February is Heart Health month and we are going to explore the best ways our diet can support our cardiovascular system. First up – fats. Two of the types of fats that receive a lot of attention are Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s. These are polyunsaturated fats and both are essential to our bodies.
Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory. They may help decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease heart failure risk and reduce irregular heartbeats. Omega-3 fats are less common in modern day diets when compared to Omega-6 fats. The best sources of Omega-3’s are cold water fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout and sardines. Vegetarian sources of Omega-3’s are walnuts, flax and chia seeds, soya beans and hemp hearts.
Although Omega-6’s are essential, a high intake of these fats can promote inflammation. Chronic inflammation is believed to be the root cause of many degenerative diseases. The ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats in our diet is 1:1. For most of us, the ratio is closer to 15:1.
Balancing the ratio of Omega-6’s to Omega-3’s is key for heart health. Omega-6 fatty acids are present in foods that are also a source of Omega-3 fatty acids so they are easy to find in our diets. The problem is Omega-6’s are present in high amounts in many other foods which is why we need to limit the consumption of this type of fat. One of the most common sources of Omega-6’s is processed foods. Be sure to read labels and try to eliminate foods that contain hydrogenated fats, one of the largest sources of Omega-6 fatty acids
By Denise Boyd Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Pilates Instructor
Follow her @Deniseboydpilates