Today's blog is a follow on from last week's blog regarding anti-inflammatory foods, with particular attention to Omega 3 fatty acids.
When I decided to leave my teaching career to retrain as a fitness instructor it was to work with cancer patients specifically. However, the reality of it was that my first job was in a business that promoted weight loss above everything else. It immediately struck me how many people hoping to lose weight sought out low-fat foods. The idea that "fats" are the enemy is deeply ingrained in the majority of people. Interestingly, I was teaching Year 6 children yesterday and they were quite confident that fat made you fat! And why wouldn't that make sense? Maybe if we referred to the essential food group as LIPIDS rather than FATS it would alleviate the confusion?
So, do we really need fat in our diet?
And are all fats created equal?
Yes! We do need a certain amount of fat and the human body can make most of the types of fats it needs from other fats or raw materials. Omega-3 fatty acids however are essential fatty acids (EFAs) and are necessary for human health, but the body can't make them. You have to get them through food! These long chains of fatty acids are an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body and affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes. They provide the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls ...and inflammation. They also bond to receptors in cells that regulate genetic function and are considered to play a protective role in cancer. In fact, dietary fat intake has been among the most studied dietary risk factors for breast and prostate cancers.
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial in regard to brain function, as well as normal growth and development, and are also promoted as a means to reduce the risk of heart disease - but the aspect of Omega-3 of interest to us is its anti-inflammatory properties.
It is important to have the proper ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 (another fatty acid) in the diet. For as much as omega-3 helps to reduce inflammation...omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation! In the western world our diet has strayed considerably from a healthy balance. Anthropological research suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-3 and omega-6 fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1. Surveys indicate that the UK diet has an omega 3: omega 6 ratio of 1:10 ...shockingly it is reported that the ratio may be in excess of 1:20 in the USA.
This change, perhaps more than any other dietary factor, has contributed to the epidemic of modern disease.
With so many life threatening conditions being a result of inflammation we owe it to ourselves to reset the balance!
How do we do that? The answer is through diet.
We must greatly reduce those products with high levels of Omega-6
So what foods do we need to be eating to raise our ratio of Omega-3?
Fish - especially sardines, salmon
Some vegetable oils ... (walnut oil and flaxseed oil especially)
Nuts - especially walnuts
If you are still not getting sufficient Omega-3 percentages then visit a health food shop and look into getting the best fish oil you can afford. They will be able to explain the difference in price and quality.
Omega-3 levels have such a far reaching effect on our bodily functions that I hope you can look into making some changes for yourself and the whole family!!