You’ll have heard of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. We need some of both types and we need them from the diet because our bodies don’t make them. But in modern times our diets have become hugely high in omega-6 and very low in omega-3 because we’re turning away from omega-3 foods and more towards omega-6. That imbalance creates inflammation inside your body – ‘pro-inflammatory’.
That’s why it’ so important to get the balance between the two right by eating plenty of omega-3 foods.
Added to the food aspect, we live with big stress, which is inflammation’s second best mate. Don’t get me wrong, a bit of inflammation is a good thing in acute situations like if you cut yourself, and it helps to protect the body from invaders and promotes healing. But we tend to live in a state of constant (chronic) inflammation caused by poor food choices, inactivity, lack of sleep, and pranged-up lifestyles.
It’s not just inflammation either. Omega-3 fat, that we eat so little of, plays a significant role in a number of the body’s processes and its structure.
When you consider that the following conditions and diseases are given a huge leg up by the ghastly prolonged inflammation you’ll see how important it is to get the balance right:
- Migraine and headaches
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic pain
- Crohn’s and colitis
- Eczema and psoriasis
- Gum disease (bye bye teeth)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- ‘Brain fog’
- Peptic ulcer
- Some cancers
- Hardening of the arteries
- And more!
Omega-3 foods include oily fish, nuts and seeds, shellfish, tofu and green leafy veg. All the things that people typically DON’T like to eat – apart from you right?! 😀
Foods that are high in omega-6 include vegetable oils such as sunflower oil, bought biscuits, cakes, crisps, milk chocolate, takeaways, ‘beige food’, deep fried food, salad dressings, mayo, processed meats. All the foods people consume on a very regular basis these days, then say they don’t feel well so start to cut out whole food groups – madness!
There’s something else!
Omega-3s come in three types of acid – ALA, EPA and DHA. They’re all needed for good health. Only trouble is that EPA and DHA aren’t available from plant foods, only from marine foods so if you don’t eat fish and shellfish your body will have to clunkily make EPA and DHA by converting ALA, unless you eat algae and seaweed – but who does?! And the ability to do this conversion worsens as we get older, which doesn’t do a lot for brain function.
Lesson is: Eat plenty of omega-3 foods – that’s oily fish and shellfish – and if you don’t, eat plenty of plant-based sources of omega-3 and look at a supplement, if veggie or vegan go for an algae-based supplement such as that made by Nothing Fishy. When buying tinned fish get it in olive oil or brine rather than the very omega-6’y sunflower oil. And use the oil as well as the fish because the omega-3 will have leached out of the fish and into it!
A note about olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is the preferred oil, it’s largely omega-9, which means it’s not largely omega-6.