If you’ve been eating a standard American diet, chances are your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is severely skewed. Why does this matter to me? With the introduction of vegetable oils in the 20th century, there are many studies that link high levels of omega-6 to inflammatory diseases (type 2 diabetes, obesity, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and much more). Ideally we should have a balanced ratio of 1:1 omega-3 and omega-6 intake. However, we are seeing a severe imbalance, levels are often 1:10 and up to 1:25 – and these imbalanced levels are toxic. We’ll revisit the why in just a minute.
I have seen amazing results (personally and in folks I’ve helped) by removing the following from this diet:
- Grains (wheat, white flour, etc)
- Refined sugars (or even sugars in general to lose weight)
- And even dairy and legumes to kick things off
If you need to go back and catch up, check out these blog posts here:
But then I often observe after the initial success, people start fighting themselves to remove that last remaining few pounds or still have other lingering issues. As I continue to research and learn, I’ve come to the conclusion that the above items removed from our diet is really only step one of this Paleo template. I say template because this “diet” is very subjective from person to person. You will figure out what’s best for you, while others will yell at you for not doing it their way. Like I always say, this is not a one-size-fits-all diet. Now that we are familiar with the Paleo basics, or step 1, let’s look into whats next.
Step 2: Inflammation Management
Removing grains is definitely a way to reduce inflammation in the body. It helped me with chronic foot pain, gout, and arthritis – all 100% gone. But after further research, this seems to be only part of the full picture. It’s become apparent that we have strayed from eating a natural well-balanced whole food diet and turned to what factories and restaurants churn out. These institutions are looking for ways to minimize costs and maximize profits and its almost always at the cost of your health. These processed foods are toxic to our system and the main culprit are refined oils containing omega-6 fats.
Omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory and have been linked to a slew of modern diseases such has cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and even neurological disorders (reading many papers in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Omega-3 fats, on the other hand, is what brings balance to all this with it’s anti-inflammatory traits. So if you’re consuming both in equal portions (1:1), everything should be a-ok. Except one big problem. Our western diet is HEAVILY skewed to the omega-6 side, the pro-inflammatory part. And if we are inflamed, our body is going to try to cope with these toxic loads of nutrition – which in turn leads to modern diseases such as type 2 diabetes. And it can snowball from there.
So what do I need to completely avoid?
You can’t simply just bring up your omega-3 to battle this, you are going to have to do a combination of lowering your omega-6 fats and raise your omega-3 at the same time. Start by eliminating the following:
- Refined seed and vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, cottonseed, soybean, sesame, etc)
- Oil (Canola, soy, vegetable, etc) based salad dressings
- Basically anything made with these oils – look at ingredients. You will be amazed how often you see soybean oil as a main ingredient.
These things are CRAZY high in omega-6. Now think about what America is eating when they go out. It consists of a lot of fried food. And that is a DOUBLE-WHAMMY; white flour and industrial oil. This, in my opinion, is a huge reason why we are in an obesity epidemic. You won’t get away from the oils if you continue to eat out. Most restaurants cook with these oils because they are so cheap. To further complicate, frying something up makes it hyper-palatable causing us to over eat.
- Lots of wild caught fatty fish
From the research I’ve done, it seems cutting the refined oils and elevating your fish consumption will get you well on your way. A couple other things to consider avoiding is grain fed meat and sticking only to grass fed. Grain fed meat stores high amounts of omega-6 in the animal fat. Same with farm raised fish. For cooking, it seems coconut oil is still pretty cool and of course grass fed animal fat for cooking as well.
You can also supplement with a quality fish oil. Supplement folks, not replace.
What should I use a little bit?
- Pork products (though I suck at this part)
- Fowl (turkey, chicken, etc)
- Olive oil
I’m still trying to make sense of this all, but to try to get the best balance possible, I am going to limit the above items because they do creep up on the ol’ omega-6 scale. This is going to make breakfast difficult.
Need to dive in a little deeper?
This is a difficult subject for a lot of people to dip their toe in and test out the water. I write this blog to try to help others and keep things simple as they look for ways to turn their lives around. There is a lot of evidence shared by the experts on this subject. That work has already been done, so there is no need for me to reiterate it. If you do want to go into a deeper dive of the details, I highly recommend Chris Kresser’s blog. It is amazing. Specifically his Essential Fatty Acids series.
Keep in mind folks, this is not a one-size-fits-all diet. I want to help provide a basic template for you to get started in the right direction and build upon. This is not definitive and I encourage you to research and experiment on you own. My diet is a constant experiment.
Thanks for reading,