This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard about omega 3s. You may even know that fish and cod liver contain a large amount of these essential fatty acids. But if you’re wondering what supplements could be the most important to add to your daily regimen, omega 3s tend to be one that I recommend the most! So if you are curious about why this daily enhancer is so important for our health as a whole, read on!
As is true with any other nutrient, one that is “essential” means that our bodies cannot make it themselves, and we need it to survive! Therefore, it is essential that we get these nutrients through our diet if we do not want to be deficient! Many vitamins and minerals are essential, but when we get into the topic of fats, there are actually two types of fats that we must consume in our diet as well: omega 6 and omega 3.
As Americans, we typically do not have much trouble at all getting enough omega 6. These essential fats are found in foods such as meats, breads and soybeans; which make up a large proportion of the American diet. Although omega 6s are essential for the human body, they tend to have drawbacks as well. Omega 6s are known as “pro-inflammatory”, meaning they can promote inflammation, and especially when consumed in excess.
Then we get to omega 3s, which are actually a potent “anti-inflammatory”! These essential fats are found in high amounts in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines. In a much lesser extent, they are also found in foods such as chia seeds, walnuts and eggs. Because these omega 3s have the power to control inflammation from omega 6s (and also many other sources such as stress, poor diet choices and physical activity) experts recommend consuming omega 6s and omega 3s in a ratio of 2:1 or 1:1 within our diet.
Now we get to the problem. In fact, Americans do not get even close to these ratio recommendations for omegas! Instead of 1 or 2 omega 6s for every omega 3, the average American actually consumes 15 to 16 omega 6s for every omega 3! No wonder inflammation is a concern in today’s day and age! We are eating too many pro-inflammatory foods and not enough anti-inflammatory ones.
In order to balance out our omega ratios, we can do 1 of 2 things: eat less grains and meats (which contain omega 6s) or eat more fatty fish (which are high in omega 3s). While I’m sure we could all eat a little less meat and grain, we need to address the fact that by doing this exclusively does not increase our intake of the omega 3s that we need to survive. Also, to increase our intake of omega 3s, experts recommend consuming fatty fish 2-3 times per week. For some this may seem plausible, but think about doing this every week for the rest of your life! Maybe then it makes sense to have a backup supplement in case you don’t eat all of that salmon and tuna!
Simopoulos, A. Omega-6/Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid Ratio and Chronic Diseases. Food Reviews International. 2004:20(1);77-90.