Think of a when you were a kid and would run to the playground to be the first one on the seesaw (or as I called it, a teeter-totter). You always knew that if someone of your same size were to meet you at the exact right moment, there would be loads of fun to be had. Have you ever tried to enjoy a seesaw with someone twice your size or worse yet, someone half your size? The right balance is what is needed for the machinery to work at its optimum and that goes for our bodies as well.
When speaking about the right balance of omega 3 to omega 6 fats most health care professionals believe a 1 to 3 ratio is best; wherein, we consume one part omega 3 to three parts omega 6. Using the seesaw analogy we get one big kid on one side and triplets on the other. But sadly in our Standard American diet the ratio is more like 1 to 25, where we consume one part omega 3 to 25 or more parts omega 6. That means one sad, lonely kid stuck at the top of the seesaw rotation and 25 kids sitting on the ground. The majority of the omega 6 comes from the massive amount of corn, safflower, and soybean oil found in crackers, chips, cookies, cakes, and pizza that we consume on a daily basis. It makes sense to eat less of these to improve our omega ratio and it is possible to increase our omega 3 consumption by including the following foods in our diet:
- Oily fish - anchovies, sardines, salmon, and trout (the darker the better)
- Flax, hempseed, and chia seeds
- Eggs (especially the ones that have "high in omega-3 written on the shell)
- Leafy dark green vegetables, such as spinach and fresh basil
- Foods fortified with omega 3 essential fatty acids, be sure to read the labels carefully
Try getting 3 ounces of salmon or sardines a week or a daily serving of 2 tablespoons of chia or flax. By adding these foods to the diet and exchanging the foods that are highly processed and laden with omega 6 rich fats, it will be easier to increase the health of our bodies. What does the proper ratio of omega 3 to 6 do for us and what are the short-term and long-term benefits?
- High cholesterol-foods high in omega 3 tend to be lower in cholesterol and adequate levels of omega 3 in the body discourage LDL formation
- High blood pressure-omega 3 levels up to 3 grams a day showed a reduction in blood pressure in individuals with untreated hypertension
- Heart disease-omegas 3 have a well established history in heart health through reducing the amount of saturated fat in the diet and resisting plaque buildup which can lead to blood clots.
- Rheumatoid arthritis-omega 3s have anti-inflammatory properties and while omega 3 consumption did not stop RA from advancing it did alleviate pain and helped patients regain functionality
- Cognitive decline-researchers in this arena believe that DHA (an activated form of omega 3) is showing some protection against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Consuming the proper ratio of essential fatty acids will make our machinery run more efficiently and this will translate into less time worrying about our health and more time engaging in fun activities, such as teeter-totters. One part eat well to one part play hard, this is the proper ratio for a life well lived.