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Achieving the Optimal Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio

07.30.15

trailmix7

The main nutrition faux pas I discover when I counsel people on their diets is that they are consuming the wrong types of fats. Almost every person that I consult with consumes oils that are too high in omega-6 fatty acids. It’s important to understand that we need omega-6’s in our diet and we actually need a higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. However, we do not need omega-6 fatty acids in the amounts that we, as Americans, consume them in. To make it all a bit easier to understand, I have written this blog post to help you understand why achieving the optimal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids is the key to preventing and/or treating inflammatory-related conditions.

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A Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet 

Introduction: What is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

The basis of the anti-inflammatory diet is simple: eat foods that are anti- inflammatory and avoid foods that pro-inflammatory.

But what does that actually mean?

Focus on eating foods that are high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and healthy fats. Examples include most fruits and vegetables, legumes, and high quality proteins.

Avoid processed foods, caffeine, additives, hydrogenated oils, sodas, and sugar. Some people may also benefit from avoiding the nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers) as well as wheat and overly processed grains.

What fats are considered healthy?

First, let’s learn about the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.

It’s recommended that we should consume a 2:1-4:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, the typical American diet contains closer to 16:1.

Why is this bad?

Omega-6 fatty acids are responsible for promoting inflammation within our bodies. However, before we start thinking of omega-6 fatty acid as a villain, we must understand that there are times in which inflammation is necessary and healthy for us to experience. For instance, it protects us from injury by helping to signal the healing process. However, the proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the Standard American Diet (SAD diet) is extremely out of proportion. As a result, the occasional acute inflammation that is supposed to exist during injury has turned into chronic inflammation which has lead to a laundry list of health conditions, such as autoimmune disorders, heart disease, skin issues (acne, psoriasis, eczema, etc.), stroke, thyroid issues, dementia and even cancer.

The chart below shows the proportions of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats in each source of dietary fat. The fats that contain the highest proportion of omega-6 (blue) should be avoided or at least greatly reduced within the diet so that a proper ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (2:1-4:1) can be obtained.

omega ratio

*In case you’re curious, omega-9 fatty acids may help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. However, since they are synthesized within our bodies from other foods that we consume, we do not need to worry about consuming or supplementing with them.

You can see that butter, coconut oil, lard, palm oil and olive oil are all relatively low in Omega-6. While sunflower, corn, soybean and cottonseed oils are by far the highest. I recommend you avoid the latter at all costs.

omega ratio-2This chart shows why Americans eat closer to a 16:1 ratio instead of a 2:1-4:1 ratio, as recommended. Three of the most inflammatory oils: soybean, cottonseed, and corn, have increased exponentially in our diets over the last 100+ years. If you look at food labels of processed foods, you’ll notice that these oils are added to everything from peanut butter and hummus to cookies and chips. The best way to avoid these oils is to be informed and aware.


So, what’s the solution?

1. Consume fats rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as the fats mentioned above as well as nuts, seeds, avocados and oily fish like salmon and sardines.

2. Add other anti-inflammatory rich foods to your diet such as berries, fruits and vegetables of all colors, turmeric, ginger (try our Turmeric-Ginger Cleansing Drink), dark leafy greens, and fiber-rich foods such as beans and whole grains.

3. Make more food at home so you can control the types of fat that your food is cooked in. If you buy packaged foods, take the extra minute to search the ingredients label for the fats we suggest you avoid; it’s a life saving habit!

Of course, it’s always ideal to make your own food but when you just don’t have time, here is a list of brands we prefer that do not contain the oils that we suggest you avoid:

Hummus

Buy: Hummus that contains extra virgin olive oil; if you find one that contains organic canola oil, that is an acceptable option as well.

Avoid: Hummus that contains soybean oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil and corn oil.

Lilly’s – gluten-free, vegan, non-gmo certified and Kosher.

Ingredients: Organic roasted garbanzo beans, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, sea salt, citric acid and other natural ingredients such as garlic and roasted vegetables depending on what flavor you buy.

Hope Hummus– gluten-free, vegan, non-gmo certified and Kosher

Ingredients (Super Hemp Flavor): Organic Garbanzo Beans, Water, Organic Tahini (Sesame Seeds), Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Hemp Seeds, Sea Salt, Organic Lemon Juice, Organic Spices, Citric Acid, Organic Garlic Powder.

Pita Pal – vegan, USDA-certified organic, made with 100% clean energy, Kosher

Ingredients: Organic chickpeas (garbanzo beans), organic sesame tahini, organic concentrated lemon juice, organic spices, organic virgin olive oil, sea salt, guar gum

Chips

Buy: Chips that are cooked in coconut or avocado oil or dehydrated. *Avocado oil, not listed on the chart above, is similar to olive oil but has a higher smoke point, making it a better option for use in frying.

Avoid: Chips fried in omega-6 rich vegetable oils.

Jackson’s Honest Potato Chips – non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, organic

Ingredients: Organic non-GMO potatoes/sweet potatoes, organic coconut oil, sea salt.

Canyon Cut Kettle Cooked Chips – gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, Kosher

Ingredients: Potatoes, avocado oil, sea salt.

Rhythm Super Foods Zesty Nacho Kale Chips – organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan

Organic ingredients: kale, sunflower seeds, tahini (ground sesame seeds), onion, red bell pepper, apple cider vinegar, cane sugar, carrot, *sea salt, garlic, lemon juice, chipotle powder. *represents a natural non-organic ingredient

Nut Butters

Buy: Nut butters that contain only raw or lightly “dry” roasted nuts.

