My world just imploded.
Today, curious and blithely unaware, I followed a link from a recipe that mentioned how walnuts do not provide an ideal ratio of omega- to omega-6 fatty acids.
Having gone totally sugar-free at last I have been relying heavily on nuts to provide the calories I need to support my workouts. Previous research had led me to believe that a high quantity of walnuts and flax in my diet would also provide the essential fatty acids I need to soothe my poor clanky joints. As I’m sure you can imagine, this NEW information caused quite a commotion in my brain and so began a good hour of highly scientific Google-based research.
Here are the things I have learned, my totally unqualified opinion on the matter, and MOST IMPORTANTLY- how am I going to use this information going forward?
Firstly, it turns out that a typical Western diet is too high in omega-6, which can prevent omega-3s being converted into the ‘useful’ joint calming, anti-inflammatory compounds that I eat them for in the first place. An ideal ratio is 1:1 or 2:1 of omega-6 to omega-3.
Walnuts have a great RATIO but these types of fats make up such a high percentage of the OVERALL fat content that they may actually be causing inflammation. I had hitherto been focussing on walnuts as I had heard they were the best source of nut omega-3. Technically I think this is still true, but doesn’t take into account the balance of different fat types or the high level of omega-6 that comes alongside it.
There are different types of omega-3, animal fat sourced EPAs (so for me, that’s lacking but I can get it from fish) and plant sourced ALAs, which have to then be converted into the EPAs for the body to usend so have limited value(that’s the nuts and seeds).
Flax (or linseed) has 4 times as much omega-3 to omega-6 so helps to tip the balance back in my favour. Chia have nearly 3 times as much Omega-3 to 6.
As a pretty clean eater, I can probably disclude myself from ‘ltypical Western diet’ issues arising from overuse of vegetable oils, but I think I have definately been overdoing it on the nuts- I must eat at least 100-200g a day! However, I DO eat fish, so may have been avoiding an actual EPA dificiency that such ‘overenthusiasm’ could cause for a true vegetarian.
Here is my action plan:
Continue to include plenty of flax and chia in my breakfast and smoothies.
Limit my nut intake to 50g (one of my small snack tubs) per day, with less emphasis on the walnuts. I will also try and remember to do this the evening before so I can soak them- thereby increasing the enzyme potential for better digestion and nutrient absorption.
Up my fish intake to AT LEAST 2 servings per week.
Well. My mind is now a little more at rest. It’s funny how the more you start to learn about your diet the more you realise you don’t know, and the more you start to get it right, the more you discover you’re doing wrong. My general philosophy is not to dwell TOO hard on the EXACT science, but to always do a good read around of different opinions and e what I find to make beneficial changes to my diet. this one was quite a shock, but hopefully my digestion and sad old knees and shoulders will thank me for the changes!
Thank you for your wisdom!