Health Tips for Optimizing your Omega 3 Fatty Acids Levels
One of the biggest areas that your Naturopathic Doctor can help you to improve your health is nutrition! All areas of nutrition are important and the Naturopathic Doctors at Natural Choice Medical Clinic in Guelph have extensive training to assist you when you are making decisions about the food you eat.
Health Tips for Optimizing your Omega 3 Fatty Acids Levels
The term “fat” has quite the bad wrap. It’s important to remember that not all fats are created equal, in fact some are even essential for optimal health. One of these fats goes by the term “Omega 3 Fatty Acids” which can further be broken down into 3 subclasses called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), decosahexaenoic acid (DPA), and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). Although being conscious of your Omega 3 fatty acid consumption is important, it is vital to note that it is really the ratio of Omega 6 fatty acids compared to Omega 3 fatty acids that you should be most concerned about. While Omega 6 fatty acids are also considered essential, they are excessively consumed in the Western Diet due to their high prevalence in the foods we eat.
The Consequences of An Unhealthy Omega 6 to Omega 3 Ratio
Omega 6 fatty acids promote a pro-inflammatory state while Omega 3 fatty acids promote an anti-inflammatory state in your body. Inflammation is a healthy and necessary response in some cases, but an imbalance in the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids means that you will have more pro-inflammatory agents circulating in your body and this promotes chronic inflammation and elevates the risk of health problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Benefits of Adequate Levels of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The most well known benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids have to do with cardiovascular disease, some examples include:
- Appears to help the heart beat at a steady pace to decrease the risk of arrhythmias
- Lower blood pressure and heart rate
- Improve blood vessel function
- Help lower triglycerides levels
- May ease inflammation which affects the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
What’s considered healthy?
Although there is no Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for the intake of Omega 3 fatty acids, Adequate Intake (AI) levels have been established. Women 19 years and older should aim for 1.1 grams per day of ALA while men 19 years and older should aim for 1.6 grams per day of ALA. There are no recommended levels established for EPA or DHA.
Where do Canadians Stand?
According to Stats Canada, most Canadian’s are meeting the Adequate Intake levels with median intakes of Omega 3 exceeding the AI’s, this leads us to believe that there is a low-prevalence of inadequate intake. But with the over abundance of Omega 6 fatty acids in many processed foods available today, it is still important to be aware the quantity and quality of Omega 3 fatty acids that we are consuming because at the end of the day, it is the ratio of omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids that is considered the most important aspect of health. Current estimates report intake ratio’s of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids as high as 16:1, compared to ideal ratio’s of 2:1, this is quite a significant difference.
The Best Sources of Omega 3’s
The 3 different varieties of Omega 3 Fatty Acids come from different sources. EPA and DHA are mostly found in fish and seafood, and ALA are plant-based. Ideally, the most effective way to get our Omega 3’s is through the intake of EPA and DPA. EPA and DHA are the compounds thought to have the most beneficial effects on the heart. ALA’s that are found in plant-based foods get converted to EPA and DHA, but this conversion is very inefficient, therefore it is best to ingest EPA and DHA whenever possible.
Source: Quantity: Omega 3:
English Walnuts 12-14 halves contain 2.30 g ALA
Ground Flax Seeds 1 Tbsp. contains 2.46 g ALA
Omega Fortified Eggs 2 eggs contain 0.50 – 0.54 g ALA
Chia Seeds 1 Tbsp. contains 1.90 g ALA
Atlantic Salmon 2.5 ounces contain 1.08 – 1.61 g EPA/DHA
Anchovies in Oil 2.5 ounces contain 1.54 g EPA/DHA
Cooked White Fish 2.5 ounces contain 1.20 g EPA/DHA
Pacific Cod 2.5 ounces contain 0.79 g EPA/DHA
What About Mercury?
Large fish tend to accumulate more mercury over time. Because mercury affects the developing brain, it’s especially important for women that may become pregnant, are pregnant or nursing, as well as young children to limit their exposure to mercury.
Keep mercury levels low by limiting fresh/frozen:
- Orange roughy
If you like these fish, eat no more than the amounts shown here:
- General Population: 150 g per week
- Women who are or may become pregnant and nursing moms: 150 g per month
- Children 5-11 years old: 125 g per month
- Children 1-4 years olds: 75 g per month
What about Tuna?
- Choose “light” tuna
- Look for skipjack or tongol on the label. It has less mercury than “white” (albacore) and is generally less expensive
Try the Tips Below
- Grill salmon for an easy and fast meal. Use a low sodium sauce, freshly squeezed orange and grated ginger or lemon juice and dill for seasoning
- Use baked rainbow trout to make a wrap with romaine lettuce, grated cheese and a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- Use canned salmon to make a quick salmon quiche for dinner. Remember to mash the bones
- Try a twist on tuna salad. Add sliced grapes, diced apples and walnuts for extra crunch
- Use anchovies or sardines as pizza toppings
- Try canned sardines as a snack with crackers
Not a fan of fish, no problem! But these sources will only provide you with ALA
- Add ground flaxseeds to cereal, oatmeal, yogurt and baked goods
- Add soybeans or tofu to stir fry dishes
- Add walnuts to yogurt, salads or baked goods
- Replace regular eggs with omega-3 eggs
- Use flaxseed oil on salads
For more information about nutrition and the best foods to eat for your health concerns, book an appointment online with one of our Naturopathic Doctors today!
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