Omega oils are fatty acids and most are easily made in our body from the foods we eat. They are super critical for our health as they are integral to the membranes (walls of all our trillions of cells). The two most important omega oils are omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-6 oils are mainly inflammatory, i.e. cause inflammation. Omega-3 oils reduce inflammation and help lower the risk of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, asthma, eye disease, pre-diabetes, bowel disorders, obesity, auto-immune disease, psychiatric problems and arthritis. They are also important for memory, cognition, and behavior.
The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 oils is 1:1, which is what we evolved on. Our modern western diet, is usually around 15:1 to 25:1 due to all the refined oils, highly processed foods, and low amounts of vegetables and fruits. Anything more than 1:1 to 1:4 ratio is called pro-inflammatory, i.e. causes inflammation, leading to all the health problems mentioned above. As the key is the ratio, both an excess of omega-6 (from our diet) or lack of omega-6 will cause problems. The other issue is that omega-3 oils (especially ALA) are harder to obtain from our diet than omega-6 oils, so supplementation is needed for virtually everyone.
It is important to investigate the source of your omega 3 supplements because most are from fish, and contain contaminants such as heavy metals, e.g. mercury. I personally take a brand from Norway as they are third party tested free of contaminants; are sustainably sourced; are in a more bio-available form; and are processed in a way that keeps the omega oils stable.
However, you also need to reduce your omega-6 intake as omega-6 oils compete with the anti-inflammatory omega 3 oils leading to more inflammation. So if you still eat a diet high in omega-6 oils you will be negating the benefits you are receiving from eating omega-3 oils. Omega-6 oils also reduce conversion of the basic omega-3 oils into their more active form.
Safe fats to eat include:
- Organic, extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil
- Organic extra-virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil
- Nuts (not peanuts)
- Fatty fish (small fish like sardines and wild salmon, not large fish such as tuna because they usually contain high levels of contaminants such as mercury)
- Grass-fed meats/butter (these contain no hormones/antibiotics/chemicals and also have about 7 times more omega 3 oils as factory meat, which have virtually zero)
Unfortunately, we were given really bad advice in the last century to reduce butter and meat and increase vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn, and canola oils, which led to us increasing our consumption of inflammatory omega-6 fats. This has led to the worst ever epidemic of chronic disease, such as heart disease, cancer obesity and diabetes.