The internal alarm of your body, known as the inflammation response, when confronted with a wound, it responds in a healing way: forming blood clots to avoid bleeding or raising body temperature to destroy bacteria infiltrated through the wound.
However, there is another type of inflammation, known as chronic inflammationthat stimulates disease and as a result of it, the healing blood clots can end up triggering a heart attack or stroke.
Causes of inflammation
Your internal body first aid equipment depends on a variety of tools including a powerful type of chemicals called eicosanoids. These potentially healing compounds are made of fat. Eicosanoids from omega-6 fats promote inflammation; eicosanoids made of omega-3 fats have the opposite effect: reduce inflammation.
The ratio between omega 6 and omega 3 fats that you ingest determines the type of fat imbedded in your cells which in turn determine the type of eicosanoids created and ultimately, the state of inflammation. Studies conducted with patients who suffered from chronic inflammations have shown their cells contained an excess of omega-6 fats and very few omega-3 fats.
Eicosanoids made from omega 6 are responsible for an inflammatory state that is the root of many chronic diseases, including diabetes, strokes, arthritis, asthma, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Three types of omega-3
There are three kinds of omega-3 that are key to your health:
- ALA, from plants
- EPA and DHA from marine products
ALA is different from the omega-3 fat found in fish. Although in theory our system can convert the ALA fat we ingest into EPA and DHA, it is not always the case, especially if there is any type of disease that prevents the proper functioning of the cells. If you focus on eating only ALA (i.e. flaxseed oil) you can have a deficit of the more important EPA and DHA omega-3 fats.
Foods containing ALA come sometimes accompanied of a high content of omega-6 fat, as it happens with soy oil. You need to put much attention to choose foods that contain omega-3 fat ALA so your body does not get flooded with omega-6 fats.
A balanced diet of omega 3 and omega 6
By including the following foods routinely in your diet you will replace and eliminate other inflammation foods that you may have in your pantry. And you will definitely avoid or minimize health problems caused by chronic inflammation.
Sources of omega-3 fat ALA
Ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil
Flaxseed foods are not only an excellent source of ALA but they are also very low in omega-6 fats. Unlike other vegetable oils, flaxseed oil contains more omega-3 fats than omega-6. Ground flaxseed is an excellent source of omega-3 fats. One teaspoon a day meets the daily ALA requisites.
Walnuts and walnut oil
Walnuts are the only nuts with a significant amount of omega-3 fats. However, for each gram of ALA you get 5 additional grams of omega-6. If you eat them in large quantities you can be overload with omega-6.
Rapeseed oil is a good source of ALA. For each gram of omega-3, you get 2 grams of omega-6 fat, which is considered balanced. A healthy proportion of omega-3 to omega-6 is 1 to 4. This is a good oil not only just for cooking but also to produce products such as margarine, mayonnaise and salad dressing.
Beans, especially the dark type are a good source of omega-3 ALA. A cup complies with a 1/5 of the daily requirements.
Blueberries and raspberries are among the few fruits that contain omega-3 fats, although the amount provided is small.
Dark green leafy vegetables
These vegetables include spinach, broccoli, and romaine lettuce. More than half the fat in dark green leafy vegetables is ALA. But as vegetables are low in fat, you would need to eat a lot of them to meet the needs of ALA. It could be one more incentive to eat vegetables. A salad of 3 cups of Romaine Lettuce will give about 10 percent of the daily needs of ALA.
Chia seeds (salvia hispanica)
Two teaspoons of these seeds offer more than 200 percent of the daily needs of ALA.
Soybean oil contains ALA but it also has 8 times more omega-6; it is better to avoid it.
The important thing here is to remember that if you concentrate on eating only foods that provide omega-3 ALA as flaxseed, you may suffer a deficit of EPA and DHA omega-3 fats.
Sources of omega-3 fat EPA and DHA
Fish is a great source of omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, especially fatty fish. Fish obtain EPA and DHA directly from ingesting algae and phytoplankton in the ocean. If you eat four fatty fish meals per week (including salmon or sardines) you will obtain the actual international recommendations for omega-3 EPA and DHA. Fish rich in omega-3 EPA and DHA are sea bass, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna.
Meat, poultry and eggs
Meat can be a significant source of omega-3 fats. Unfortunately national meats in the United States (veal, chicken, pork and turkey) have very small quantities of omega-3 fats because livestock is fed with grains low in omega-3. In contrast, the fat of wild animals contains EPA because wild animals eat grass that contains omega-3 fat EPA. When possible, choose meat from animals fed with grass. Many establishments sell this type of meat.
marine algae contain fats especially EPA omega-3. You can include them in soups or salads.
What if you don’t like fish?
If you don’t like fish, look for foods fortified with omega-3s. However, most of these foods are fortified with omega-3 fat ALA. Read the label and look for foods that indicate are fortified with omega-3 fat DHA; otherwise you could suffer a deficiency of this fat.
Another alternative if you don’t like fish would be to take fish oil. Choose one that contains only omega-3. Although some manufacturers advertise their products containing omega 3, 6 and 9 fats as if this was a plus, do not buy these products. As we have seen, we have enough fat omega-6 around us. As for omega-9 fat, as the one we find in olive oil, your body doesn’t need it.
The bottom line
If you are taking medication prescribed by your doctor to combat the inflammation do not stop taking it without his/her approval. However, making certain changes in your daily diet such as those suggested in this article, you can lower your inflammation level and when your doctor see the results, either he will lower the doses prescribed or he will discontinue all together.