Omega 3 oils regulate the body’s production of cholesterol; help carry hormones, strengthen cell walls, improve immune functions, alleviate arthritis symptoms and inflammation, lower the risk for cardiovascular disease and can prevent or delay the development of cancer and related tumors. If that wasn’t enough for you, they are essential in the development of the brain and retina, in infant development and may also improve bone growth.
When most people think of Omega 3 oils, they think of fish oil from deep water fish like tuna or salmon, but there are other sources for Omega 3 like flax, hemp, olives and pumpkin seeds. I prefer blends of these oils and personally avoid any fish oil which comes from farmed fish, instead choosing oils which come from wild-caught. Then there are the Omega 6 oils. These are found mainly in evening primrose, sunflower and safflower oils, as well as other various nuts and seeds, meat, poultry and eggs.
Omega 6 is necessary for brain development in infants, to help maintain healthy skin, eyes and joints and, under certain conditions, form an important part of our immune defense. Ideally a person wants to eat a diet that gives a balance of 50% Omega 3 and 50% Omega 6. But most people are consuming 20 times more Omega 6 than Omega 3 and this contributes to health problems like heart disease and arthritis. Then there are people who are on low fat diets and don’t get enough of both of them. Even vegetarians and vegans can eat far too much Omega 6 and be out of balance.
The best way to get your omega oils is to eat a balanced diet. This would include eating tuna and salmon, adding flax seeds or ground flax meal (which gives the added benefit of dietary fiber, another item lacking in the American diet) olives and pumpkin seeds, along with chicken, nuts, meat and eggs. Failing that, a person should make sure they aren’t consuming too much Omega 6 and supplement with Omega 3. You should talk to your health care professional about the total quantity of fat you should eat each day as it is based on your age, sex and activity level.
Shelley Jaffe is a Certified Nutritional Consultant and the Executive Director of Peter Gillham’s Nutrition Center in Downtown Clearwater. 533 Cleveland Street • (727) 462-5770 Call the store and mention this article to receive a free introductory nutritional consultation. We welcome your comments and questions.