The media has been telling us for years that saturated fats are just shy of little evil gremlins in our body.
However, these so-called “nutrition experts” telling us to eat unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats are missing the point. Sure, there are bad saturated fats but there are also natural saturated fats that are actually healthy to eat. (It’s manufactured unsaturated fats that are the root cause of many of our health problems.)
The truth is that it’s the ratio of omega-6 fats and omega-3 fats in our modern diet that is actually important.
Omega-6s are fatty acids commonly found in vegetable oils. That includes safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, sesame and soybean. They’re also in salad dressings, shortening, and margarine.
Omega-3s are the fatty acids that are found in cold-water fish and grass-fed meats.
What Does Our Body Need?
We need both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for good health. However, their ratio in our diets can have physical impacts on our health.(1)
That’s because our ancestors generally had a ratio of 1:1 in their diets. That means for every portion of omega-6s they consumed, they also ate the same amount of omega-3s.
In our modern world, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats we eat has skyrocketed to as much as 20 to 1 – and that’s causing a whole host of health problems.
Combine this with the average diet today containing twice the carbs as our ancestors! (Grains are cheap and easy to make into high carb treats.) A combination of carbs and high omega-6s is a recipe for bad health.
Dr. Barry Sears strongly urges us if we eat beef, to consume grass-fed beef – but advises trimming off the fat first! This is because grass-fed beef is rich in omega-3s. However, when growers started fattening their cattle using unnatural grain-based diets, they wrecked the fat content. Now, it’s full of omega-6s.
This high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio can trigger the COX-2 enzyme.(2) This is important because this enzyme can increase inflammation – and this can result in premature aging, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other autoimmune diseases.
By reducing the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio down to 4:1, we see a 70% decrease in mortality rates. Further adjusting it down to a ratio of 3:1 can suppress inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.(3)
You can balance the omega-6/omega-3 ratio in your diet by:
- Eliminating the use of corn oil, canola oil, soy oil and margarine.
- Cooking with extra virgin olive oil, coconut or avocado oil, or organic, grass-fed butter.
- Avoiding processed and prepackaged foods with their omega-6 vegetable oils.
Good sources of omega-3s are fish oils (esp. salmon), avocado, nuts (especially walnuts), flax and chia seeds, olives and olive oil, eggs, milk and yogurt, whole grain cereal (especially oatmeal). Plan your meals around healthy protein and fat sources. Grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, wild salmon, and eggs are among the top choices.
- Eaton SB, Eaton III, SB, Konner MJ. Palaeolithic nutrition revisited: A twelve-year retrospective on its nature and implications. Eur J Clin Nutr 1997;51:207-16.
- Patterson E, Wall R, Fitzgerald GF, Ross RP, Stanton C. Health implications of High Dietary Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. Vol. 2012, Article ID 539429, 16 pages.
- Simopoulos AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6.omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother. 2002 Oct;56(8):365-79.