You’re probably familiar with the terms “omega”, “omega 3’s”, “fish oils” and “essential fatty acids”. What are these amazing omegas? Are they all created equal? And more importantly, why do we need them? The clue is in their descriptor – essential … meaning we can’t make them and can’t live without them!
What are omegas and why are they so amazing?
Omegas are a type of fat that your body needs to function at its best. Unlike other fats, they are not simply used for energy or stored. They’re biologically active and have important roles in virtually all systems of your body, specifically your skin, your brain and your heart. Omega 3’s are known as “essential” fatty acids because your body can’t produce them on its own, so they must come either from your diet or from a supplement. Omega 3’s get a lot of press, but they aren’t the only amazing omegas out there. You also get omega 6’s and omega 9’s.
Which omegas are the most important?
Omega 3’s are the most important of the three. This is because they are integrally involved in fighting inflammation in your body, but also (and here’s where it can get a bit complicated) because they balance out Omega 6’s!
Omega 6’s are used primarily as an energy source and are also considered essential. The downside with 6’s is that they are PRO inflammatory. This means the more 6’s in your diet, the more likely you are to have inflammation.
Omega 9s play a role in regulating your immune system and improving heart health, but 9’s are considered non-essential because your body can produce them itself, provided you have the right balance of 3 and 6!
What about the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6?
The biggest issue here is that our modern day processed diets are very Omega 6 heavy. A diet full of omega 6’s, if not balanced by 3’s, fiercely fuels your inflammatory fires. Chronic inflammation is associated with several health issues, including heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. The ratio of omega-6s to 3s should be somewhere between 2:1 and 4:1. Most of us are getting somewhere between 10:1 and 30:1!
Before you panic, it is entirely possible to quickly and effectively quiet much of your body’s inflammatory response by making changes to your diet, to reduce the 6’s and up the 3’s.
The 9’s will generally come right on their own.
Some practical tips for improving your balance of amazing omega fatty acids
The single most important thing you can do is exclude highly processed seed and vegetable oils, and replace them with healthier options, like olive or avo oil. Highly refined carbohydrates, like white bread, rice and biscuits should also be on your no-fly zone, while fresh produce and unprocessed foods should become your default choice. Eating oily fish twice a week weighs the balance favourably towards Omega 3’s, but if you’re not a seafood fan, a good fish oil supplement will also do the trick – I’ve taken one every day for the last 25 years, so does my whole family.
A note from Vital’s Experts:
Vital offers a range of expertly formulated essential fatty acids. To browse the range click here.