Got Any 3's?
by Fred Fornicola
We have been bombarded with information over the last couple years about the necessity of including essential fatty acids in our diet to help us achieve optimal health. The essential fatty acids of course are omega 3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega 6 (linoleic acid) and they assist in energy production, brain function, help lower cholesterol, help reduce inflammation, protect against many cancers, improve hormone function and the list seems to go on and on. The strange thing however is even with all this information; there are still individuals out there who are not taking advantage of these wonderful benefits. Most people are probably getting enough omega 6's in their diet (assuming they're not just eating Twinkies all day long) by eating foods such as sunflower oil and safflower oil, sesame and sunflower seeds, egg yolk, organ meats, and other animal-based foods. As we look at our diets however, we need to evaluate the amount of omega 6 and omega 3's we consume. My understanding is that there should be a 1:3 ratio (omega 3:omega 6) so we need to be cognizant of getting in enough Omega 3's in our diet. One way is to eat cold-water fish such as salmon (coho, king and pink), sardines, cod, albacore tuna, trout, halibut, and herring. These fish are also a great source of Omega 6, but are predominantly richer in Omega 3. Also added to the list are ground flax and hemp seeds, flax & hemp oils and raw nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts.
So, now we have an idea of some of the sources of omega 3 and 6's, but how should we take them? Well, the oils, seeds and nuts should be consumed in their most natural state so the veracity of the nutrients remains in tact. What I'm referring to is eating these foods raw (and organic if possible). NEVER heat the oils, simply pour on salads or on your food, include some in your protein shake or just eat it off of a spoon. The raw nuts can be baked if you like but at a VERY low heat until the aroma of the nut comes out (which should be within minutes) then they are done, still maintaining the integrity of the nutrients. Fish of course can be cooked but there is no need to eat fish "well done". A few minutes on each side should be fine for consumption and nutritional quality.
You should also be aware that EFA's respond negatively to light, air and heat so be aware of rancidity and free radicals in your oils. My suggestion is to buy hemp (which is becoming harder and harder to find lately) and or flax seed oil (not capsules since you need to take way too many to equal a tablespoon of oil so it isn't economic plus you don't know whether they have gone rancid or not) from a reputable health food or local grocery store, check the expiration date and keep refrigerated. If you take the oil daily, most likely you will consume it within the time frame stamped on the bottle so it shouldn't go bad on you, but always check. Flax oil can also be frozen so if you happen to pick up some extra bottles or are going away and have an open bottle, throw it in the freezer and defrost in the refrigerator. If you eat flax seed, make sure they are ground since the human body will not be able to utilize the whole seed, because it will pass through your digestive tract, undigested. I personally like hulled hemp seeds, which taste really good, mix well with many foods, but are hard to find sometimes.
I recommend that everyone consume EFA's on a daily basis in one form or another, the trick is finding the sources you like, making sure you are taking in enough to yield positive results and being consistent. My main source comes from using flax oil and I usually buy Organic High Lignan Flax Oil from Spectrum Essentials http://www.spectrumnaturals.com/hlflax.html and I consume anywhere from 3-5 tablespoons per day. I will often mix and match my EFA's if I use only 3 tbsps that day. I will include some ground flax seed (which by the way does not have nearly the same EFA quantity a tbsp of oil does but does offer other benefits) or eat some wild salmon and/or raw almonds and walnuts.
I would recommend reading more about the benefits of omega 3 & 6 and maybe you'll be encouraged to make an effort to get in your EFA's (especially omega 3) on a daily basis. Here is another site with more detailed information that may be worth you reviewing. http://www.udoerasmus.com/FAQ.htm#4_1