Omega 3 fats are crucial for brain health, weigh loss, inflammation, heart disease, energy and so much more. However, it can be a confusing topic. From supplementation and foods to eat to two, very important yet unknown, facts about increasing your omega 3 intake, here’s everything you need to know.
Hi there, it’s Maya, Behavioral Registered Dietitian, and founder here at Healthy Habit Solutions, where we help you create permanent health and permanent weight loss. Not through another diet, but through actual habit behavior change, so it becomes a part of your life. This week I have been talking a lot about Omega 3’s to clients, for some reason, so I figured let’s make a video so I could share it with you too. Omega 3’s travelling outside of behavioral for behavioral nutrition for just a moment, and back into basic nutrition for just a moment. They are a very very important part of our life, and really ought to be something that we embrace more of, in our diet. I will share a little bit as to why after I break down the fats for you, because there is two basic kind of fats.
There is saturated fats, which I would challenge your thinking a little bit, that we actually need saturated fats. Those are good, whole fats. Even coconut oil are things like saturated fat, that our body needs. Then there is unsaturated fats. Omega 3 is a type of unsaturated fats. You have heard of those as the “Good Fats”, avocado and olive oil and things like that, nuts and seeds. We do need that stuff. Omega 3 is a type of unsaturated fat. There are kind of, they are broken down further into these two mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated. Don’t worry too much about the different kinds, it really just means the molecular structure of how they are formed.
Omega 3’s are part of the poly-unsaturated fats. There is lots of different kinds of poly-unsaturated fats. You have likely heard of Omega 3 and Omega 6 and Omega 9’s, and there is quite a few others as well. The whole reason that we want to embrace Omega 3’s a little bit more is for, not just weight loss and inflammation, but for conative function, for brain function. They are even used for energy in the body. Now a days, because our eating out and our processed food consumption is so high, that will actually drive down the body’s ability to make Omega 3 fats. There’s a couple things that are really important when we are thinking about how to incorporate more of them, there’s two things outside of just food that we have to think about as well. Which I will explain here momentarily.
Lets go deeper just a little bit into Omega 3 fats. Omega 3 is … There’s a type of Omega 3 called ALA, alpha-linolenic acid, it’s ALA for short, so a lot of the foods I will be showing you today, we are going to be talking about their ALA content. We will say Omega 3’s in general. What happened with ALA is that the body will take in that type of fat from the foods that we are going to eat, and it will convert that into likely what you have heard of as EPA and DHA. ALA is the one over here that gives the body lots of energy, and then it will also transform and we can use ALA to convert into EPA and DHA. EPA is the type of Omega 3 fat that reduces inflammation, big time. DHA is the type of fat that our brain uses big time. Low levels of DHA have been connected to conative functions disorders, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, all of those things.
I wrote down this really cool fact I saw, our brain is made of 60 percent, entirely 60 percent of fat, and by weight, 12 percent of the brain by weight, is actually DHA. Isn’t that cool, I know that’s kind of a geeked out moment there, but I thought that was really cool. That’s how important that DHA is.
Let’s talk about how the heck we are going to get ALA or more Omega 3’s into our diet. I am going to show you some foods, but I want to talk about 2 really important pieces at the very end, that it’s not just about eating these foods. We actually have to do a few other things in making sure that we are taking into count a few other things.
Number 1, there’s two really good sources of Omega 3’s, and that’s going to be Flax seeds. Brown Flax seeds, you see the little seeds that are in there. One thing with Flax seeds is we are getting, actually in 2 tablespoons, we are getting 3 grams of Omega 3’s. When I say Omega 3, it’s not just the ALA, but it’s in general the whole Omega 3 content, what it is that you are getting. How much you are getting from certain foods depends on the break down of it. The brown Flax seed … Flax seed comes in a lot of different colors and a lot of different ways. It’s either going to come whole seed or it is going to come ground. You actually want to make sure that if you buy the whole seed, that you do grind it, because the body can’t actually … We can’t chew it enough to get the oils that we need, unless it is ground.
What I will do is take a coffee grinder and you can grind your seeds, and I just keep it in a bag, just like this. Then you can take 2 tablespoons, and a great way to use these flax seeds, you could put it in yogurt, you could mix it on top of salads and over there you can put it oatmeal’s, you could put it into vegetables. Sometimes you can coat chicken in it and do different things like that. There is a lot of ways you can just add your flax seeds in. When I take Flax seed with a few other seeds to specifically get Omega 3’s, what I will do is I will mash it, 2 tablespoons into an avocado and add some salt and just eat that, and it’s really yummy.
One last thing that you need to know about Flax seed is that … Omega 3’s in general, all of the foods that I am showing you, except for the canned stuff, it’s going to be really important that you actually keep these in the fridge. Omega 3 is a really precious oil that will go rancid very very quickly. We can loose a lot of the really good stuff if it is left to light exposure or heat exposure. You want to really make sure that you are keeping your Omega 3’s in the fridge, that’s going to be really really important.
Another really really good source of Omega 3’s are going to be these beautiful walnuts, that are falling all over my computer right now. Walnuts, in about a quarter of a cup, you can get almost 3 grams of Omega 3’s, which is actually really good as well. Flax seeds and walnuts, 2 really simple ways that you can start getting Omega 3’s in right now.
