Omega 3,6,9

Are you confused about these? You’re not the only one. So here is a very simple breakdown of the facts.

Omega 3, 6 and 9 are shorthand terms for fatty acids needed by the body for various processes. Omega 3 and Omega 6 are ‘essential fatty acids’, meaning that we can’t produce them ourselves, so we have to get them in the food we eat. And it’s not just the amounts we take in that matters; it’s also the proportions.

Omega 3 fatty acids are needed for brain growth and function. They help prevent inflammation, and also provide energy. They improve heart function, support the nervous system and promote bone health. Studies show that they reduce the incidence of asthma, depression and various other nervous system disorders including dementia. Deficiency can contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Where do we get them? The main source is oily fish, which is why it’s recommended that we eat two portions a week. The typical Western diet does not contain enough Omega 3 fatty acids.

Omega 6 fatty acids are mainly used for energy, although evening primrose, starflower and blackcurrant seed are particularly rich in one Omega 6 fatty acid, which helps reduce inflammation. Our main sources are refined vegetable oils like soya, corn oil and sunflower seed oil, and nuts like almonds, cashews and walnuts.

The problem here is that in the West, we eat far more Omega 6 containing foods than we need. The ideal ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is 4:1, but we take in between 10:1 and 50:1. Excess intake is linked with inflammatory diseases.

Omega 9 fatty acids are non-essential, in that we can produce them for ourselves, but there are many benefits to increasing the ratio in what we eat. Olive oil is one of the best sources.

Do you need to supplement? If you suffer from any of the conditions mentioned above, a course of fish oils and/or evening primrose can be a good idea. But in general, reducing your intake of Omega 6 and increasing your intake of Omega 3 and 9 will move you in the right direction.

In simple terms, eating two portions of oily fish per week, cooking with olive oil and avoiding processed foods will help you to stay well.

EDITOR: Su has an excellent Herb Handbook available to buy directly from her website or from Amazon.

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