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Omega-3, 6, and 9 - The Lowdown on These Essential Fatty Acids

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Another way to make a significant change to healthier cooking is to change the oils you use to ones that have Omega-3 and Omega-9 instead of Omega-6.

What are omega 3, 6, and 9? They are three kinds of essential fatty acids that our bodies need for good health.

What is the difference?

Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation; Omega 6 fatty acids increase inflammation.
Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-thrombotic; Omega 6 fatty acids increase blood clotting.
Omega 3 fatty acids are non-immunoreactive; Omega 6 fatty acids are immunoreactive.

These differences have profound implications for heart disease, cancer, arthritis, allergies and other chronic diseases. Omega-3 fats are a vital ingredient in human cell membranes. You do need Omega-6 fatty acids to maintain cell wall integrity and provide energy for the heart, but too much of Omega-6 fatty acids can increase inflammation in the body. Although omega-6 fats are essential, the modern Western diet contains far more omega-6 fatty acids than necessary. The recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is 4:1 or less. However, the Western diet has a ratio between 10:1 and 50:1.

Omega-9 fatty acids aren't strictly "essential," meaning they can be produced by the body. In fact, omega-9 fats are the most abundant fats in most cells in the body.

Canola oil is is a good source of Omega-3 and Olive oil is a good source of Omega-9. These two oils are recommended for cooking and food preparation. However, olive oil is best used raw and not cooked as it has a rather low smoke point. .

These Omega-6 oils should be avoided: corn oil, regular safflower oil, and regular sunflower seed oil. Avoid foods such as margarines and salad dressing made with these oils.

Omega 3 has many benefits, such as: improving heart health, supporting mental health, reducing weight and waist size, decreasing liver fat, supporting infant brain development, fighting inflammation, preventing dementia, promoting bone health, fighting inflammation that contributes to a number of chronic diseases, promoting bone health, and preventing asthma.

Unfortunately, the Western diet does not contain enough omega-3s. A deficiency may contribute to chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

There are so many products out there; should we get Omega-3 from fish oil or from plant sources?

Omega-3 is not a single "thing": Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of fatty acids. Omega-3 from fish sources contains "long chain" fatty acids called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These "long-chain" omega-3s have been linked to benefits in heart health, vision, brain function and immune diseases, to name just a few.

Omega-3 fatty acids found in plant sources the "short-chain" alpha-linolenic acid. This omega-3 is shorter, less unsaturated and has not been proven to have most of the health effects that EPA and DHA have been proven to effect, though they are very heart healthy. ALA is not used by the brain, so it cannot substitute for DHA in brain function, attention disorders, mood disorders, or infant development. The body can convert only a small percentage of alpha-linolenic acid to EPA. Almost no DHA is made from alpha-linolenic acid. Thus, the health effects of plant and fish oil omega-3s are not equivalent.

Oils such as flax, canola and soybean, as well as walnuts and flaxseeds contain the most alpha-linolenic acid. These items may be used in foods to support the claim, "contains omega-3s," but the term alpha-linolenic acid seldom appears so many people think that they are getting something that they are not.

Just like in everything else we eat, reading labels and looking at the ingredients that our foods are made from is vital to maintaining a healthy weight and enjoying good health.

Happy eating!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Wonderful! I've been wondering something, but haven't found the answer yet to the question regarding chia seeds. per 100 grams chia is supposed to have about 18 grams of omega 3. sometimes i use freshly ground chia seeds to make a gluten-free flour substitute. does baking with the chia flour destroy its omega 3? heat impacts so many of those types of oils i wasn't certain.
    214 days ago
  • GEORGE815
    239 days ago
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