The Skinny on Fat: OMEGAS
Dietary fat is one of the three macronutrients that make up our diet. It is an essential part of our nutrition, but can be pretty complex to understand. There are so many subgroups of “fat”, that we, as a society, have formed these stigmas or preconceived notions on what is “good” and what is “bad”.
I am sure you have heard that fat makes you fat, that eating too much fat increases cholesterol, and that the key to a low calorie diet is eliminating all dietary fat. While there is some underlying (very underlying) truth to these statements, when taken to the extreme they are without question – incorrect.
On the other hand, I am sure you have been fed some information explaining how eating an incredibly high fat but low carbohydrate diet is the key to losing fat and “becoming lean”. You were excited to hear this, and ran to the grocery store throwing every fatty meat, cheese, egg, avocados, oil and nut you could find in the store in your cart feeling like you finally cracked the nutrition code!
But, then you started asking more questions, doing more research, and you learned there was a bit more to it. You were told all fats weren’t created equal, that there was “good” and “bad”. Now, things got a bit more confusing when it came to fat. What about the different TYPES of fat?! Saturated/unsaturated? Monounsaturated? Polyunsaturated? Omegas?? What are those? How does cholesterol play into the whole thing? You were more confused than ever.
I understand how all of this information can be confusing, and trust me – there really is no simple explanation. However, I am writing this in hopes to clarify and simplify some facts about FAT and allow you a bit more understanding one piece at a time. There is a ton of information that would take up more than this single, short blog piece – but we will focus on one aspect of fat.
This piece will be focused on Omega Fatty Acids and how they come into play in our nutrition.
What does dietary fat do for us?
*note: the below benefits are from ALL fat – both saturated and unsaturated,
including Omega 3’s and 6’s so we would not want a diet that is absent of one particular type
– provides us with the most energy of any macro nutrient (9 calories per gram)
– primary energy source for babies and kids under 14 years old
– secondary energy source for adults
– helps make steroid hormones (sex hormones, courticosteroid hormones)
– forms cell membranes, primarily those of the brain and nervous system
– helps transport fat soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, D, E, K)
– provides us with TWO fatty acids we cannot make on our own: OMEGA 3 and OMEGA 6
We will discuss that last one a bit further.
OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS
Where can I find Omega 3’s
– marine life (I.e. salmon, sardines, mackerel, cod, algae)
– seeds (chia, flax, hemp)
– Brussel sprouts
– egg yolks from Omega-3 enriched hens (fed the above seeds)
– wild rice
There are three types of Omega 3’s:
1. Alphalinolenic (ALA)
2. Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
3. Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
ALA is a popular Omega 3 source amongst plant based eaters as its is mainly found in seeds such as chia, flax, and hemp, as well as walnuts. But, the latter two, DHA and EPA, are the fatty acids we are most concerned with in Omega 3 supplementation, as they are the most beneficial to our body. They are found primarily in marine sources like fish and algae. It is important to get direct forms of these two, as we are unable to covert ALA into DHA or EPA in our bodies.
Why are 3’s so important?
– dilate blood vessels
– prevent blood coagulation (clotting)
– lower inflammation
– decrease pain
– dilate airways
– keep cell membranes more fluid causing: improved brain function, increased insulin sensitivity, and improved joint health
– aid in fat transport
OMEGA 6 FATTY ACIDS
Where can I find Omega 6’s?
– most oils
– fried foods, snacks baked in oil (chips)
– most nuts (excluding walnuts)
– dairy (cheese, milk, butter)
– cookies, candy, pastries, muffins
– dark poultry, pork, beef
There are three types of Omega 3’s:
1. Linoleic Acid ( (LA)
2. Gamma-linolenic Acid (GLA)
3. Alpha-linolenic Acid (AA)
Why are 6’s so important?
– constricting blood vessels
– clotting blood
– increasing inflammation
– increasing pain
– constricting airways
Essentially, 6’s do the exact opposite of 3’s. These may seem like negative effects for the body, however we do need these processes to occur to be able to come back from injuries and recover from daily training sessions and workouts.
What does this all mean?
We need both Omega 6’s and 3’s – but in proper balance. It may be surprising that the proper balance does actually mean getting more 6’s than 3’s. However, in the current American diet, the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is about 10:1 and can even be unbalanced up to about 20:1. This ratio is so off because we are so often consuming an abundance of refined oils and processed foods in the modern world. Years ago, our ancestors had a more exemplary and much healthier ratio of about 2:1 and only up to about 8:1 on the higher end.
