Why Omega 3 is in Short Supply in Today’s Diet: Modern Processing and Industrial Farms Cause Depletion

Why Omega 3 is in Short Supply in Today’s Diet: Modern Processing and Industrial Farms Cause Depletion

Only recently has omega 3 begun to be recognized as necessary to our overall health.

Another polyunsaturated fat, omega 6, was discovered in the 1930s, but it was another 40 years before omega 3 was found to be essential.

How Omega 6 Gained the Upper Hand

Unfortunately for the human body, in those 40 years, omega 6 became an increasingly common component of our diet. Acres allotted to soybeans increased dramatically due to farm subsidies. Oil processors found they could extract the oil from these and other seeds (omega 6s). About the same time, health organizations began to advise limiting saturated fat, as well as cholesterol, and what do you know, here are these wonderful liquid polyunsaturated oils. These were low in saturated fat and entirely free of cholesterol.

Processors did find one flaw in them. Rancidity occurred too quickly in the packaged product caused by oxidation of some “minor unimportant” fats, omega 3s. The solution, of course, was to remove them in order to extend the all-important shelf life of the product.

In addition, cows and chickens that had been raised on grass and other greens are now kept in feedlots feeding on corn and soy. Since the greens contained omega 3s, the meat produced now has considerably more omega 6s with little omega 3s. Since these two nutrients act as competitors to enter our cells, too much omega 6 results in the little omega 3 available not being able to get into the cells.

Getting Your Omega 3s Today

As already noted, these desirable polyunsaturated fats are in the greens of plants, as well as animals that are allowed to eat them. With the advent of modern farming methods, free-range is almost a thing of the past and more expensive when you find it.

According to The Queen of Fats by Susan Allport (University of California Press), plant biologists have been working on low alpha linolenic (omega 3) varieties of soybeans and are now investigating a similar form of rapeseeds. Allport indicates their goal, of course, is longer shelf stability, as well as reduced hydrogenation costs.

Therefore, the more natural and less processed a food is, the more likely it will have the omega 3s it should. Basic guidelines include:

Eat your fish, especially the fatty varieties, i.e. salmon and tuna with as little processing as possible (nix the breaded fish sticks).

Greens, again with little or no processing, should be a regular component of your diet.

Limit the omega 6 sources, especially the seed oils, i.e. corn. A drizzle of olive oil on toast tastes very good.

Always read labels on products and compare brands for inclusion of such things as trans-fats or partially-hydrogenated.

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Categories: Diet, Health, Nutrition