats and thrive!

Brooke

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