There are some simple steps you can take to ensure that you are able to get your 6 and 3 ratio back in proper balance:
1. Eat less industrial oils and processed foods (less corn and soybean oil).
2. Eat a more varied spectrum of plant and animal foods (fatty fish, wild game).
3. Consider supplementation (fish oil, or vegan algae oil).
The main approach we should have toward fat, as with nutrition as a whole, is balance. We should never look to eliminate, or negatively view one specific macronutrient (I.e. “sugar is worse than fat”). Nor, should we view the macronutrient subgroups that way (I.e “I am going to eat NO Omega 6’s because they are bad!). We want to incorporate a balanced ratio of macronutrients and their sub groups into our diet. When it comes to fat, eating a wide variety of natural, minimally processed sources, as well as supplementing with a reliable Omega 3 product, we can ensure we are getting proper quantities of dietary fat daily.
Personally I use Driven Nutrition for all of my supplement needs. Omega’s are no different. I trust their products and I know their Omega Drive formula has the highest quantity of DHA and EPA. You can get your own Driven Nutrition Omega Drive by clicking on this link!
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Painless Grocery Shopping Strategies
There are two types of people in the world – those that LOVE to grocery shop (me!) and those that DREAD it (most people). If you are part of the latter group, I have put together some strategies to make your life a bit easier. When embarking out on your grocery journey, it is important to find a store that is a “one-stop shop”. If you are going to multiple stores to do your grocery shopping, it is very likely you are going to get distracted, pick up one too many “snacks” that don’t need to be in your pantry, and likely overspend as well.
Have A Plan.
Walk into the grocery store confident and ready to get what you need. Grocery shopping (like most shopping) should be premeditated and purposeful. This will help prevent you from impulse buying junk food, or food that will later lead to over snacking back at the house. The best way to create a fail-proof plan is to make a list and then plan an attack route once inside the store. This strategy will keep you focused on the task at hand, and will serve for a much quicker and painless grocery trip.
Make A List, Check It Twice.
Take a lesson out of the big guy’s playbook here and be sure to make a list before leaving the house, then check it over. Write your list down… ON PAPER. Making the list on your phone and constantly referring back to it while in the store will often lead to distractions while there. I like to go as far as making a list by macronutrient category (I like organization). So, my list usually starts with fruits and vegetables, followed by meats/protein, followed by carbohydrate options, then added fats that I need, and finally finishing with boxed/canned pantry items, condiments, and snacks. Doing this will ensure that you have all of your bases covered. If you are planning on making a special dish this week, double check that you have included all of its ingredients. Organizing your list this way will help ensure you have plenty of options for the upcoming week’s meal prep and snack grabs, while also keeping you from getting distracted while actually in the store.
PRO-TIP: If you are shopping in a superstore (like Wal-Mart) that has other household items as well, those go at the END of your list. Get all of your food shopping out of the way before moving on to non-food items. This will prevent confusion and allow you to focus better while picking up groceries.
Have A Snack, Bring A Drink.
If you are an impulse grocery shopper (see something delicious on the shelf and grab it because you want to try it) this trick will help you. NEVER, I will repeat, NEVER go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Bad choices will be made, I promise. Make sure you have a meal or snack before leaving the house in order to stay focused on the task at hand. That task is grocery shopping for the week ahead, not your current empty stomach. In addition to that, it is smart to bring a bottle of water, some hot tea, or even your favorite coffee drink along with you. This will keep your taste buds and stomach occupied while you get in and get out of your grocery trip successfully.
Every grocery store is set up differently, so it is likely that you will get into your own routine based on your particular store of choice. However, most stores follow a similar flow. Start right in the front of the entrance in produce. Go through your list and collect the fruits and veggies that you have listed. Potatoes and avocados are included here, as well as additives/spices like onions and garlic. Next is usually the bakery section where you can pick up some English muffins, bread, or wraps. Following behind that is almost always the deli and meat/fish sections where you can get the items of that category that you included on your protein list. After that, head to the dairy section to pick up eggs, egg whites, yogurt, and any other dairy item you may have written down. Your list should be 85-90% checked off by now, all we have left are the finishing touches. Attack the frozen food section next. Some of my staple convenience items are found here such as frozen veggies for emergencies, or frozen fruit for smoothies. Finally, it is time to go down the isles. Here is where your plan and your list helps. It is easy to get distracted in the isles and end up camping out in the cookie or chips aisle. Don’t do that. Instead, go through the items you have left on your list and find them one by one in the isles (oatmeal, rice, granola bars, cereal, ketchup, canned items, frozen yogurt, etc) – get them in your cart and get out! Once this is complete, move on to household/non-food items if needed.
Repeat The Same Route.
If this worked well for you, repeat it. Every, single, time you are in the grocery store repeat this process. When you find a plan, a list, and a store route that was successful and painless, just continue to use it. We are creatures of habit and often find the most success and stability in routine. Grocery shopping is no different. Purposeful and goal driven grocery shopping is the best way to ensure you get in and get out painlessly while still stocking up on all the week’s essentials.
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You can also view my nutrition plans at: https://www.honoryournutrition.com/