Many of you have probably heard of "essential" amino acids. The term essential simply means that these are nutrients not capable of being produced by your own body, meaning you must obtain them through your diet. It's incredibly important that you get all 9 essential amino acids in your diet or you're gonna have some nasty side effects. Did you know that there are also essential fats?
In part two of Cutting the Fat, I'm going to be talking about the two most important fats that exist, Omega 3 and Omega 6.
Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats are both types of unsaturated fats. An unsaturated fat is an organic molecule that is missing some of it's hydrogen bonds and instead have one (monounsaturated) or more (polyunsaturated) double bonded carbon atoms. Omega 3 and 6 are fatty acids that are missing hydrogen atoms at the 3rd and 6th carbon atom, respectively. This is the opposite of saturated fats, which have zero double bonds and are bonded with hydrogen at every link of carbon.
Omega 3 fatty acid vs Saturated fat
Okay, now that the chemistry explanation is out of the way, what does all of this mean? Why do we need these in our diet?
Well, like I said earlier, these fats are incapable of being produced by the body which is why we call them essential fats. You must have these in your diet in order to survive.
So, what do they do? The bottom line is that Omega 6 fats promote inflammation, while Omega 3 works as an anti-inflammatory. Now, just because Omega 6 promotes inflammation doesn't mean you should be scared of it. It is essential for inflammation in the body to take place in order to fight infection and insulate injuries. Parts of your body are slightly inflamed at all times, so Omega 6 is needed for that.
BUT, getting too many Omega 6 fats can cause an unnecessary amount of inflammation and can even lead to very terrible conditions in the body without the proper amount of Omega 3 fats to counter-balance. In fact, the National Institute of Health published an alarming study on the imbalance of Omega 3 to 6 in western diets and found that the Average person in the west has a ratio of 16:1 in favor of Omega 6s. This imbalance has lead to a sharp increase in cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and auto-immune diseases.
Sounds pretty grim, right? So how do we fix our diets to counter this statistic? We incorporate more Omega 3 fats to counter the excess inflammation. You should work on bringing the ratio down to 4:1 or 5:1 with Omega 3 rich foods.
Foods rich in Omega 3 (anti-inflammatory)
Salmon: A rich source of Omega 3 fats
Foods rich in Omega 6 (inflammatory)
Nuts and seeds (minus the ones listed above)
All forms of vegetable oil (minus flax seed and walnut)
Cakes and Pastries
White/non-free range Eggs
The point is to be aware of what you're eating when it comes to fats. Like I said in part one, you want to minimize the consumption of man made trans fats, but you also want to be aware of your ratio of Omega 3 and 6 fats. Cutting your ratio from the typical spread of 16:1 to 4:1 will decrease your chances of fatal preventable diseases by about 70% according to the NIH study cited above.