EATING REAL FOOD, and cutting out the crappy grains, sugar, junk food, and other less than desirable items from their diet. An important part of this transition is increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids and decreasing your intake of omega-6 fatty acids. The omega-3 fats that are especially desired are EPA and DHA. Current westernised diets typically have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1 or higher, while most research suggests the best ratios are somewhere between 3:1 and 1:1, which happens to mimic the ratios found in a high quality Paleo diet. This skewed ratio appears to create all sorts of health issues for humans.
How can one eat healthy real food and increase their intake of omega-3 and decrease their intake of omega-6? A major source of omega-6 in the standard western diet is low quality seed oils (corn oil, soybean oil, etc) and processed foods. Reducing your intake of those foods will lower your omega-6 input. What about omega-3 however? The best source of omega-3 fats is in wild caught fish.
While non-westernized humans have not always had easy access to wild caught fish, it has been documented in numerous places that non-westernized, “primitive” (not used in a derogative manner) people placed very high value on fish and would trade for it and eat it whenever accessible, especially those in need of high nutrition, such as pregnant and lactating mothers. This was documented in great detail in the incredible book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price
If you don’t like fish and instead decide to take fish oil, that is probably better than nothing, but there is some good evidence now emerging that eating fish is definitely superior to taking fish oil. One major reason for this is fish oil can go rancid easily, and rancid polyunsaturated fats can cause health problems long term. And for any vegetarians reading this who plan to take flax oil instead of fish or fish oil, sorry, flax oil won’t cut it. Flax oil is mostly Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), which must be converted by the body to EPA and DHA before being used, and which has a very low conversion factor. Algae DHA would work for the vegetarians and those adamantly opposed to fish, but you would miss out on additional nutrients as discussed below.
In addition to EPA/DHA, there are a number of nutrients found in fish not readily available elsewhere, such as selenium and iodine, both important nutrients that your body needs. While selenium is also available from brazil nuts, the best source is wild caught fish (brazil nuts have some drawbacks). While iodine is also found in regular table salt, fish are still the best natural source. For those concerned about the mercury content in fish, the selenium in wild caught fish appears to protect against the mercury. Eating fish lower on the food chain also helps protect against heavy metals, PCBs and dioxins as those toxins accumulate up the fish food chain. If you are also concerned about sustainability of your seafood choices, there are a number of good sources online for checking the best choices from a health and sustainability standpoint.
When starting to think about eating fish, in general try to purchase wild caught fish versus farm raised fish. Wild caught fish is much higher in nutrients and typically lower in toxins:
- Farmed fish contain excess omega-6 compared to wild-caught fish. Tests conducted in 2005 show that wild-caught salmon contain 10 times more n-3 than n-6, whereas farmed salmon have less than 4 times the amount of n-3 than n-6.
- Another study found that consuming standard farmed salmon, raised on diets high in n-6,raises blood levels of inflammatory chemicals linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
- Wild salmon also contains 4 times as much vitamin D than farmed salmon.
If you’ve never been a fan of fish before and want to start eating it now, there are lots of free easy recipes available online for seafood, and if you don’t like to clean up lots of pots and pans when done cooking, there are some easy cooking methods available using frozen sealed fish.
Eating wild caught fish a couple of times per week will help take your healthy eating and lifestyle to a new level. Remember there are lots of different types of fish and lots of methods of preparing and serving it. If you haven’t liked fish before try some new types of fish and cooking methods before giving up on it. You will hopefully find something that you like.