There has always been a reasonable amount of headline heath news about ‘essential fatty acids’ or omega three (Ω-3) and omega 6 (Ω-6) oils.
Omega oils are vital in so-many body functions, they form the building blocks of cell membranes and significant amounts of brain and nerve tissue. Omega oils are vital in creating the insulating sleeve for nerves so they can transmit signals effectively and the right balance of them helps to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
The ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 in the body is reportedly somewhere between the 2:1 and 4:1 region, depending where you read and the average western diet now is often in excess of 1:15 with some areas going as high as 1:20 (in favour of omega 6). This heavy weighting of omega 6 increases the likelihood of various illness, including raised inflammatory states, depression, dementia and upsets the natural hormone balance required for the communication, replication and correct make up the overall body structures.
Where can we get them from?
Back in the 1950s onwards, Cod Liver Oil was popularised as a wonder supplement, all sorts of claims have been made, I have heard (can’t remember where from) that it has been the UK’s best selling supplement for about 50 years.
Plenty of acclaim has been given to cod-liver oil but there are 3 main points that put me off personally.
- Cod are not ‘oily fish’ – Cod are ‘white fish’ as opposed to ‘oily fish‘ and therefore only contain any significant amount of oil in their liver.
- The Liver is the ‘detoxification’ organ – All substances entering the body are passed into the bloodstream and ‘cleaned’ by the liver. It removes toxins and excrete them from the body via bile or urine. It can therefore contain higher levels of toxins than other body tissues or organs.
- Cod are ‘bottom feeders’ – they feed at a low-trophic level, a level in the sea that has a significantly higher accumulation of heavy metals and other toxins. Cod feed on small crustaceans & small crabs when they are young and lobsters, mussels, worms, and molluscs at later stages in their life cycle. Many, if not all of these are detritivores or filter feeders – increasing the likely level of toxins within their body tissues.
For my money, that rules out cod-liver oil, I don’t want to take the risk of ingesting high levels of toxins.
Fortunately, there are other options. A ‘generic’ fish oil – sourced from oily fish or increasing the amount of oily fish in the diet (sardines, herring, anchovies, salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel) are both viable and indeed sensible.
Other sources rich in omega 3 and omega 6 include: Safflower, Linseed, Seaweed, Chia Seed, Beans and the ‘star of the show’, Flax Seed).
Flax Seed has an omega 3 to omega 6 ratio of almost 4 to 1, right in the ideal window to match that of the human body.
One gram of Flax seed contains 225mg of omega 3 and 10g (about 1 tablespoon) contains nearly 3 times the RDA. Obviously, a tablespoon of flax seed also contains omega 6 at the 1:4 ratio, maintaining the balance and matching the RDA.
Putting a tablespoon of flax seed on a bowl of cereal is a really easy way to get plenty of omega 3 in your diet. If you don’t like to eat the seeds, the pressed oil is readily available to buy in capsule form. Remember though, sometimes the capsules are made from beef gelatine so take care when choosing your brand if you are vegetarian, vegan or avoid beef products because of your faith.
Omega oils 6 and particularly 3 are really important for healthy joints, a healthy mind a healthy circulatory system and general good body health. They are found in lots of foods, but particularly, Omega 6 is prevalent in Evening Primrose oil, Starflower oil, Most nuts & seeds and Most vegetables. Omega 3 has high concentrations in Oily Fish – Mackerel, Salmon, Sardine (7-10 ounces of fish per week should be sufficient), hemp seed / oil, pumpkin seed, rape seed, soybean + products (tofu) and dark green vegetables. The best source, as discussed is probably flax seed / flax seed oil, vegan, inexpensive and you won’t get that ‘fishy’ repeating of fish oils.