Dear Mark: Encore on Omegas

The posts involving omega-3s have spurred a lot of discussion and a good number of excellent questions. Thanks to Ed Parsons and company I thought I’d give more time to the topic and see if I can complete the picture a little more. Thank you for your comments and questions.

Dear Mark,

Can you give us some rules of thumb for getting into the 1:1 ratio ballpark? Should I be trying to hit the ratio for every meal, for each day, or by the week, or even over a longer time period?

Just to review, the hailed 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids provides your body with the appropriate balance thought to keep inflammation at bay. I would advise making the ratio a priority each day. Targeting the ratio for every meal can get unnecessarily complicated, and longer spans like a week don’t take into account your body’s constant hormonal production, which is influenced by the fatty acids.

As far as achieving the right ratio, I’d suggest a few tips but caution you to not over think it too much. The first suggestion is to cut out processed and fast food. Both are high in omega-6 because of the typical soybean and/or corn oil additives. Besides avoiding soy and corn oils, steer clear of anything with sunflower, safflower, cottonseed and peanut oils. If you eat meat and animal products from conventional, grain-fed livestock, I’d suggest limiting your fat intake from these sources because of their high levels of omega-6.

As Josh mentioned last week, it can be difficult to achieve the 1:1 ratio without use of a daily supplement. This is especially true if you can’t choose grass-fed meats and dairy products. For example, range-fed eggs have a 1.5:1 ratio, while conventional eggs can have a 20:1 ratio.

And, as Josh said, keep in mind that the ratio is especially targeted for the EPA/DHA in omega-3 (fish sources) rather than the ALA (flax). It’s much more difficult to build up a large amount of EPA/DHA from food than it is ALA, as ALA doesn’t convert efficiently enough (roughly 15%) to cover you on the EPA/DHA fronts.

Unfortunately, it’s much easier to build up a supply of omega-6 than omega-3. A can of sardines has about .9 grams of DHA and EPA, while your average chicken breast has about 1.4 grams of omega-6. You’d end up eating a lot of fish to get the 1:1 ratio in your diet, given all the omega-6 floating around out in our food supply.

In short, choose grass-fed when you can and avoid the worst of the ratio busters. Eat a serving a day or more of fish as well as a healthy dose of flax oil or ground seed. Lastly, add a good EPA/DHA omega-3 supplement (link to my product ;)) that’s clear of toxins.

For more information on specific amounts for foods, visit the always thoughtful Weight of the Evidence blog.

Dear Mark,

Can you please explain the differences in salmon?? The “normal” salmon at the store has 14g of fat per serving on the label. The “wild caught Alaskan” salmon has only 2g of fat. I know we’re supposed to eat wild salmon but doesn’t more fat grams = more omega 3’s??? Or does farmed salmon have some other kind of fat in it as well. Also, what is the difference between the wild salmon that is 3.99$/lb (cheaper than non-wild) and the wild salmon that is 12.99$/lb.

I wish I could say that the cheaper salmon is as good. Unfortunately, the cheaper “wild” salmon may not have the same claim to the label. (But, of course, the more expensive salmon could be hiding a less than stellar pedigree themselves.) The majority of “wild” salmon are actually spawned and raised for approximately half of their lives in hatcheries. During this time, they live in similar conditions to regular farmed salmon and fed the unnatural diet of grain oils and meals as well as fish oils that often contain a high level of toxins. After they’re released from the hatcheries, salmon live under normal conditions. Some of the built up toxins dissipate over time, but the evidence shows that early exposure matters. Hatchery/wild salmon, however, will be lower in toxins and offer a better ratio than farmed salmon, which often contains dangerous levels of toxins like dioxin and PCBs as well as a poor 6:3 ratio.

If you’re interested in the fully genuine article and are willing to pay more, here’s a quick rule of thumb: look for Alaskan over Washington/Oregon/Californian salmon, and choose Chinook and sockeye.

On the subject of fat content, farmed salmon is much higher in saturated fat. What we’re interested in here is the polyunsaturated fatty acids. Those sneaky fish….

Thanks, everyone, for your questions and great discussions! Drop us a line to weigh-in on this fishy business.

Neeta Lind, Pablo Rios, woodleywonderworks Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

The Definitive Guide to Fats

More on Omega

What’s All This Talk About Inflammation?

FitFilter: Omega-3 Dosage and Sources

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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