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Omega 3 and omega 6
Omega 3 and omega 6 are essential fatty acids (EFA), both are considered vital and beneficial. However, omega 3 EFA is normally considered slightly more important, as the modern western diet is likely to be more deficient in omega 3 than omega 6.
This is because the king of the omega 3 family, alphalinolenic acid (ALA), and his metabolically active prince and princess, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are more unsaturated and prone to damage in cooking and food processing.
In other sections of the book, I’ve spoken how food processing removes a lot of nutrients from food, and omega 3 is a primary example.
Why do I need omega 3?
Omega 3 is actively involved in critical biological functions such as improving cognitive abilities, helping you retain information better, helping you perform complicated tasks more effectively, alleviating pain and inflammation, and improving insulin sensitivity.
If you find that you have brain fog, pain from inflammation or have body fat to lose, it might be worth increasing your omega 3 intake.
The best source of omega 3
The best seed oils for omega 3 are flax (also known as linseed), hemp and pumpkin. For example, one of my favourite health shakes includes a mixture of rice or whey protein, flaxseed oil, hempseeds and pumpkin seeds.
If you eat carnivorous fish such as mackerel, herring, tuna and salmon, or their oils, you can bypass the conversion stage of alpha linoleic acid and go straight to EPA and DHA.
This is why fish-eating cultures (the Japanese culture for example) have three times the omega 3 than their western counterparts. Vegans who eat more seeds tend to have much higher levels of omega 3 as well.
What are the best sources of fat?
- Oily fish (salmon, mackerel)
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews)
- Seeds (pumpkin, linseed, chia)
- Oils (flaxseed, hemp)
Avoid this type of fat or you will get fat
Trans-fatty acids or ‘trans fats’ definition:
‘An unsaturated fatty acid of a type occurring in margarines and manufactured cooking oils as a result of the hydrogenations process. Consumption of such acids is thought to increase the risk of atherosclerosis (a disease of the arteries).’
Trans fats are created as a result of the partial hydrogenation process, or as Liz Wolfe describes it, ‘The process of beating an already unhealthy oil into partially hydrogenated submission’. This basically means they change already unhealthy oils into something even worse!
Not only have trans fats been shown to lead to a range of health problems (heart disease, obesity etc.), but they are also the single worst types of fats if you are trying to reduce your own levels of body fat. Your body can store them pretty easily.
To understand how bad trans fats truly are, here’s a brief explanation at its simplest form of how your body actually taps into fat stores, burning through unwanted body fat in the process.
There are obviously digestive, metabolic and hormonal processes that affect this, but at the most basic level your body’s preferred source of energy is glucose (all carbohydrates you consume get converted to glucose).
To simplify, any excess glucose gets stored as glycogen (stored carbohydrate), and then any excess glucose gets stored as body fat (fat stores).
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