You made it! You chugged water like fish, scarfed fruits and veggies like they were going out of style, curbed your sweet-tooth, and made liquid calories a rare treat. So, what do I want you to tackle this week? Well, on top of the 4 challenges you’ve already conquered and will continue to maintain, this week, as we head into the new year, I want your brain to be on omega-3s. Which works out pretty well, as omega-3s are a huge part of what makes up your brain in the first place!
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that receives their name from their chemical composition. These long fat chains are super important for our health, not only because they help build our brain, hormones, cell walls, and a myriad of other physical structures in the body, but because the are anti-inflammatory. Many researchers and medical professionals (myself included) believe a lot of the diseases that ail us are actually a product of excessive inflammation. Our body is subjected to a great deal of stress on a daily basis, be it physical, mental, or emotional. From environmental toxins to too little sleep, poor food choices and processed non-nutrients or lack of exercise, our bodies tend to be in a constant state of trying to overcome a massive amount of stress. Stress, no matter its source, causes the body to react in a defensive manner, fight or flight, raising cortisol levels and then blood sugar levels, keeping the body on constant “high alert”, and ultimately, causing a massive amount of damage and inflammation throughout the body because of the imbalances. Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce that inflammation, assisting our body in its quest for balance. These amazing fats help to reduce inflammation in our blood vessels, our tissues, our muscles – everything! Consuming adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids can help improve recovery time after a workout or injury, reduce inflammation during illness, improve your cardiovascular health, and keep your body more in balance and less likely to succumb to stress and get sick or injured.
So, where do these babies come from? Well, unlike many other compounds in the body which the body can actually synthesize itself, omega-3 fatty acids like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), MUST be obtained from the diet. That’s right, these super important, essential fats can ONLY get to the body through our food. The best source of these fats is fatty fish like salmon and other seafood. Cod liver oil is a great supplement form. You can also get some of these fatty acids from flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. That’s right – that’s basically the WHOLE list. Because of the limited sources, many people get little to none of these incredibly important fatty acids into their diet. The alternative, omega-6 fatty acids, can fill in for the omega-3s in terms of our body’s structural needs, but omega-6 fatty acids are PRO-inflammatory. That means, unlike the lovely omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids actually increase and promote inflammation. When we live in an already stressed and inflamed state, literally feeding our body inflammatory promoters is a serious problem. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in a TON of foods, from chicken and eggs, to grains and nuts, and particularly, vegetable oils. I’m not going to get into the details now, but know that our body really requires a balance of omega-3s AND omega-6s to work correctly and perform optimally. In our country, though, because we eat a ton of processed foods full of vegetable oils (soy, corn, etc), our omega-6 intake is WAY out of proportion with our omega-3, leading to increased inflammation and disease.
So, my challenge to you this week is to consume AT LEAST one serving of omega-3 fatty acids every day. How do you make this happen? Well, here are some ways to make omega-3s a regular part of your day today and always.
1) Eat more fish and seafood. Instead of chicken, try some salmon for dinner tomorrow night.
2) Sprinkle chia seeds over your yogurt or oatmeal. They won’t affect the taste, but will give you a super nutrition boost (omega-3s, fiber, and calcium!).
3) Use flaxseed oil and vinegar on your salad instead of dressing. Most salad dressings are made with processed vegetable oils. Using flaxseed oil instead not only gives you a boost of omega-3s, but also removes a good helping of omega-6s!
4) Pack an apple with some walnuts for your snack. You’ll get some healthy fat and protein, along with a great punch of fiber and complex carbs.
Need more ways to work omega-3s into your diet? Come on in to CoreLife and let us help you make a plan for success.
Aubrey Phelps MS RDN