My weight loss diet was very light on dietary fats. I measured every single portion of olive oil and peanut butter so that I didn’t take in too many calories.
When I hit my goal and started to regain what I’d lost, it never occurred to me that lack of fat was one of the biggest culprits.
Fat scared me, so when I became a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant and started testing out superfoods, I was optimistically cautious that these so-called health foods wouldn’t make me fat again.
And I was excited to find that eating more of these amazing anti-inflammatory fats actually slimmed me down and kept my weight off long-term!
The Anti-Inflammatory Power Nutrients
Inflammation is at the heart of some of our most notorious diseases – allergies, asthma, arthritis, and, of course, autoimmune diseases.
Women with hypothyroidism should be cautious about too much inflammation and stress because this can turn into Hashimoto’s, the autoimmune disease associated with low thyroid function.
We also have diseases like cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, depression and Alzheimer’s that have a substantial inflammatory component.
And, unfortunately, these diseases are all too common because of our exposure to allergens, infections, environmental and dietary toxins and stress.
The Standard American Diet is not called the SAD diet without reason – this diet is one of the most pro-inflammatory diets out there.
Omega-6 versus Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Our diets consist of two types of fatty acids – omega-6 and omega-3.
Many North Americans get way too much omega-6 fatty acids in their diets so we don’t hear too much about them. Omega-6s are found in meat, poultry, and many common seed oils like corn and sunflower.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the anti-inflammatory ones.
Three of the omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important for health. They are:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – essential fatty acid
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – biologically active fatty acid
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – biologically active fatty acid
ALA is essential – literally essential for health, just like essential vitamins and minerals. This is because the body can’t create it from other nutrients. It’s this omega-3 that the body needs in order to create the biologically active EPA and DHA – this means that EPA and DHA are active in the body so they provide the health benefits of omega-3s.
ALA is the plant-based omega-3 and is found in many seeds like flax, hemp, and chia. It’s also found in walnuts, and oils from olives, canola, and soy. The primary role of ALA is to be the building block for EPA and DHA in our bodies.
EPA and DHA, on the other hand, are found in seafood, especially oily fish. They are also found in algae, which is a vegetarian source.
FUN FACT: Fish have the biologically active forms of omega-3s because they eat the algae and store extra EPA and DHA in their fat.
Omega-3s and Inflammation
There are 2 ways omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation in our bodies.
First, they are used to create anti-inflammatory molecules themselves. Second, they can inhibit some of the mechanisms that cause inflammation in the first place.
Omega-3s are used to produce certain anti-inflammatory molecules (e.g. prostaglandins, resolvins, etc.) that combat inflammation.
They also reduce the production of enzymes that create inflammatory molecules, and can even reduce the expression of certain inflammatory genes.
Omega-3s become incorporated into the membranes of immune cells and affect their inflammatory response.
How Our Mental Health Benefits from more Omega-3s
You can literally boost your mood and reduce anxiety by eating a lot more omega-3 fatty acids.
When I first created and followed one of my High Fat / Low Carb anti-inflammatory meal plans (found inside the 40 or Less Method), I was so surprised to find myself thinking positive thoughts all the time and just smiling. I felt so happy. I felt in control and focused.
There’s even some evidence that eating more omega-3 fatty acids can make your anti-depressant medications work better…perhaps even get you to the point where you can go off them!
The Stress & Belly Fat Connection
A diet low in omega-3 fatty acids will lead to obesity and prevent weight loss.
One obvious reason is the foods in such a diet – processed carbs, junk food, red meat, and sugar or sugar substitutes.
On the other hand, though, a so-called “healthy” diet can also be low in omega-3s, leading to more belly fat.
This is because omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce the production and release of stress hormones. High levels of cortisol lead to belly fat storage.
Where to Get Your Omega-3s From
In order to get the health benefits of omega-3s, you have to regularly eat enough foods that are high in them.
It’s thought that our ancestral diets included approximately equal amounts of omega-3s and omega-6s. Now, our intake of omega-6s is up to 20x higher than our intake of omega-3s. This is why there is such an emphasis on getting enough omega-3s.
When it comes to plant-based sources of omega-3s, flax is the winner! Up to half of flax’s total fatty acids are the essential omega-3 ALA. Walnuts, wild-caught salmon, mackerel, and sardines are excellent options too.
You may also find foods such as eggs that have been fortified with omega-3 oils. Omega-3 eggs are produced by hens who’ve had flax seeds, chia seeds, and/or fish oil added to their feed. In fact, hens fed the plant-based ALA produce eggs with ALA, and those fed fish oil produced eggs with EPA & DHA.
What About Supplements?
Just like with any other supplement, omega-3 fatty acid supplements are meant to supplement or add to your diet, not fix a broken one.
When it comes to fish oil, many manufacturers use poor quality fish sources, which can boost your overall toxicity and, thus, inflammation. Make sure you’re buying a good quality omega-3 supplement from a reputable health brand.
The recommended daily combined intake of EPA and DHA is 0.5 – 1.6 grams. In terms of ALA, 1.5-3 g per day is beneficial. If you can, get most of this from foods.
PRO TIP: Refrigerating your fish oil supplements can help prevent the delicate fats from going rancid.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a must for any hormonally balanced fat loss promoting diet! When inflammation levels are kept low and controlled, your stress response is triggered less, which leads to a slimmer tummy. Omega-3 fatty acids suppress the stress response in times of high stress, again leading to less belly fat storage.
Flax is the best plant-based source of the essential omega-3, ALA. The two biologically active omega-3s, EPA and DHA, are from fish or algae. It’s always recommended to get your nutrients from food as much as possible. At least two servings of fatty fish each week is recommended.
If you consider supplementing, make sure to follow direction on the label and keep them refrigerated. If you have any medical conditions or are taking medications, make sure to speak with your health care professional.
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