Feed your skin, help your hormones, and support your body’s healing process with these expert ways to eat essential fats:
- Find out how to effectively convert plant-based Omega-3s
- Learn why essential fats can sometimes be harmful
- Eat these particular foods to help essential fats do their job
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty acids are essential for human health, but we need to eat the best quality, in the right ratio, and alongside other important ‘helper’ foods to ensure they have a healthy, anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
1. UNDERSTAND THE OMEGA-3 PATHWAY:
The Omega-3 pathway is the way your body uses the food you eat and converts it into the essential fats you need.
This pathway is anti-inflammatory, and we need to ensure it’s working well to be able to gain the health benefits from eating essential fats.
Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) from chia and flax is the ‘grandparent’ Omega-3 fat that can be converted into the long-chain fats EPA and DHA, which are used in our cells to help with:
- Healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Balanced hormones
- Effective immune system, including switching off inflammation (this function fails in chronic inflammatory disease)
- Building new cells, especially great for the skin and digestive tract, where cells renew more quickly
Chia contains the ‘grandparent’ Omega-3 that’s converted into EPA and DHA for amazing benefits.
The conversion happens thanks to enzymes and these enzymes need nutritional co-factors to make them work.
>> Read on to find out the nutrients you need to convert fats effectively...
2. EAT CONVERSION NUTRIENTS:
Nutrients you need for the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA in our bodies to work effectively:
- Zinc – get from shellfish, Brazil nuts, beans, beef and chicken.
- Magnesium – green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate (yay).
- Vitamin B6 – sunflower seeds, pistachios, green leaves, chicken and turkey.
By helping to convert our essential fats, these nutrients also ensure they become anti-inflammatory instead of pro-inflammatory.
If you eat too much Omega-6 (from corn, safflower, sunflower oils) then the efficiency of the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is reduced because the Omega-6 pathway steals the cofactors and enzymes! This results in the production of pro-inflammatory compounds.
Eat foods with zinc, magnesium and Vitamin B6 to help ALA fats convert to important EPA and DHA.
3. GIVE UP NUTRIENT ROBBERS:
The following diet and lifestyle factors inhibit the conversion of healthy fats in the body:
- Refined diet, processed foods depleted of necessary cofactor nutrients
- Low intake of nutrient-rich foods (whole vegetables, fruits, seeds, grass fed animal products)
- Alcohol, caffeine, stress, infections, and trans fats (more on trans fats below)
Fish oils already contain high levels of EPA and DHA, so they don’t need to be converted. But they are very prone to damage when they come into contact with air and heat (oxidation) so need extra antioxidant protection to limit this.
The advantage of consuming ALA from plant sources like chia and flax compared to EPA and DHA from fish is that you won’t be at risk of having insufficient antioxidants.
4. MIX UP YOUR FATS:
Eat a mixture of different sources of essential fats, rather than sticking to only one type for even more benefits.
Here’s an example of a good balance of essential fats to aim to eat through your week:
N.B. These are some suggestions for the average person who eats mainly wholefoods and exercises regularly. For athletes, or if you have a specific health concern, make changes to suit your needs.
For vegans, skip the fish and eat an extra 2 portions of chia per week.
- 2 portions of oily fish (wild salmon is preferred) or shellfish per week for EPA and DHA.
- 1 tablespoon Organic Burst Chia 5 times per week for safe Omega-3.
- Walnuts, flax and hemp seeds contain Omega-3 but store carefully, in the cold and keep sealed to avoid rancidity. 1 tbsp 2-3 times a week.
- Several avocados through the week for Omega-6.
- A handful of fresh olives every couple of days for Omega-6.
- Keep vegetable oils to a minimum, and only choose organic, cold pressed, high quality oils like Extra Virgin olive oil for your salads. 1 tbsp per day is great for a good balance of Omega-6 and powerful antioxidants.
- Other nuts and seeds including Brazils, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame offer lots of vitamins and minerals as well as Omega-6 fats (not to mention protein and carbohydrates too). Keep your intake balanced with to a palm-sized portion each day or few days and don’t rely too much on nut spreads where you’ll end up eating much more!
Stick to a palm-sized portion of nuts per day and beware of over-doing it on nut spreads!
5. AVOID DAMAGING FATS
Don’t be afraid of fat - it’s essential for our health, but when natural food is processed too heavily or heated, steer clear!
- Check labels of any packaged food, as they’re likely to contain ‘vegetable oils’ of low quality (processed, refined, bleached, oxidised) and mean that your metabolism switches over into the inflammatory pathway.
- Always avoid trans fats. They are made artificially via a process called hydrogenation from unsaturated fatty acids. Trans fats or hydrogenated fats are found in processed foods such as cakes, muffins, breads and wraps with long shelf lives because their structure makes them a stable fat that doesn’t go off. They are known to be damaging and carry significant health risks.
Don’t include high-omega-6 vegetable oils in your diet, as they can cause inflammation.