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Balancing Act: How to Eat Healthy Fats

For optimum health, you need to have the right ratio of omegas. Here’s how to see where you’re at—and make the small dietary changes that bring big results.

 

KeepIng Score

Lands and his colleagues developed an Omega 3–6 Balance Score that summarizes in a single value the balance among omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids for more than 5,000 foods. Foods with positive Omega 3–6 Balance Scores will increase the percentage of omega-3 in the biomarker; those with negative scores will increase the percentage of omega-6.

The score sheet can be really helpful in improving your omega balance score. The average score for fruits and vegetables is near zero; it is very negative for the fats and oils group, and very positive for the fish and seafood group. But it can also point out some foods that are less obvious. For example, nuts have a tendency to have more omega-6, but some, such as chestnuts and macadamia nuts, are close to 0. While you might assume cashews would have a terrible score, at -14 they are far better than walnuts, which have a score of -50 despite being promoted as being high in omega-3 fatty acids. “Walnuts have worked their way into the public awareness because they contain some omega-3, but they have huge amounts of omega-6,” Lands says. You have to think in terms of the balance.

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Every Little Bit Counts

The great thing about omega-3 balance is that any little change you make will improve your health. It’s not all or nothing. “Set your own personal health priority,” Lands says. If you’re not willing to overhaul the entire way you eat, even small steps such as just adding a tablespoon of fish oil a day will go a long way in changing your profile. Even something as small as taking the mayonnaise and margarine out of your fridge will have a huge impact on your omega balance—and your health.

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