Healthy eating guide can help you find the balance
One of the most important things you will ever learn about what to eat and what not to eat is this: If you get the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet under control, you can expect to enjoy good health. If you don’t, expect to get asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, autoimmunity or neurodegenerative diseases, and you are more likely to become obese, depressed, hyperactive or worse.
This is not speculation. There is a mountain of supportive evidence, and if more people understand this and change their diet accordingly, they will vastly improve their own health and that of the nation. Remember the old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? This information is worth pounds.
But why haven’t I heard this information before now, you ask? Because there is no profit in prevention for insurance companies, food manufacturers, fast-food chains, even the medical establishment.
Spreading the word takes money … or people caring enough to tell their friends.
Dr. Bill Lands, the world’s foremost authority on essential fatty acids.
Most of what I share with you here comes directly from the lifelong work of Dr. Bill Lands, the world’s foremost authority on essential omega fatty acids. He is the former Senior Scientific Advisor to the Director of the National Institutes of Health, has authored more than 250 papers on this subject, and was one of the world’s 1000 most-cited scientists in 1965–1978. Now in his 80s, Dr. Lands is on what he calls his “final mission,” to get this information to you.
Why you need to know about the omega-3/omega-6 balance
First, understand: Omega-3s (EPA/DHA) fight inflammation, the process that we now believe to be at the basis of all disease. Too much omega-6 in the body causes inflammation.
Here’s what happens, simply put:
1) Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential. That is, they must be ingested from food or supplements – your body can’t manufacture them.
2) Omega-6s and omega-3s compete to create hormones in your body.
3) When the omega-6s begin to outnumber the omega-3s in your body, the omega-6s take over and inflammation begins, causing such problems as increased cholesterol formation, joint pain, arthritis, atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes.
How much omega 6 do you consume?
Low-income families tend to consume inexpensive foods, and that usually means more processed foods. Vegetarians tend to crave for “hearty” fats such as almond butter or fried tofu. Wealthy consumers eat a lot of protein such as beef raised on omega-6-rich corn. It can become even more perverse: farm-raised salmon is fed omega-6-rich corn, and some farmed fish have barely any omega-3s at all.
The ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio for is 1:1, though some say 4:1. That is, your body can handle four times as much omega-6 as omega-3. But most Americans consume these oils in a 35:1 ratio, and with unhealthy food habits this can add up to a 110:1 ratio for omega 6 to omega 3. Is it any wonder we are experiencing an explosion of inflammation-related diseases.
And it’s getting worse.
Omega-3s are more complex fats and are thus less stable, meaning that they have a shorter shelf life than the more stable omega-6s. The processed-food industry has been making every effort to remove the omega-3s from their fats, because they want a longer-lasting, “ever-fresh” product on the shelves. If you think this can only be minimal, think twice: 10 years ago Canola oil (or rapeseed oil) used to contain more than 10 percent ALA (the lesser of the omega-3s). Now most Canola oil contains less than 5 percent ALA.
You are eating omega-6s in such foods as
Nearly everything fried commercially – chicken, French fries, doughnuts, etc. Commercial frying uses refined vegetable oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower and the most commonly used, soybean oil), all of which are huge sources of omega-6s.
Seeds and nuts, and the oils extracted from them (peanut, sunflower, safflower, canola, etc.)
Nearly every kind of processed, packaged and snack foods, including cookies, crackers, pizza dough, chips, fast food and sweets.
Recognize your diet in these? No wonder – Most Americans diets are ingesting up to 80 percent of their fatty acids from omega-6s. And we wonder why we’re becoming so obese and otherwise unhealthy.
But more specifically, every type of food – beef, chicken, vegetable, peanut, etc. – has its own omega-3 or omega-6 profile. For instance, take peanut butter … please. Turns out that this staple of American lunches is loaded with omega-6s.
Vegetarian sources such as algae capsules and spirulina; walnuts and flaxseeds, though the body must first convert these to EPA and DHA, so they are not nearly as efficient suppliers of EPA/DHA as fish.
Dr. Lands has tapped the U. S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database, which quantifies the nutrients in thousands of foods. Lands has created a simple rating system for the omega-3/6 balance in each of these foods: Foods with numbers on the plus side have more omega-3s, those on the minus side have more omega-6s.
Dr. Lands has grouped the foods into the seven categories you see below. Click on any of them to see how your numbers add up, and start building your healthy eating lists.
At the very least, we need to be taking in far more omega-3s and/or taking omega-3 supplements. But our diets are so out of balance that we must also cut way back on the foods that are overwhelming our bodies with omega-6s – thus Dr. Lands’ catch phrase “Nix the 6s and eat the 3s!”
If you want even more details on this, you can download a program called KIM (Keep It Managed). There are also some PowerPoint presentations there that will help you further understand this nutritional information.