What else do I have for you. Fish, we have all heard of fish. Now, I am pausing because I am going to have a disclaimer here for a minute. Some people love this, some people hate this. Do not go out and buy these and eat these if you don’t like them. Don’t eat foods if you don’t like them. I personally tend to absolutely love them, and that happens to be these little canned sardine guys right here. Yes, I said canned sardines. They are a really really good source of Omega 3’s. 3 ounces are going to give you one and a quarter grams of the Omega 3’s. Salmon does the same thing. In about 4 ounces of salmon, you get 1 gram as well, of Omega 3’s. You can certainly … If you don’t like sardines, then by all means if you like salmon, salmon is a fishier fish, so there is going to be more fishier flavor to that. Again, you can get a less Omega 3 content in some of the other fish, less fattier fish or the less smellier fish, fishy fish, than you could do some of the other types of fish as well.
There are going to be … In a cup of each of these, I am looking at the amounts. There are 2 vegetables, there is lots of them, but there are 2 vegetables that are really important. This guy has been getting a lot of press lately on the different things that you can do with cauliflower. In 1 cup of cauliflower, which is raw, you are going to get about a fifth of a gram of Omega 3’s. Cauliflower has a lot, and the other vegetable, it’s turning into the new kale, is the Brussels sprout. The Brussels sprout in the same, in about 1 cup raw, which is not a whole heck of a lot, you are going to get about a fifth of a gram of Omega 3’s in there too.
The other ones that I don’t have beautiful pictures of, are going to be beef and mustard seed. Grass fed beef is going to give you a lot of Omega 3’s as well. I don’t want to say a lot, but it is going to supply you with some, to some variable degree, depending on where it comes from of course. Mustard seeds as well. In 2 teaspoons, you will get about a tenth of a gram.
Last, but not least, if you can take supplements, there is … I will give you a little tip when it comes to supplementation of your Omega 3’s, and that is going to be … This is dependent on how inexpensive or expensive this Omega 3 is. There is something that’s important that you want to look at. When you are looking at your Omega 3, head to the back. Look for EPA and DHA. The American Heart Association, I am not saying that’s what I recommend by any means, but they are recommending 1 gram of EPA and DHA per day. Someone who wants to reduce their triglycerides, who has extra inflammation in their body, who wants to loose weight, who is working with heart disease, we want to up that to closer to 2 to 3 grams of EPA and DHA a day.
When you are purchasing your supplements, look at the back. Read the EPA and DHA, not the total Omega 3’s, but specifically the EPA and DHA, add them up. It will come in milligrams. You will want to say, “Okay, if I am taking the 2 pills of mine, give me about a gram and a half, or 1500 milligrams”, which is a gram and a half of EPA and DHA. Which means I take 4 of these a day. I know that it sounds like a lot, but sometimes an inexpensive one, is going to cost you … An inexpensive one you will have to take a lot of pills. This is a very very effective way as well. It’s really cool because there is a lot of great foods that you can start incorporating. Remember that you want to keep these foods in the refrigerator to maintain their precious Omega 3 sources.
There is two last points that I want to tell you about today that are going to increase your Omega 3 content. People hear that a lot, it’s becoming more of a buzz word. Just eat more Omega’s, eat more Omega’s. It’s not enough to just eat more Omega 3 foods. One, there is something that we want to think about. If you are someone who is working with a lot of digestive health, if you are working to improve your digestive health, it is likely that you are some what enable to absorb specific nutrients. For the body to take ALA and transform it into EPA and DHA, it needs specific nutrients. I wrote them down specifically, B3, B6, vitamin C, Zinc and magnesium. Those right there, if we don’t have ample amounts, if our body is not able to take up certain nutrients. If we are not digesting and absorbing properly, if we have gut or digestive issues, it’s likely that we may not be getting all of that we need. Even if we are taking in lots of Omega foods, we are not necessarily, it’s not guaranteed that we are converting. Does that make sense?
That’s number one, is you want to make sure that you have those, you can often take a multi-vitamin for it. There is certainly specific types of B vitamins. You want to go for something that is metholated, metholated B vitamins. The next … There is two, so there is conversion, if you are not converting, that’s one. The number two is certainly something that all of us can do better at, and that is, in order for us to increase Omega 3, we must reduce Omega 6. The more Omega 6 we have in our diet, the less conversion will happen, of ALA to EPA and DHA. Meaning that … Remember, Omega 6 is the opposite of Omega 3. We have to have that balanced in the body, so the body does a really good balancing acting job. Omega 6 comes from processed foods, eating out, and packaged foods, because they are cheap industrial oils. Specifically, I have examples of sunflower oil, cotton seed oil, soy bean oil, sesame seed oil and canola oil. Those are really highly processed oils. If you go out to eat, they are likely using them because they are really cheap oils.
The more Omega 6 you have in your life, in your body, in your diet, the less conversion of Omega 3 that will happen in the body. Not only do we have to make sure that we have the nutrients to convert, we have to make sure that we are actually reducing our Omega 6 as we increase our Omega 3.
I hope that was helpful for you today. That was a whole heck of a lot of information, but it will certainly help you in your goals and where it is that you are going. For now, I will hear from you next week. If you have any questions, post them in the comments below and I would love to hear from you. Take care. Bye.