Unhelpful Omega 3 Foods
Employ the Principle of Substitution: Instead of trying to adopt an entirely new diet use substitution to make gradual improvements. Identify foods that have poor nutritional value and replace them with better ones, especially those with a healthier omega 3 to omega 6 balance
Which types of food contribute poorly to optimum health?
Some foods, including many vegetables and almost all fruit, are fairly low in omega 3 (n
-3) but are nevertheless very nutritious because:
- They have a good n-3 to n-6 ratio and beneficial overall fatty acid composition
- They are high in antioxidants and other important micronutrients
- They have a low glycemic index and inflammation factor
Consider avoiding foods that:
- Have a very low n-3 to n-6 ratio
- Are high in trans fats or contain hydrogenated vegetable oil
- Are low in antioxidants and other micronutrients
- Have a high glycemic index
- Have a high inflammation factor
The following types of food may exhibit some of these characteristics:
Food products undergo many different processes, almost all of which degrade their nutritional value. The types of processing most relevant to foods containing n
-3 PUFAs are:
- Hydrogenation of oils
- Inclusion of trans fats
- Refining of cereals
Some cereals and cereal-derived oils
Wheat contains around fifteen times as much LA as ALA and therefore has a very poor n
-3 to n
Maize (corn) contains between around ten to twenty times as much LA as ALA and therefore has an n
-3 to n
-6 ratio similar to wheat.
Brown rice is slightly better with an n
-3 to n
-6 ratio of about six, but white rice is much worse because most of the fatty acids are lost during the refining process.
Most other cereals are no better than wheat or maize and some are much worse.
Non-grass fed and non-organic meat and dairy products
Grass contains high levels of n
-3. The dietary PUFA of livestock is incorporated into muscle tissue (with some modification via biohydrogenation for ruminants such as cows and sheep).
-3 content of meat, and therefore the n
-3 to n
-6 ratio, varies significantly according to the feeding regimen. Grass fed meat has a very much healthier n
-3 to n
-6 ratio than cereal fed meat.
Non-organic meat and dairy products are usually cheaper because they have been produced using more intensive farming methods. Apart from raising questions about unethical production practices they are likely to be inferior to their organic counterparts, particularly in terms of their PUFA balance.
Eggs from battery hens
As with meat, the PUFA content of eggs varies greatly depending on the diet of the hens. Hens that are not allowed access to pasture produce eggs that are very low in n
-3 and high in n
-6 because of the low quality, cereal based feeds they are given.
Farmed fish that are low in n-3
Some fish, such as salmon, contain high levels of n
-3 whether they are wild or farmed. While there are ethical and culinary reasons for wanting to avoid farmed salmon, they are normally worthwhile from a PUFA perspective. Farmed fish that are low in n
-3 offer no health benefits and are best avoided.
Discover why the balance of n-3 to n-6 in your diet is important
Find out how food processing can destroy nutritional value
Learn more about why grass fed meat is better for you