Did you know that most people who eat the "Standard American Diet" aka "SAD" are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids?
You might be asking "why ARE omega-3 fatty acids so important and can't I just take a fish oil supplement and eat whatever I want?"
There are like a MILLION benefits of having adequate omega-3s in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for optimal health and decrease inflammation in the body. (Inflammation is the underlying cause of many chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, dementia, and diabetes.) They also help to regulate blood sugar, balance your hormones, keep the cardiovascular system healthy, and lower cholesterol.
While omega-6 fatty acids are also essential for health, there is an over-abundance of them in the typical American diet, and because they compete with omega-3 fatty acids in the body, having too much omega-6 can wipe out omega-3. When these two fatty acids are not in balance, our health suffers. Not good.
How to Balance Omega-3s and Omega-6s
Not only do we not get enough omega-3 in our diet, but we get too much omega-6, and because they compete with each other, it is super important to have them balanced. The ideal ratio would be 2:1 (for omega-6 to omega-3) but the SAD diet contains more like a 20:1 ratio. This is one of the key reasons why health problems and chronic disease have increased over the last several decades.
Whether you are making efforts at increasing your omega-3 intake from a fish oil supplement or by eating more foods that contain omega-3, it is important to ALSO decrease the omega-6 in your diet.
So...you want to INCREASE omega-3, while DECREASING omega-6.
This is why simply taking a fish oil supplement is not a complete solution for obtaining adequate amounts of omega-3. You also need to make sure that you are not consuming too much omega-6 which will drown out the omega-3 in your fish oil supplement.
You can decrease omega-6 by staying away from processed, pre-packaged foods and baked goods that have vegetable oils and seed oils in them. Refined processed foods do not contain omega-3s and are high in omega-6 because of the kinds of oils used in them.
Signs of Omega-3 Deficiency
Some common signs of omega-3 deficiency are dry skin, eczema, dry eyes, fatigue, and joint pain. One way to tell if you might be deficient in omega-3s is to rub your hands along the backs of your upper arms. If you feel tiny bumps in that area, this could be an indicator of omega-3 deficiency.
Strategies for Increasing Omega-3 Intake
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Megan Ántoni Placa, MS, CNS