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Omega-6 Overload: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Orange Icon  Omega-6 Overload: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Orange Icon  Omega-6 Overload: Too Much of a Good Thing?

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One thing I've noticed from talking to friends, family members, and clients who are trying to lose weight is the tendency to go all in. They'll read an article about how a particular food, supplement, or exercise program will help them lose weight fast, and they'll immediately begin eating/taking/doing nothing but that food, supplement, or exercise!

The problem is that its possible to get too much of a good thing. You knew this as a kid, when your favorite lemon slushie teamed up with the cinnamon-sugar pretzel you had at the local carnival to give you a massive stomach ache. As an adult, the same rules still apply. That's why it's important to pay attention to serving sizes, not just of the foods you're eating, but of the nutrients and vitamins you're getting from those foods.

For example, Omega-6 fatty acids can, in excess, cause:

  • Inflammation
  • Worsened asthma
  • Certain types of cancer

Reading that, you may be tempted to swear off Omega-6 fatty acids entirely, but I urge you not to! As bad as the consequences of having too much Omega-6 can be, getting too little is worse.

Omega-6 fatty acids, like their counterparts, Omega-3s, are essential fatty acids, meaning your body cannot produce them on its own. You need to get Omega-6 from dietary sources. When you're getting just the right amount of Omega-6, you can expect:

  • A lower risk of heart disease
  • Improved insulin resistance
  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol

Sounds great, right? Well, the good news is that you're probably already getting enough Omega-6 in your diet. The bad news is that you may be getting way too much.

Omega-6 isn't as widely available in healthy, natural food sources as Omega-3, but two of the places it is available in abundance are vegetable oil and soybean oil. As you know, I don't recommend cooking with or ingesting food made with either oil. Unfortunately, most processed foods are made with these oils, and some estimates suggest that as much as 20 percent of the calories in a typical American diet come from soybean oil!

This is way, way too much. Ideally, if our diets weren't so out of whack because of processed foods and artificial ingredients, our daily values of Omega-6s and Omega-3s would be closer to parity, since these fatty acids work together to promote optimum health. But since that isn't always the case, here are a few tips to make sure you're getting the appropriate amount of Omega-6 fatty acids in your daily diet:

  1. Avoid processed foods. I know I've said it a million times by now, but this is essential for a host of reasons - including the fact that processed foods will probably give you several days worth of Omega-6s in a single serving. Cut them out completely, and go for natural sources of this essential fatty acid instead.

  2. Eat more nuts and seeds. You won't have as many different options when it comes to Omega-6s as you do with Omega-3s, but this is one food category that offers plenty of variety. Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds - you name it! You can also get a healthy serving of Omega-6s from natural, organic nut butters.

  3. Choose your meats wisely. Chicken and other kinds of meats also provide an excellent serving of Omega-6s. Add nitrate- and nitrite-free bacon or sausage to your breakfast and start the day with a healthy dose.