Yep, fats have been a rancid source of controversy. Despite the ‘fat fear’ out there, we know we need a sufficient amount of healthy fats in order to thrive, right?
Well there’s something fishy making waves, and it also happens to be scientifically essential for our health: omega-3 fatty acids!
Omega-3 and omega-6 are two fatty acid groups that are pretty much essential for life. They can’t be made in the body so we have to source them out from food. In order to be useful for our health, omega-3’s go through a bodily conversion to graduate to EPA and DHA form. This process can be halted by poor diet, stress, viruses and other nasty factors.
According to EFA experts, the ratio should be about 2:1 omega 6’s to 3’s, however the standard North American diet (or SNAD) is usually WAY higher in omega-6. This is due in part to the pro-inflammatory nature of arachidonic acid (one form of omega-6) in corn and grain fed meats, hydrogenated fats and processed junk foods.
Inflammation is a key part of our immune response and cell membrane health, so we need a bit of it, but too much can wreak havoc in the form of heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease and so on. Like most things, a healthy balanced ratio is what we’re striving for here. So KFC is out.
Before wading into the sea of nutrition, I had a vague idea of why certain omega fatty acids are essential (something to do with brain power). After some deeper diving, it appears they have a wide scope of glowing functions in our bodies.
- blood clotting
- mood balance
- healthy cholesterol levels (they increase the ‘good’ HDL recycling kind)
- cognitive function and memory in the elderly
- brain development and neurological protection
- building blocks of hormones
- absorption of fat soluble vitamins
- cardiovascular health
- skin conditions
Unless we’re mermaids or eating fish all day everyday (hello, mercury levels), chances are we likely don’t get enough omega-3’s. It’s no shocker that certain Arctic cultures like the Inuit have lower rates of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and arthritis than we do, despite their subsistence on a high fat diet of whale and seal blubber for centuries.
So, what are the best sources of friendly EFA’s?
Sea vegetables and cold water fatty fish like salmon, cod, sardines, and mackerel all contain preformed omega-3’s EPA and DHA, which the body can use up right away. Other dietary sources rich in the precursor to omega-3, ALA (alpha linolenic acid), include avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, raw walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pecans. Flaxseed oil boasts a whopping 60% worth of omega-3. Evening primrose oil is considered an optimal source of GLA (gamma linolenic acid), which is one form of omega-6 known to actually offset inflammation.
According to Health Canada, we should eat at least two servings of fish per week (150 g), although we may need more of these precious fatty fish oils.
The thought of throwing back some oil o’ fish is slightly gag-inducing. Luckily, the higher quality capsules are now formulated to prevent any fishy reflux, and many liquid forms offer fun naturally derived flavours like apple and lemon.
With type 1 diabetes, I’ll take all the help I can get. Living in the mountains means I’m somewhat limited in accessing fresh (affordable) wild fish options so I’ve opted for a liquid omega-3 EPA and DHA supplement. Right now I’m digging the mango blend by NutraSea. Their products also undergo serious pollutant purification, and they’ll let you see for yourself by entering the lot number into Pure Check.
Happy EFA fishing!