Not all Omegas are created equal
I’m not a nutritionist by any means. But as someone with heart disease, I’ve learned enough to throw some useful nutrition facts your way on the occasional Tuesday.
Everyone knows about Omega-3 fatty acids: they’re good for your heart and a lot more. But Omega-6 fatty acids are also an important dietary consideration, particularly the balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6. It’s estimated that the average American diet contains between 14 and 25 times more Omega-6 than 3. That’s not good, because high consumption of Omega-6 promotes inflammation and is associated with heart diseases, arthritis, depression, cancer and more. The optimal balance is 4:1 or lower – some experts recommend a 2:1 ratio.
Start reading nutrition labels, and you’ll start to see how Omega-6’s sneak into your diet – the biggest culprits are polyunsaturated oils: corn, sunflower*, safflower*, soy and cottonseed, found in commercial breads and baked goods, margarines, salad dressings and many other processed foods – even veggie burgers and soy dogs. Other foods high in Omega-6 include tofu, sunflower seeds, whole grains and meats. (However, note that grass-fed beef has a much, much better Omega-6 to 3 ratio than grain-feed beef.) So bottom line, here’s my advice:
• Strongly limit your intake of the oils listed above. Instead, choose oils like extra virgin olive, organic canola, and macadamia nut.
• Balance the Omega-6s you do eat with Omega-3’s from olive oil, flax seeds, avocados, oily fish, winter squash, beans and omega-3 fortified eggs.
• Don’t bake with margarine – it makes me crazy to see all of the vegan recipes with Earth Balance! Choose a heart-healthy oil instead.
* UPDATE: “high oleic” versions of sunflower and safflower oil are quite different and will not have the same inflammatory effect as the regular type. If the sunflower and safflower oils in your supermarket aren’t clearly marked, look on nutrition labels for a high monounsaturated fat content and a low polyunsaturated content – that indicates a high-oleic oil.
Hope this info helps you keep the all-important Omega balance in mind as you chow your way through the week.