What is Omega-3 fat and what foods will I find it in?
Omega-3 (along with omega-6) belongs to a family of fats called essential fatty acids. These EFAs are found in polyunsaturated fats.
Omega-3 – Alpha-Linolenic Acid (LNA) – is the essential fatty acid in shortest supply. According to experts, our current consumption of this fatty acid has shrunk to one sixth of 1850 levels.
By comparison, our intake of omega 6 fatty acids has doubled since 1940. Excess intake of omega 6 can cause increased water retention, raised blood pressure and raised blood clotting.
We should INCREASE our intake of omega-3 fatty acids and REDUCE our intake of omega-6 fatty acids.
Food Sources of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
- Flax oil (linseed oil) – the richest natural source
- Flax seeds
- Hemp oil (best balance of omega 6:3)
- Rapeseed oil
- Pumpkin seeds
- Soybean oil (richer in omega 6)
- Walnut oil (richer in omega 6)
- Oily fish
For details, see Table of Omega-3, Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega 6:3 Balance
Omega 6 and Omega 3 essential fatty acids are best consumed in a ratio of about 3:1 – three omega 6 for one omega 3.
Most Western diets range between 10 and 20 to 1 in favor of omega 6, which is not good for health. Although we need more omega 6, we eat too much of it and not enough omega 3 fat.
Unfortunately, since some oils (e.g. Hemp, Walnut, Soybean) contain both omega 3 fatty acids and omega 6 fatty acids, it makes calculation more difficult!
Is omega-3 good for weight loss?
Initial research carried out on Omega-3 indicates that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids helps with weight loss.
Omega-3 seems to help regulate the body’s blood sugar levels, which helps keep hunger at bay. In the long term, it is believed that a diet rich in Omega-3 might lower the risk of diabetes and obesity.
Udo Erasmus, the world expert on oils in nutrition, says that omega-3 fatty acids help to increase our metabolic rate thus burning more calories. He points out that while all fats are calorie-dense (9 calories per gram), calorie-counting is not the decisive factor: how easily the calories are burned is more crucial.
Although more research need to be done before we can be sure about the effect of Omega-3 on weight loss, a diet which includes a regular supply of Omega-3’s seems to have several health benefits and no known disadvantages.
Omega-3 can reduce the risk of certain strokes by one-third
A recent study in the Journal of the Americal Medical Association found that women who ate five or more portions of fish every week cut their risk of having a certain type of stroke by one-third, compared to women who ate fish once a month or less.
It is thought this is because omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish make the blood less likely to clot.
Best oily fish includes: salmon, herring, sardines, rainbow trout, eels, kippers and mackerel.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids in vegetables?
Dark green vegetables like seaweed, broccoli, spinach and kale are a reasonable source of omega-3 essential fatty acids if eaten regularly.
Other green vegetables, like spring greens, dark salad leaves, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, & parsley are reasonable sources of omega-3.
EFA’s are easily destroyed
Light, air and heat destroy EFAs, so processing and packaging methods are extremely important. Ideally, when buying oils, choose mechanically processed oils in opaque glass containers.
Essential Fatty Acid oils go off very quickly, so should be kept away from light, heat and air. Keep in the fridge once opened (1 week). They are destroyed by commercial processing, so always buy FRESH COLD PRESSED.
Alternatively, look for ‘cracked’ linseeds. This type of linseeds (typically 23 per cent omega-3) are neither ground nor crushed, but are split open thereby retaining their active EFA ingredients and reducing the oxidation effects on taste.
EFA’s should be organic
Pesticides often concentrate in fats and oils, so it is best to buy ORGANIC whenever possible.
Weight Loss & Fats
From a calorie viewpoint, all oils are equally fattening.
They contain 120 calories per tablespoon.
For optimum weight loss, reduce your overall fat/oil consumption to a sensible level: 25-30 percent of calories is very good; although 20-25 per cent is better; while fats expert Udo Erasmus advocates 15-20 per cent.
Restrict your consumption of saturated fat to a minimum.
Diet Program can help you reduce your fat intake and lose weight. It also shows you how to eat sensibly and control your weight for life.