What’s the deal with omega-3 and omega-6
Omega-3 and omega-6 refer to fats that are essential and must be obtained from the food that we consume. These fats are important because they help make up cell membranes, aid brain function and enhance immunity. We need both in our diet, but in a proper ratio. Omega-3s are known for being anti-inflammatory and are associated with heart health and prevention of certain types of cancer. On the other hand omega-6s get a bad reputation because when consumed in excess, they can do more harm than good.
It's no secret that the composition of our diets has changed over the past several decades and some would argue for better or for worse. Scientists suggest that humans evolved on a diet with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of approximately 1:1. While lifespan was a lot shorter then, this generation did not deal with a lot of the chronic diseases we see today like cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Today the ratio looks different
Today we see a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 ratio as high as 15 or 16 to 1. Our diets today are much lower in omega-3 fatty acids and too high in omega-6s. This high ratio has been linked to promoting the pathogenesis of many diseases including cancer, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases while a lower ratio may exert suppressive effects.
How to achieve a healthier ratio
So many foods in today’s westernized world are inherently high in omega-6s, which makes them much easier to obtain and supports the evidence of this newly skewed ratio. Omega-6s are ubiquitous among processed foods and come from vegetable oils such as soybean, corn and cottonseed.
Salmon is a fish commonly touted for it's omega-3 content but there are other lesser known sources that are just as potent if not more so. Grass-fed meat will be higher in omega-3s than animals rose off grain-based feeds. Unfortunately, the majority of today’s meats are grain-fed and these are the more affordable option. Pasture-raised eggs, wild caught fish and grass-fed meat are some known sources of omega-3s and should be incorporated into your diet on a regular basis.
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