It seems that when we Americans hear anything related to “omega fatty acids” we think it is sort of all encompassing. If it has “omega” before it, it has to be good, right? Well….there’s there more to the story.
So, to begin with, it is important to understand that there is an optimal balance between Omega 3s and Omega 6s in the human body in order to maintain health and wellness in a number of ways. The ratio should be somewhere between 15-16: 1 (Omega 3: Omega 6). However, the Western diet is heavy in omega-6 and lacking in omega-3. In fact us Westerners are so off balance, the ratio is backwards and up to almost 1:25 for some of us!!
“What’s the big deal,” you ask? The big deal is that while Omega 3s do all sorts of cool things for our bodies, an excess of Omega 6 does not. Too much Omega 6 causes a crisis of inflammation within the body which leads to serious problems such as asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases…all of which are believed to stem from inflammation in the body. If you look at current trends in chronic disease it all kind of makes sense, does it not? Another thought in the medical world is that this imbalance might also be related to issues such as obesity, depression, dyslexia, hyperactivity and even a tendency toward violence.
Well then how do I know when I’m consuming Omega 6??
Omega 6 is all over the place. The problem is that our Western diet WAY over processed. Not only does that mean the obvious, that we’re eating a lot of fake stuff, but it is also very, VERY heavy on the Omega 6. Omega 6 comes from veggies, seeds and nuts, and their oils. Refined vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, are found in all sorts of processed foods such as cookies, crackers, baked goods and fast foods. Soybean oil is one of the biggest culprits as it is found in so many fast foods and processed foods that it is estimated to make up 20 percent of the calories in the American diet!
Here is a list of some of the sources with the highest Omega 6 content:
- Safflower oil
- Grape seed oil
- Poppy seed oil
- Sunflower oil
- Hemp oil
- Corn oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Soybean oil
- Walnut oil
- Sesame oil
That’s the short, sweet story. There are plenty of details we could go into, but not in this post. You get the basic idea. Let’s let that sink in and dream of the salmon we’ll be having for dinner (go Omega 3!!).