Yes, Omega-3s Really Are That Important

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past decade, you’ve heard of fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids. You may have noticed “Omega-3” labels on different foods. Or maybe your favorite day time talk show host has discussed their benefits in wonder. But unlike raspberry ketones or green coffee extract, omega-3s deserve the hype they get.

omega 3 PBNot only do omega-3s play an integral roll in cardiovascular function, nervous system function, brain development, and immune health, they have also been shown to:

  • increase metabolism
  • aid in cell repair and regeneration
  • help prevent heart disease and stroke
  • allow muscle tissue to absorb more nutrients

Omega-3s, a type of polyunsaturated fat, are essential to the human diet. Our bodies need these fatty acids but are unable to make them on their own. Omega-3s come in three different types: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which come from algae, and Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which can be found in things like nuts, flax, and hemp.

When you look at it like that, getting our omega-3s in the form of ALA seems like a good idea. Eating nuts, flax, and hemp sounds more appetizing than consuming algae. But for our bodies to use the ALA found in these foods it must first convert the ALA into a usable form. Unfortunately, this is an inefficient process. The ratio of ALA conversion is somewhere between just 5-15%. That means for every 1 gram of ALA we consume, our bodies are only able to use 0.05 – 0.15 grams of it. Because of this poor conversion rate, EPA and DHA are by far the best bang for our buck when it comes to getting in enough omega-3s. But seeing as we don’t eat much algae these days, our EPA and DHA usually come from fish (who do eat a lot of algae).

And I don’t know about you, but my family and I don’t eat a lot of fish. We’ll have salmon or trout once or twice a week, but that’s not enough to ensure enough healthy omega-3s.

Omega-3:Omega-6 Ratio

Just like omega-3s, omega-6s are essential to the human diet. You’ll usually find omega-6 fatty acids in plant oils and factory raised meats. And while omega-3s are not usually used in processed foods, omega-6s can be found in almost all of them. Look through your fridge and cabinets and see how many products you can find without one of the following in it:

  • Soybean oil
  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Rice Bran oil, or
  • the “catch-all” Vegetable oil

Due to the overwhelming amount of omega-6s in our diet, our omega-3:omega-6 ratio is way off. Our bodies do best on an intake ratio of 1:1 (1g omega-3:1g omega-6). But with our current diets, this is far from the norm. We eat so many plant oils, factory raised meats, and processed foods, that this ratio is closer to 1:20! That’s 20x more omega-6s than omega-3s!

These two fatty acids compete with each other in our bodies. They’re constantly fighting for space in cell membranes and the attention of enzymes. Our bodies thrive on a 1:1 ratio, and when this ratio is off, bad things happen. Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, while an increase in omega-3s help to stave off inflammation.

If we want to be healthy, we need the balance.

The typical North American diet is far too high in omega-6s. This high consumption creates a pro-inflammatory environment inside our bodies, which puts us at major risk. A skewed omega-3:omega-6 ratio is associated with an increased risk of all inflammatory diseases. Including things like:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
  • macular degeneration
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • asthma
  • cancer
  • psychiatric disorders
  • autoimmune diseases

So yes, omega-3s are important. And if you eat like a somewhat normal person, chances are you’re not eating enough.

Omega-3s are not a magical cure-all. They are an essential part of our diet that has slowly vanished since the industrial age began. Processed foods, cheap oils, and factory farms all deserve part of the blame.

So What Do I Do?

The way I see it, you’ve got a few options. You could completely change your diet, swearing off most of what you eat now to reduce your omega-6 intake. Or, you could start eating more fish and/or supplementing with fish oil.

It doesn’t matter what you choose, all that matters is that you get your omega-3:omega-6 ratio in check. And when it can be as easy as taking a few fish oil capsules every day, there’s no excuse. Fixing this broken ratio is one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your health.

We already have enough people suffering from the above inflammatory diseases.

Please, don’t be another.

How To Finally Lose Weight While Eating What You Want

The Vegan diet is one of the most restrictive diets out there, yet you’ll never hear a Vegan complain about it.

large-232x300They’ll never sit across the table sulking jealously over your meal.

They won’t post how hard done by they are on social media.

They don’t say things like, “that looks good, I wish I could eat it”.

They don’t do any of these things because they have a reason for eating the way they do. They believe eating animal products is wrong, gross, and/or unhealthy. They’d rather starve than eat a steak and don’t feel like they are missing out on anything. In fact, most think that omnivorous non-Vegans are the ones missing out.

I don’t necessarily agree with the Vegan diet, but I do think we can learn a lot from them. When it comes to eating, we should all be as strong willed and confident in our food choices.

I always say the moment you go from “I can’t eat that” to “I don’t eat that” is a major turning point.

When someone decides to go Vegan, this is essentially what they’re doing. They have decided, for whatever reason, that they don’t want to eat animal products. Not that they can’t eat them, but that they don’t eat them.

Huge difference.

I know this from personal experience. When I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease, I couldn’t believe all the things I now couldn’t eat. Bread, pasta, and pizza made up the majority of my diet and I felt lost. I kept focusing on all the things I couldn’t eat and always felt like I was missing out. Because of this, I “cheated” and ate gluten once in a while. It didn’t take long before I realized that when I ate gluten I felt terrible and wished I hadn’t.

And that’s when the transition happened. I no longer couldn’t eat gluten, I chose not to eat it.

Taking ownership of that decision made a world of difference.

Seeing people eat cake, cookies, pasta, pizza, and everything else didn’t bother me anymore. Sure, the pizza looked good, but I knew what would happen if I ate it.

Almost ten years later and I haven’t felt sorry for myself since that turning point.

spinach beet saladAnd yes, I realize it’s different. Avoiding certain foods is much easier when you have an almost immediate negative reaction. However, I have taken this lesson and applied it to all food choices.

Nowadays I could walk into any grocery store and fill my basket with gluten free versions of all the foods I used to eat, but I don’t. Years of research and learning has shown me how damaging certain foods can be when eaten in excess. So I don’t eat them often.

Not because I can’t eat them, but because I don’t eat them.

Do I get tempted sometimes? Of course. But when I do, I reassure myself that I’m making the right choice. I tell myself I’m an athlete and athletes don’t eat like that. Or I remind myself that I am trying to be a healthy role model for my kids, and healthy role models don’t eat like that.

Simply changing “I can’t” to “I don’t” does wonders.

When you do things this way, it doesn’t take any willpower or self control. You’re eating exactly what you want. Just like a vegan.

If you feel you want something and deprive yourself of it, you’re destined for failure. But if you take a minute to think about what you really want it makes the decision much easier.

What do you want more, a daily soda pop or a healthy, ripped body?

“Want” is powerful. If we want something we don’t have, we feel like we’re missing out. Like our lives are not complete and they won’t be until we get whatever it is we want.

My favorite quote on wanting comes from Ryan Holiday during an episode of the Tim Ferris Podcast:

“There are two ways to have everything you want – increase the things you have, or decrease the things you want.”
– Ryan Holiday

It really is that simple.

The best way to have everything you want is to want less. And the best way to eat whatever you want and still reach your health and fitness goals, is to want healthy foods. You must replace the feeling of missing out on certain foods with an even stronger desire to eat healthy ones. You need to want fruits and vegetables more than you want junk food.

And once you do, nothing will stand in your way.