Omega 3 and Omega 6 are both types of dietary fats, each with their own health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that your body cannot make on its own, which means you need to get it from your diet or through supplements. Fish is probably what most people think of when they think of omega 3, which could make it seem like being on a vegan diet is impossible to meet the daily reference dose (RDI). Here’s the truth: you can get enough healthy fats like omega 3 and omega 6 with a vegan diet. Read on as we dispel major myths about omegas.
What are Omega 3 and Omega 6?
There are several types of omega-3s. The body uses alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plant sources, primarily for energy purposes. The other two types are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
“The two essential fatty acids that must be ingested with food are linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid,” Jodi Bergeron, a nurse at Cape Cod Healthcare, told LIVEKINDLY. “The typical western diet contains more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal growth and development as well as for neurological function. “
Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for heart health. They can help increase the “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduce arterial plaque. Studies have also shown that EPA can improve mental health by reducing symptoms of depression; it also helps reduce inflammation, which can worsen symptoms of a number of chronic diseases.
DHA supports healthy brain development in infants, can improve memory with age, and can contribute to healthy weight management.
Omega 6, another type of polyunsaturated fatty acid, is also essential. The body uses them mainly for energy production; the most common type is linoleic acid.
Now let’s break down the myths.
MYTH # 1: Omega 3 can only be obtained from fish
Oily fish like salmon and tuna are well-known sources of omega-3, which may sound like bad news to vegans and people who don’t like fish. However, it is possible to get enough omega-3s with a plant-based diet; the American Heart Association recommends consuming 1.5 to three grams of ALA Omega 3 per day. The intake of EPA and DHA is between 0.5 and 1.8 per day.
Plant sources of Omega 3
Chia seeds: One ounce of chia contains 4,915 mg of ALA, up to 447 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDI).
Hemp seeds: One ounce provides 6,000 mg of ALA, between 375 and 545 percent of the RDI.
Linseed: One ounce of flaxseed contains 6,388 mg of ALA, an impressive 400-580 percent of the RDI.
Walnuts: A single serving (one ounce) provides 2,542 mg of ALA, about 159-231 percent of your daily requirement.
However, for some, it can be difficult to meet their daily needs from whole foods alone. In addition, these sources lack EPA and DHA. Men and women between the ages of 19 and 50 need 12 grams and 17 grams of omega-6 fatty acids per day, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
A vegan omega-3 diet supplement that contains seaweed oil can be a source of EPA and DHA (and some supplements provide both omega-3 and omega-6), but you should always consult your doctor before adding any dietary supplement to your diet Add.
Plant sources of omega 6
Walnuts: One ounce contains 10,800 mg, 64 percent of the RDI.
Tofu: 3.5 ounces gives you 4,970 mg, 29 percent of the RDI.
Hemp seeds: Three tablespoons add 8,240 mg to your diet, 47 percent of the RDI.
Sunflower seeds: One ounce contains 10,600 mg, 62 percent of the RDI.
Peanut butter: One tablespoon of peanut butter contains 1,960 mg, about 11 percent of the RDI.
Almonds: An ounce has 3,490 mg, 20 percent of the RDI.
Cashew nuts: One ounce contains 2,210 mg, 13 percent of the RDI.
Certain vegetable oils like avocado and thistle also contain omega 6.
MYTH # 2: Omega-6 causes inflammation
A common misconception is that omega 6 causes inflammation. Specifically, a diet where you consume more omega 6 than omega 3.
“Linoleic acid (LA) is an important omega-6 fatty acid in food and is converted into arachidonic acid (AA), which can be linked to inflammation,” explains Bergeron. But don’t worry: the body converts very little LA to AA. Bergeron adds that omega-6 polyunsaturated fats actually have anti-inflammatory properties, so eating more can help reduce inflammation. Omega-6 can even help reduce your risk of heart disease.
“Chronic, mild inflammation and oxidative stress are known to be linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases,” she added. It all comes down to nutrition. The Mediterranean diet, which typically includes fish but can also be plant-based, focuses on many “anti-inflammatory and nutrient-rich foods” such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
“It has a higher ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, which leads to less inflammation,” she adds. “The high proportion of phytonutrients and fiber in the diet, together with the low glycemic load and the low content of saturated fatty acids, contribute to less inflammation in the body.”
The real fats that you should minimize are saturated, trans fat, and partially hydrogenated oils.
Trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils are widely used in fried foods. These include fried chicken, french fries, packaged cakes and cookies, pie crusts, donuts, and fried snacks. Both of these can be detrimental to heart health and should be minimized.
Myth # 3: Omega-3 supplements lower cholesterol
Contrary to what many of us have read, there is little evidence that omega-3 supplements lower cholesterol. However, the thought process behind taking omega-3 heart health supplements is not wrong.
Research has shown that Omega 3 can significantly reduce elevated triglycerides, a fat that increases the risk of heart disease. A more effective way to lower cholesterol is to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats like omega 3.
Foods like beef, lamb, pork, skin-on poultry, lard, cheese and whole-fat dairy products contain saturated fat. A plant-based diet can lower cholesterol – in fact, the American Heart Association recommends it.
Despite the myth that omega 3s come from fish, it’s easy to get enough of it (and omega 6) on a vegan diet if you eat the foods listed above on a regular basis.
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