Dear Wellness Seeker,
One of the most discussed topics is Omega fat intake. In this article, we have collected all the evidence-based information that you need to know about the Omega fats!
Omega fats are a subcategory of unsaturated fats – the “beneficial” ones. There are several omegas found in food. The most common ones are Omega 3, 6, 9 and 7 and each one has several health benefits for your body. Let us meet them:
Omega-3: The most popular ones! They are polyunsaturated fats and called “essential” because the human body is not able to produce them. The three most important types are:
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which is found in plant-based food such as walnuts, hemp, chia & flax seeds, and flaxseed oil
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which is found in animal food like meat, eggs, and dairy
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) whose main source is fatty fish, fish oil and microalgae.
Research shows that they have an anti-inflammatory effect and provide numerous health benefits. Protecting from various cancer types, contributing to cardiovascular health, preventing autoimmune diseases, promoting brain health during pregnancy and early life, improving depression, and contributing to good sleeping habits are just a few of them. Hence, you realize how important it is to consume adequate amounts! What you may not know is that for them to work properly, they need to be in the right proportion with the rest of the Omegas!
Omega-6: They are also polyunsaturated and essential. The most important is Linoleic Acid (LA) and Arachidonic Acid (ARA). You can find Omega 6 in safflower, sunflower, corn & soybean oil, peanuts, almonds, cashews, eggs and poultry. Our body uses them for energy, as well as in response to inflammation. They are considered pro-inflammatory compounds and they are part of the physiological healing process when we have a wound. Therefore, they need to be consumed in moderation, since high intake may lead to chronic inflammation! The key for this is not only the total amount of Omega-6 that we consume but also the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (Ω6: Ω3). The available literature shows that the optimal ratio for health and longevity is from 1:4 to 4:1 – this is what non-industrial populations used to eat. Unfortunately, the Western diet provides a ratio around 10:1 or even 50:1, which means Omega-6 is overconsumed compared to Omega-3. If we want to go deeper, what is even more important is the specific ratio of the Arachidonic Acid to EPA. Evidence shows that this is a more accurate marker of how our body can manage inflammation and a possible valuable predictor of risk for chronic diseases.
Omega-9: They are monounsaturated, and not considered essential since they can be produced in most of our body cells. However, consuming food rich is them has many health benefits, such as decreasing inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity and providing cardiovascular protection. Oleic acid is the most important and can be found in olives, olive oil and avocados. The right balance of omega 3-6-9 is the most important if we want to have the health benefits from each of the Omegas because an imbalance may contribute to several chronic diseases.
Omega-7: There has been a lot of discussion and controversy regarding Omega-7 with research still accumulating. They are monounsaturated fats and the most common of them is Palmitoleic Acid, which is mainly found in macadamia nuts and oil, as well as sea buckthorn oil. Palmitoleic acid usually co-exists together with Palmitic Acid (p.e. in dairy or palm oil) which is a saturated (“bad”) fatty acid and is considered one of the most harmful ones, contributing to various health problems. Interestingly, evidence also shows that palmitoleic may also have the exact opposite effects, being potentially anti-inflammatory, improving metabolic factors related to obesity, insulin resistance and other metabolic abnormalities. However, since the evidence on Omega-7 fats is currently a controversial topic, it is best to consume foods in which they are present in moderation.
How to achieve the best Omega balance?
– Try to consume fish at least 1 – 2 times per week. Small fish such as anchovies or sardines, or medium fatty organic ones such as salmon and herring are preferred.
– Incorporate one handful of unsalted and unroasted nuts and seeds daily. More often go for walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds & flax seeds and sometimes almonds, cashews, and pecan nuts.
– Choose organic almond butter or sesame butter moreover peanut butter.
– If you are a vegan or a vegetarian, do not rely on nuts and seeds for your omega-3 consumption. Plant-based foods contain a lot of a-linoleic acids, but they lack DHA and EPA, and a- linoleic acid can be converted into them in a small percentage endogenously. Try vegan alternatives such as seaweed or consider a supplement based on algae, always under your physician’s recommendation.
– The quality of poultry, eggs and meat is of very high importance! Free-range poultry and grass-fed meat seem to be richer in omega-3 and lower in Arachidonic Acids in comparison with conventional or organic ones.
– Try to incorporate extra virgin olive oil as the main oil consumed daily and incorporate some avocado and olives a couple of times per week.
– Aim to exclude commercially refined vegetable oils, such as corn, sunflower and palm oil as well. Be very cautious because they are the main ingredient in many industrial foods.
– You may have some macadamia nuts and macadamia nut butter a few times per week.
In Chenot, we consider the latest and most robust scientific research to provide the most up-to-date recommendations to our Guests. Finally, considering the importance of this Omega balance and the health consequences that they may have, we are planning to offer high technological analysis to check the Omega ratio for our Guests.
To Your Best Life,
Eva Stavridi Nutritionist – Dietitian
Your Chenot Wellness Team