And you thought there were no good fats...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sometimes I think I function on about half a brain cell. I pick up a general idea of things that are good for you, things that are bad for you and things that should be avoided at all costs. I have that information precariously stored somewhere in that little half of a brain cell, but the reasons why these things are so are left floating.

I know that having some fat in your diet is important. Which ones? I don’t know. I know that Omega 3’s are super-important to your diet . Why? I don’t know. I know flaxseed and fish are both good sources of Omega 3’s and you should add them to your diet regularly. How often? Beats the heck out of me.

So I decided to do some research so I could at least hold up my end of a very short conversation on the subject of Omega 3’s.

Bad news right off the bat. To understand how Omega 3 fatty acids work, you also have to understand how Omega 6 fatty acids work. (Uh oh, my brain cell is starting to balk at THAT one.)

Omega 3’s and 6’s are both essential fatty acids. The benefits of Omega 3’s include a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, a reduction in the symptoms of hypertension, depression, ADHD, and joint pain. There is also research that shows it can give the immune system a boost which may protect against several illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Omega 3’s reduce the negative effect of Omega 6’s. In and of themselves, Omega 6’s are not bad – they support skin health, lower cholesterol and help the blood become “sticky” so it is able to clot. Omega 6’s are found in eggs, poultry cereals, vegetable oils, baked goods and margarine. All the good stuff.

But although Omega 6 is essential, it has to be balanced with Omega 3’s. If it’s not, according to the American Dietetic Association, the blood can become too “sticky” and promote clot formation, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. When you add the Omega 3’s, you decrease the risk of heart problems.

Omega 3’s and 6’s are properly balanced at a ratio of 4 parts Omega 3’s to 1 part Omega 6. In case you were wondering, the typical American diet has a ratio of about 20 parts Omega 6 to 1 part Omega 3. This is not good. You can reduce your intake of Omega 6’s, but it’s reportedly better to increase your intake of Omega 3’s.

According to the American Heart Association, you should eat a variety of fatty fish (that doesn’t sound appealing AT ALL, does it?), such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel, at least twice a week. And that’s only 3-4 ounces per serving. Pretty simple to do.

It isn’t necessary to have a daily dose of Omega 3’s. As long as you get 6-8 grams per week, it’s all good. Three ounces of fish contains 2 grams of Omega 3’s and a handful of walnuts (about an ounce) contains 3.5 grams.

You certainly can supplement Omega 3 with fish oil capsules, but experts (don’t ask me who) feel it’s better to get it from food sources because the body absorbs significantly less when taken in a capsule form.

I didn’t intend for this to be so long, so I’ll just leave you with a few non-fish sources of Omega 3’s that you can add to your shopping list this week:

Flaxseed (ground is preferred over oil), canola oil, broccoli, cantaloupe, kidney beans, spinach, CAULIFLOWER, and walnuts.

We’ll save our discussion of EPA and DHA and Omega 9’s for another day. My brain cell is whimpering.


Tanya said...

Your blog is full of great info, my dear! I love it!

I hate to say it, but those pumpkin muffins are so worth cheating for. They are GOOD! (go make some. You only live once!)

Man, I'm a bad influence and should not be allowed here.

Mrs. Jelly Belly said...

LOL! And I wouldn't consider those muffins to be cheating. When it comes to pumpkin, all bets are off!