Omega 3-6-9: Not every fat is equal
Fat has a bad reputation! At least for people who don´t know anything about nutrition.
Since you found my website, I know you are interested in nutrition and you already know about the importance of fatty acids in your diet.
Some types of fats are healthier than others. While it is necessary to eat fats, choosing the wrong kinds of fats will affect your body negatively. To get the best health benefits choose fats from vegetable sources. Animal products tend to have less healthy fats. They can increase the chance of a heart attack, stroke and other major health problems.
For your workout the primary energy source is carbohydrates. But after a while when your carb stores are empty your body uses fat to fuel your workout.
For shiny hair and a glowing skin you also need fat in your diet.
Fat also absorbs vitamins from your food. Some vitamins can only be absorbed in the presence of fat. This includes vitamin e, d, k, a (aka fat-soluble vitamins).
What are the different types of fat?
There are 3 types of fat: saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and trans fats.
You should avoid or at least limit foods that are high in saturated fats. Saturated fats raise your LDL cholesterol levels (LDL is the bad cholesterol). High LDL levels can lead to issues like heart attack, stroke, and other awful conditions.
- reduce the daily intake of saturated fats to < 6%
- foods high in saturated fats are: butter, cheese, whole milk, fatty meat
- some vegetable oils contain saturated fats: coconut oil (read more about the potential health risks of coconut oil), palm oil
- if you continue to eat a lot of saturated fats, the increased cholesterol builds up in your blood vessels; the waxy texture forms into clots and blocks arteries for a smooth blood flow
Eating unsaturated fats has the opposite effect. It can help lower your LDL cholesterol level. You find unsaturated fats often in vegetable oils that are liquid at room temperature.
There are two kinds of unsaturated fats:
- mono-unsaturated fats (olive oil, canola oil)
- poly-unsaturated fats (sunflower, corn, soy, safflower oil)
Trans fats are the devil. You should avoid eating them. But unfortunately, they are in a lot of foods and snacks we addictively crave from time to time. Think about chips, cookies, crackers, frozen pizza. In short, every snack that makes your Netflix & chill night more delicious.
What are omega 3 fatty acids?
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for your body. That means you have to eat them regularly because your body can´t produce them.
They are polyunsaturated fats. The term “polyunsaturated” refers to the chemical structure. These fats have more than one double bond in the chemical structure.
The double bonds make the fat bendable. Because of that, polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and in the fridge. (Saturated fats, on the other hand, are typically solid at room temperature.)
Omega 3 fats are a major part of cell membranes. Other potential health benefits are:
- protection against heart disease
- Alzheimers´s disease
- vision loss
Best sources for omega 3 fats are (per 100 gr.) :
- herring 4,03 gr.
- tuna 4,21 gr.
- salmon 3,57 gr.
- linseed oil 53 gr. (!!)
- walnut oil 12,20 gr.
What are omega 6 fatty acids?
Like omega 3 they are in the same category of polyunsaturated fats.
But what separates them from omega 3 is that the last double bond is 6 carbons from the omega end of the fatty acid molecule.
Omega 6 fats are also essential and you must regularly include them in your diet.
These fatty acids have been shown to support healthy cell function. They keep your cells agile what might result in a longer life. Additional health benefits are:
- reduce nerve pain
- fight inflammation
- reduce high blood pressure
- supports bone health
- lowers risk of heart disease
Best sources for omega 6 fats are (per 100 gr.)
- safflower oil 75,10 gr. (!!)
- sunflower oil 63,10 gr.
- walnut oil 52,40 gr.
- pumpkin seeds 16,57 gr.
- peanuts 13,90 gr.
As you can see from these examples the highest amounts of omega 6 fats are in vegetable oils. A lot of processed foods like salad dressings, potato chips, frozen pizza, sausages and many more are made with vegetable oils.
So, it´s easy to overeat with omega 6 fats. But to enjoy all the health benefits the fatty acids have to offer it is important to consume omega 3 and omega 6 in the right balanced amounts.
The healthy suggested ratio is 2:1 (2 parts omega 6 and 1 part omega 3).
Eating too much omega 6 and not adding up on omega 3 will cause a disbalance. That can lead to numerous negative effects. The disbalance could be connected to increased inflammation and chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. (Until today the assumption has to be verified with additional research.)
What are omega 9 fatty acids?
Other than omega 3 and omega 6, omega 9 is a monosaturated fat. It only has one double bond.
Omega 9 fatty acids are not essential. They can be produced by the body and do not be consumed every day with your food intake. They are not as highly discussed as the other 2 fats but that doesn´t mean they have fewer health benefits.
To be honest, if you already eat a diet rich in seafood and enough saturated animal fat, you for sure get all the fatty acids you need (both the essential and non-essential).
There is no need to eat any specific food just for the sake of getting your omega 9 levels up.
Within the omega 9 group, there are several individual fatty acids. The most significant is oleic acid. It is a monosaturated fat found in olive oil, macadamia oil, and lard.
It is also promising for health benefits like:
- cardiovascular health
- lowering cholesterol
- anti-inflammatory effects