The Truth About Fats and Omega-6s

I have really been enjoying my last few days of freedom….out of town and visiting with family…. So apologies, as the posts have been less frequent.

Hard to believe school starts on Monday!

However, I did enjoy a beautiful view and a wonderful bowl of oatmeal with hemp hearts this morning. Hemp hearts inspired me to write the post for today.

drinking my coffee with an amazing view this morning.

Hemp Heart Oatmeal

So here begins a small look into a very big topic…

*If you don’t feel like reading all the details, just skip to the “summary” at the very bottom!*

What are Omega-6s? 

An Omega-6 is an essential fatty acid.

The “essential” part means we must get it from a food source….our body cannot produce it.

The “fatty acid” refers to the fact that is is part of a “fat” molecule, that our body needs.  “Fat” molecules are a type of lipid.

Omega-6s play a crucial role in brain functioning, growth, development, stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, help regulate your metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.

How can a “fat” be good for me?

Most people have been brainwashed to believe that “fats” are bad for you.

Well, yes, highly processed lipids (fats and oils) in large amounts are terrible for you.

Keep in mind a low fat diet is also not optimal. With all things in life…moderation is key.

Your body needs fat (lipids)….specifically a “good” fat that is still intact (i.e. not damaged due to high heat processing like vegetable oil).

One reason is those “lipid/fat molecules” make up a very important part of your cell.

If you care…take a looksie at the diagram below. Otherwise, just trust me 🙂 

Those teal balls with tails in the middle, called the “phospholipid bilayer,”  is the “outline/boundary” of all 50 trillion cells in your body.

cell membrane diagram

Eating good fats (lipids) helps to strengthen, and can repair the “phospholipid bilayer” of the cell membrane.

Other reasons?

Lipids have been linked to improving heart and brain health,  lower cholesterol, better blood sugar regulation, and the list goes on.

As always…more later. (So much to write about, so little time!!)

Why do Omega-6s get a bad rap these days?

The American diet consists of too many Omega-6s and not enough Omega-3s.  Ratios of 10:1 (omega-6:omega-3), and sometimes as high as 20:1, have been reported. As you will later see, this is nearly triple the amount of desired omega-6s.

Too much Omega-6 has been shown to decrease and even stop, Omega-3 absorption.

Here is one study that shows an improper balance can increase inflammation. This could result in a higher incidence of asthma, diabetes, and arthritis.

Here is another study that shows too much Omega-6, and not enough Omega-3, can actually induce obesity across generations!

Why is the American diet so high in Omega-6s?

Processed vegetable oils and processed foods.  These processed foods damage omega-6s when they are exposed to light, bleach, deodorizer, and heat (all involved in processing of some oils).

What is wrong with processed oils?

Well, a lot. Future post to come.

But for starters…your body doesn’t properly recognize and acquire the benefits of the processed oils.

What are Omega-3s?

An essential fatty acid (the body cannot make it on its own) commonly found in plant oils.  Omega-3s are proven to be good for your health (hence the fish/krill oil craze). There will be a specific post on Omega-3s later.

How many Omega-6s and Omega-3s should I be eating?

Any healthy diet should maintain a balance of Omega-6s and Omega-3s. A good balance consists of a ratio anywhere from 4:1 (omega-6: omega-3) to 1:1. 

As you saw earlier, the average American diet nearly triples this ratio.

What are some foods that are sources of Omega-6s?

As you can see, it is pretty easy to find Omega-6s in our diet. The “bad omega-6s” are lurking in your mayonnaise, salad dressings, margarine, prepackaged crackers, chips, cookies, fast foods, and other condiments.

Check the food label to avoid these processed oils as much as possible:

Canola Oil

Cottonseed Oil

Grapeseed Oil

Hydrogenated Fat

Partially hydrogenated Fat

Margarine

Vegetable Oil

Corn Oil

Safflower Oil

Shortening

Soybean Oil

Sunflower Oil

and…processed foods in general.

Better sources of Omega-6s (i.e. those that have a better Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio and haven’t been harmed as much by the “processing”) can be found in:

Eggs (organic and cage free)

Lean meats and poultry (free range and grass fed… here is a study that shows grass-fed beef may help contribute to increased consumption of omega-3s)

Fish

Nuts and seeds

Avocados

Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

Unrefined coconut oil

Wow…that was a lot to digest, huh? 🙂

Summary:

1. Make sure you are eating a balanced fatty acid diet (containing Omega-6s and Omega-3s).

2. Try to avoid processed foods as much as possible (Processed foods increase your intake of damaged Omega-6s and ultimately affect your Omega-3 absorption).

3. Your body (cells) needs “good” unprocessed fats.

4. Top sources of unprocessed fats: nuts, seeds, eggs, avocados, grass-fed meat, fish.

5. Remember, omega-6s can be beneficial with the omega-3 balance.

…A natural food, with unprocessed omega-6s, in moderation, is not bad for you…unless you are also eating a large amount of processed foods.

a lot of information to chew on. 🙂

please let me know if you have any questions or comments!

Cheers and happy evolving.

 

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