You used to hear an awful lot in the media about them, but their day in the sun seems to have faded. Nonetheless including omega three fatty acids in your diet is still an incredibly important part of your diet. Ideally one should have a ratio of 1:1 omega 3’s to omega 6’s, but the way we eat in North America makes that very difficult. Beef for example when grass fed contains omega 3’s, however when the animal is fed grain the muscle contains omega 6’s instead.
While omega 6’s are a necessary part of our diet as well, we tend to ingest far too many of them. Omega 6’s are contained in grains (including breakfast cereals, cooked grains such as brown rice, bread & everything else from the bakery), poultry (the highest consumed animal protein), most vegetable oils (including the widely used canola oil, the mass produced soybean oil and commonly used sunflower & safflower oils). When you consider the average dietary intake in our country, these things make up a LOT of our ingested calories. We consume way too much omega 6 and far too little omega 3.
Omega 3 fatty acids can be supplemented with capsules of either krill, fish or plant sourced oils. Alternatively it can be taken on a spoon poured from a bottle if swallowing pills isn’t exactly your thing. The liquid can also be mixed into a smoothie as most available on the market today have either a fruit or mint flavour added to them that eliminates the fishiness of fish oil. Chewable gummies are out there too! Food sources are of course the ideal method of getting omega 3’s into your body, but can be tricky to get a lot of. Some people are weary of eating fish due to our increasingly polluted oceans and waterways. Bottom feeders such as catfish and mollusks are essentially filters and by nature contain a lot of toxins if the environment they live in is polluted. Large fish such as tuna, swordfish & shark are also highly polluted on account of the bioaccumulation that occurs within an ocean system. Zooplankton feed on anything and everything in their surroundings that is smaller than them, many tiny fish eat plankton, small fish eat lots of tiny fish to get by, medium sized fish eat a lot of small fish, so on and so forth. When the smallest creature in the food chain is eating contaminants, the concentration of these contaminants increases dramatically as the size of the fish does. In summary: eat smaller fish for less contamination. In the end, the risk of contamination outweighs the benefit of omega 3’s on your heart anyways.
The effects of the 2011 nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan on ocean life are still unknown, but the radiation does continue to spread throughout the Pacific ocean.
Omega 3’s largely benefit the health of ones heart- clearly an essential organ to take care of. February was heart month, bringing awareness to the health in your chest. Heart disease affects 1.4 million Canadians, and claims 33,600 lives in this country every year. 90% of our population has at least one risk factor for heart disease, and yet it’s entirely preventable.
Incorporating more omega 3’s into your diet is easy. Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, herring and sardines contain the most omega 3 though other seafood can contain some. Two 100g servings of omega 3 rich fish per week is recommended. Plant based sources of omega 3 fatty acids are a little more difficult. Flax seeds do contain omega 3’s, but unless they are crushed the body is unable to access the oil. If milled flaxseed is purchased, the oxidation of the oil will negate the benefit (though the fibre contained in flax is great!). Flax oil is very sensitive to oxidation and should be protected from light, heat & air as much as possible. In addition, plant based sources do not have as much of a benefit on heart health as animal sources do.
Whether through supplementation or food sources, chances are if you’re not already making a conscious effort you’re not getting the amount of omega 3 fatty acids that your heart needs. Consider having fish on Fridays or adding a splash of oil to your morning smoothie- for your health. For your heart.