Making informed dietary decisions about how to get your daily omegas—and more!
Since omega supplementation has become mainstream, you may have forgotten that these essential fatty acids are derived primarily from the foods we eat. Not every omega fatty acid is created within the body, so a conscious effort must be made to consume adequate levels of omegas.
When supplementing your diet with these foods, especially if simply for omega content, it is important to consider their full spectrum of nutrients. Many foods high in omegas can also contain high levels of phosphorus and manganese, for example, which can be unsafe when eaten in excess. Taking an omega supplement and plant-based multi may still be a good option for you, but it’s always good to know when you can stock up on extra.
Omega-3 is essential, meaning it cannot be created in the body itself and must be consumed through the diet or supplementation. These fatty acids help lower the risk of heart disease while reducing inflammation and aiding brain function.
These seeds are most commonly found ground, whole or processed into oil. Due to their great alpha-linoleic acid content, a type of omega-3 fatty acid, flax seeds can help diminish risk of heart disease. They are also high in dietary fibre, which helps overall digestion. However, when consumed whole they may not get fully broken down by the gut.
Beyond the omega-3 content they are lauded for, chia seeds also contain many nutrients needed for the upkeep of your body such as protein, calcium and fibre. Collected from the chia plant, a type of mint native to Mexico, chia seeds also contain a good amount of omega-6 as well as almost half your daily intake of fibre in a two tablespoon serving.
Salmon may be the poster child for essential fatty acid-rich fish, but it is mackerel that truly shines when it comes to fatty acid content. A single four-ounce serving of mackerel can have over 3,000mg of omega-3. Mackerel also has a fair amount of omega-6 and a good amount of vitamin B12, a water-soluble vitamin used in energy creation and DNA synthesis.
Omega-6 is also essential but much more prevalent in the modern diet. While it is beneficial in some aspects such as augmenting brain function, some omega-6 fatty acids also tend to increase inflammation levels. This is why a balanced ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s are often recommended.
Beyond their huge omega-6 content, this classic snack selection is also a great source of dietary fibre. In addition, one cup of walnuts has around 30% of your daily protein requirement as well as 27% of your required vitamin B6—a versatile vitamin associated with protein metabolization. However, they also have a high percentage of manganese—so use caution to avoid overconsumption.
Harvested from one of the most recognizable ornamental plants in North America, sunflower seeds are not only exceptionally high in omega-6 but also iron. In a one-cup serving of sunflower seeds there is about 50% of your recommended daily iron intake. They also have high percentages of protein and fibre.
An increasingly popular salad topping, pine nuts are full of vitamins and nutrients aside from simply omega-6. These tasty nuts are produced by various species of pine trees and are packed with high amounts of vitamin E, vitamin K, protein and magnesium. They are also very high in manganese so be sure to take that into account when enjoying these crunchy morsels.
Omega-9 is nonessential, meaning the body makes its own supply. It is associated with a decrease in the risk of cardiovascular disease and is also found in many of the foods you already eat.
Olives, which have a place of prominence in many Mediterranean dishes, have a high omega-9 content as well as a fair amount of vitamin E. The name “olive” refers both to the source tree as well as the fruit itself. Most commonly enjoyed as an oil, olives are available canned but are best to buy fresh so you can be sure you to avoid preservatives, which may alter the nutritional content.
Also containing a good amount of omega-6, avocados not only have a high amount of omega-9, but a single avocado contains 20% of your daily intake of vitamin C, 20% of your daily potassium and 26% of your daily vitamin K. This is in addition to the creamy deliciousness that makes it a favoured inclusion in burritos, salad dressings and homemade dips.
Sometimes known as filberts, hazelnuts are another option for those attempting to boost their omega-9 consumption. They are a good source of vitamin E, fibre and protein as well as iron. They also are a great choice for a healthy snack as they are a common addition to many traditional confectionaries.
Be sure to speak with your health care provider when making any changes to your diet or before taking supplements.
This article was originally published in OptiMYz 905.