Why A Change In Cooking Oil May Improve Your Health

For optimal health, we need to consume a reasonable balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Sources vary on what the ideal omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be; some suggest a 1:1 ratio, and others 2 or 3:1. Yet, many of us routinely have 20 times or greater levels of omega-6 in our body as omega-3, and this gross imbalance can lead to disease.

Diabetes and Omega Fatty Acids

Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that play complementary roles in our body. Omega-3 works to reduce inflammation, while omega-6 instigates inflammation. When our system becomes overloaded with omega-6, our anti-inflammatory omega-3s cannot adequately balance the effects of the inflammatory 6s.

Today, chronic systemic inflammation is associated with several chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. Some studies correlate elevated omega-6 with increased leptin and insulin resistance that lessens our appetite control, ability to burn fat, and raises the risk for type 2 diabetes onset.

Why So Many Omega-6s

Our dietary overload of omega-6 is related to the development of polyunsaturated vegetable oils, our love of convenience foods, and to livestock being switched from pasture-grazing to grain-feeds:

  • Many of our commonly used vegetable oils contain high amounts of omega-6, particularly soybean, corn, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, canola, and walnut oils.
  • Nearly all the processed foods lining our grocery store shelves are made with vegetable oils high in omega-6.
  • Meats, dairy products, and eggs from animals fed on grains (e.g. corn, soy) contain significantly greater amounts of omega-6, when compared to foods from grass-fed animals.

Although some oils contain omega-3, our body does not well utilize omega-3 from plant sources—especially when the 3s are outnumbered by omega-6. We get most of our usable omega-3 from fish, eggs, raw nuts, seeds, and supplementation.

A Choice

Be aware that not all doctors, dietitians, and other experts are concerned about reducing omega-6 intake. Still, the evidence suggesting it’s necessary for good health is substantial, and many who recommend lowering our omega-6 levels are well-credentialed. We each have to decide how to proceed.

For those who choose to, the easiest way to reduce omega-6 consumption is eating fewer processed foods, and preparing most meals from scratch using low omega-6 cooking oils, such as flaxseed, avocado, coconut, and extra virgin olive oil. It may help to consume meats from certified grass-fed sources as well.

We also need to get plenty of omega-3s by eating edibles such as fatty fish (e.g., sardines, wild salmon, tuna, halibut, mackerel), eggs, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and by taking fish, or krill oil supplements, if necessary.

Sources: Mayo Clinic; Health Central; Mercola

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