Avoid: Nut butters with added oils such as soybean, sunflower, cottonseed, and hydrogenated oils. Also avoid nut butters with added sugar and excessive amounts of sodium.

Maranatha – Organic Raw Almond Butter – gluten-free, organic, non-GMO, vegan, Kosher

Ingredients: 100% Organic Raw Almonds.

*Check out their website for additional flavors and types of nut butters.

Once Again – Lightly Toasted Creamy Almond Butter – gluten-free, organic, non-GMO, vegan, Kosher

Ingredients: Lightly toasted, unblanched organic almonds.

*Check out their website for additional flavors and types of nut butters.

Salad Dressings

Buy: Salad Dressings that contain extra virgin olive oil and/or non-GMO canola oil, and/or avocado oil.

Avoid: Salad dressings that contain soybean oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil and corn oil.

Brianna’s – Dijon Honey Mustard Dressing -gluten-free, egg-free, nut-free, HFCS-free, no MSG, vegetarian, lactose-free

Ingredients: canola oil, water, dijon mustard, honey, sugar, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white onion powder, salt, modified tapioca starch, turmeric, mustard flour, natural mustard flavor, xanthan gum, mixed tocopherols (vitamin E).

*Visit their website to explore additional flavors. All flavors contain omega-3 rich fats but some contain dairy so if you cannot consume dairy please read the ingredients list carefully.

Drew’s – All Natural Rosemary Balsamic Dressing & Marinade – gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO

Ingredients: Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Water, Balsamic Vinegar, Red Wine Vinegar, Dijon Mustard (Organic Grain Vinegar, Water, Mustard Seed, Salt, Spices, Turmeric), Garlic, Sea Salt, Evaporated Cane Sugar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Black Pepper, Citric Acid, Rosemary, Basil, Oregano, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Sodium Alginate.

*Visit their website to explore additional flavors. All flavors contain omega-3 rich fats but some contain dairy so if you cannot consume dairy please read the ingredients list carefully.

Mayonnaise

Buy: Mayonnaise that contains extra virgin olive oil and/or non-GMO canola oil, and/or avocado oil.

Avoid: Mayonnaise that contains soybean oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil and corn oil.

Primal Kitchen – Avocado Oil Mayonnaise – gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, organic

Ingredients: Avocado Oil, Organic Cage-Free Eggs, Organic Egg yolks, Organic Vinegar, Salt.


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It’s extremely challenging to find a store-bought trail mix in which the contents have not been roasted in soybean oil or drenched with an unnecessary amount of added sugar. So, we are sharing our favorite homemade trail mix that contains raw nuts and seeds, dried fruit and a dash of dark chocolate for fun. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as anti-oxidants which will help you achieve the correct omega-6-omega-3 fatty acid ratio.

As for flavor, I tested this recipe out on the pregnant ladies that I give cooking lessons to and to their utter shock, they loved it! We made enough snack baggies full of trail mix for each woman to have a few in their purse at all times so they could have a healthy snack when those hunger pangs hit. The healthy fats provided in this trail mix will not only keep them satisfied and energized, but it will also aid in proper brain development of their growing babies.

Of course, these healthy fats are not only beneficial for brain development in utero, they are also beneficial for aging brains and may help to preserve memory and prevent dementia.

Anti-Oxidant Trail Mix
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Snacks
Cuisine: Gluten-Free
Ingredients
  • ½ ounce walnuts (about 7-8 walnut halves)
  • 1 tbsp raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbsp raw coconut shreds (sometimes called chips)
  • ¼ ounce dried dragon fruit/pitaya (1 piece)
  • 1 tsp Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips (optional)
Instructions
  1. Measure all ingredients and put into a snack sized ziplock bag. This is one serving.
  2. To make 14 baggies or two weeks worth, purchase 3.5 ounces of sunflower seeds, 5.25 ounces of pumpkin seeds, 7 ounces of walnuts, 1 bag of Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips (you'll use ¼ of the bag), 2 ounces of coconut shreds/chips or 1-8.8 ounce bag (you will use about ¼ of it), and 2 packages of dried pitaya. You may substitute another dried fruit such as tart cherries, craisins, raisins, figs, or dates, etc.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 Calories: 270 Fat: 21 g Carbohydrates: 16 g Sugar: 8 g Sodium: 1 mg Fiber: 7 g Protein: 7 g Cholesterol: 0 g

What makes this trail mix the perfect snack?

1. It’s packed full of good fats, natural sugar and fiber:

1/4 cup of walnuts contains 113% Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) of Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

1/4 cup sunflower seeds contains 82% DRI of vitamin E, the body’s primary fat-soluble antioxidant.

1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds contains 74% DRI of manganese, a co-factor for an enzyme called manganese superoxide dimutase (MnSOD), which is a potent antioxidant associated with protection against free radical damage. World’s Healthiest Foods

Raw Coconut contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT), a type of fat that is more likely to be broken down for energy than stored in your body as fat because they are relatively easy for the body to breakdown.

Dried fruit provides vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Additionally, it provides natural sugar that can be used for energy.

Dark chocolate chips add an additional source of anti-oxiadants and make the trail mix satisfying. 

2. It is appropriately proportioned:

The portion size provides a caloric amount that qualifies as a snack but could also be consumed as part of a breakfast (i.e.added to oatmeal, used as a topping for yogurt or eaten with a piece of fruit)

3. It can be made in advance and carried without refrigeration:

Since this snack does not have to be refrigerated, it is a great way to ensure that you always have a healthy source of food with you at all times which will reduce the likelihood of frequenting the vending machine.

trailmix3Happy Snacking!!

As always, we send you LOVE and PEACE without grease!

XO, The Glisten Girls

 

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