Learn All About the Health Benefits of Omega 3's and Why You Don't Need Fish Oil to Get Them

Omegas, just the “IT” superfood of 10 years ago? Or more than just a passing trend? We’re breaking down the 411 on all things 3-6-9 (insert Lil Jon lyrics here) and cutting through the fat (pun intended), to get to the essentials. 
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s)— fatty acids that are not produced inside our bodies but, are crucial to our health. EFA’s have a long list of health benefits critical to our wellbeing but, these necessary nutrients are only available via dietary sources. 

Non-Essential Fatty Acids, on the other hand, ARE produced by our bodies naturally — meaning that they’re available “directly from the source” (the source being our bodies) and not exclusively from what we eat. So how do Omegas 3,6, and 9 fit into this picture of Essential and Non-Essential Fatty Acids? Fatty Acids are responsible for a variety of functions in our biological processes, and each Omega plays its own very specific role, but also must work together to create balance for our overall health. 

In simple terms, Omega 3s and Omega 6s are both Essential Fatty Acids—both critical to our health and must be consumed through our diets but, things can get a little well, fishy… 

Omega 3s—why do we need them, and where can we get them?

In (light) scientific terms- Omega 3s are integral to cell membranes throughout the body- they also act as sort of cell “gatekeepers” as they regulate the passage of nutrients and waste in and out of the membranes. Setting the science aside, Omega 3s provide us with no less than 17 different health benefits! Essentially, this essential fatty acid is important for brain, heart and metabolic health, while simultaneously acting as an all natural anti-inflammatory— head to toe. Although credited for the fame of Fatty Fish, Omega 3s can also be derived from plant foods — for example, chia seeds, flaxseeds, brussels sprouts, and perilla oil! One important thing to note is that Omega 3’s from chia, flax and most plant-based sources are in the form of ALA (Alpha Linoleic Acid) which is very poorly converted to DHA and EPA in the body which means you may be missing out on some of the benefits if you don’t find an alternative source. The secret? Algal oil! Algae is the same plant-based source where fish get their Omega 3’s. Rather than grinding up fish bones, scales and guts to make fish oil, you’re better off going straight to the source by using an algal oil supplement .

Omega 6s— whats the difference? 

Omega 6s—think fat for fuel- these are the building blocks for fats that our bodies primarily use as energy. Omega 6s also provide our bodies with a pro-inflammatory chemical, aka “eicosanoids”, known to aid in the healing process. Think about the last time you had any sort of injury or wound that resulted in swelling? Swelling is a symptom of an “inflammatory response” and the first step in the process of healing.  

Okay, Omega 6s —- fat for fuel, help us heal, essential fatty acid we can only get from food….. but here’s the omega curveball: the typical western diet provides an amount of omega 6 Fatty Acids in excess of the recommended levels. 
Wait, What? Weren’t Omega 6s classified as “EFAs”? 

While Omega 6s are in fact Essential Fatty Acids only available through dietary sources, we are already (over) consuming foods rich in omega 6s— foods like refined vegetable oils: soybean, mayonnaise, and corn oil for example. That's not all, food that has been cooked in refined vegetable oil count as well, which is most likely how you’re food is prepared whenver you go out to eat at a restaurant. The general population is basically OD-ing on inflammation. The important part is to consume a ratio of Omega 3s to Omega 6s that is as close to 1:1 as possible. The standard American diet typically consists of an Omega 6 to Omega 3 that is 20:1 or higher which contributes to chronic inflammation and is the catalyst for the majority of the preventable chronic diseases that we suffer from.

While many of us need to “supplement” our diet with Omega 3s, we need to be conscious of consuming LESS Omega 6 to create a sort of balance between the two— in other words, the infamous Omega Ratio. A “ratio” is a way to compare values against each other- it tells us how much of one thing there is in comparison to another thing. To better understand the Omega Ratio - think about the power struggle between inflammation (Omega 6) and anti-inflammatories (Omega 3).

Omega 9s- The Non-Essential Fatty Acid
Omega 9 Fats are actually the type of fat found in most of our fat cells, they’re naturally produced inside our bodies (not exclusively through dietary sources), and internally utilized for a variety of purposes. Using unsaturated fats, healthy bodies are able to make this type of fatty acid as needed. Although “supplementing” Omega 9 isn’t necessary, unsaturated fat, aka “good fat” still plays a big part in our overall wellbeing. 

A great way to go about your Omega 9 intake is to be mindful of replacing those Omega 6s (refined vegetable oils) with the good unsaturated fats like Olive Oil. 

In the next part of this Omega series, we’ll be diving deeper into the 11 different types of Omega 3s and all 17 of their health benefits. We’ll also further explore the Omega Ratio and how to optimize it for your wellbeing.

But for now, here’s the bottom line on Omegas: 

Supplement the 3s, Reduce the 6s, and replace with 9s. 

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