Essential fatty acids are an important part of a healthy diet, because your body cannot produce these fatty acids on your on. They’re “essential” because you can only obtain them through your diet. For optimal health, it is necessary to make sure that you are getting a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. But, our modern diet is filled with omega-6 fatty acids, and many people are suffering a fatty acid imbalance because their diet is lacking in omega-3 fatty acids.
Importance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acid Balance
So, why does it matter if you are getting the right balance of essential fatty acids? Doctors have found that a diet heavy in omega-6 fatty acids and lacking in omega-3 fatty acids can lead to a number of health problems, including:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Coronary heart disease
- Chronic inflammation
To put it simply: omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation in your body, which can lead to various chronic health conditions. On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation in your body, which can help you fight these chronic health conditions.
In order to prevent these health problems, you should reduce your consumption of foods that are high in omega-6 essential fatty acids and increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids.
Health Benefits of Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Many people experience significant improvement in their health after increasing their consumption of omega-3 fatty acids… and it’s no coincidence. Here are just some of the positive health benefits of consuming omega-3 essential fatty acids:
- Better neurological development in infants
- Lowering triglyceride levels to improve cholesterol
- Decreasing chronic inflammation in your body thereby protecting you from various diseases
- Protecting against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Improving a person’s mood and combating the symptoms of depression
Foods to Avoid: Sources of Omega-6 Fatty Acids
The first step to improving the balance of essential fatty acids in your diet is to decrease the foods that contain omega-6 essential fatty acids.
That said there are healthy whole foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids such as nuts, seeds, oils extracted from these plants, as well as popular foods that you wouldn’t think had high omega 6 fatty acids like chicken (with skin) pork, eggs and even avocado.
These whole foods have other nutritional benefits that counter act their relatively high omega 6 fatty acid content - so you don’t need to worry about them.
The foods that you NEED to eliminate (or minimize) are processed foods like crackers, cookies and other snacks. Keep in mind that even “healthy” snacks are usually very high in omega 6 fatty acids. The biggest culprit is vegetable oil, which is used in just about all processed foods and foods that have been prepared in restaurants. So be careful when you eat out! Keep in mind that you can request you food be cooked in different oils at some restaurants.
Foods to Eat: Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
In addition to decreasing your consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, it is also a good idea to increase consumption of foods that offer a good source of omega-3’s. Some foods high in omega 3 fatty acids are… flaxseeds, walnuts, salmon, herring, sardines, bluefish, black cod, and mackerel.
Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplement Options
Most people have a hard time getting sufficient amounts of omega-3 essential fatty acids in their diet, because they don’t consume enough fish or flaxseed. Also consuming too many fish can also have it’s downsize due to it’s higher toxic content. This is why supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids is highly recommended.
There are several types of omega-3 essential fatty acid supplements to choose from. Fish based supplements contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) as well as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Plant based supplements contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is converted in the body to create the essential fatty acids that you need. Although it’s not definitive, many studies have shown better results with omega 3 fatty acid supplements with DHA and EPA compared to that with ALA.
Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil Supplements
If you are considering a fish oil supplement, then you should look at the comparison of fish oil and krill oil. Krill are small creatures in the ocean that are similar to shrimp, they are sourced in colder waters and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Similar to fish, krill oil also contains DHA and EPA which can provide your body with the omega-3 fatty acids that are needed. Krill is also an excellent source of antioxidant which help fight off free radicals that can cause premature aging.
The other fact to consider is that many of the fish oil supplements are produced with contaminated fish, so it can be difficult to locate a high quality supplement. On the other hand, there are sources of quality krill oil, produced from krill sustainably harvested in the fresh Atlantic ocean waters. Since krill have a shorter lifespan, it means that they don’t accumulate the same amount of toxins as fish.
If you are looking for a high quality source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, then krill oil is a great option to consider. Research studies have shown that it might be more effective than regular fish oil, and you can have the peace of mind to know that you are using a high quality supplement.
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