Spotlight: Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are important to your health – you just need to consume them in the right balance. Experts estimate that the ideal ratio for consumption of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids is 1:1. However, most Americans consume these fats in a 10:1 ratio, which means we are consuming way too many omega 6 fatty acids. Not that these fats aren’t important to your diet, but when you consume too many of them – typically in the form of vegetable oils from processed foods – inflammation occurs. To improve your balance of omega fatty acids, the remedy is simple: reduce the amount of processed foods you eat and increase your intake of omega 3 fats with foods like walnuts, hemp, chia, and flax.
Athletes are always in search of the best nutrient-dense whole foods to both support their intense training and protect their bodies from the stressful effects of such training. Fortunately, hemp seeds (AKA hemp hearts) are one of those nutrient dense whole foods. An easy to digest protein, hemp seeds are also rich in inflammation-fighting essential fats, which make them an optimal choice for athletes and non-athletes alike. They include all nine essential amino acids in levels that are close to those of the complete proteins found in animal products and soy. They are also a significant source of arginine, a non-essential amino acid that appears to benefit the heart. Found in protein rich foods like soy and nuts, arginine helps keep the blood vessels functioning optimally.
An ounce of shelled hemp seeds contain about 7 grams of easy to digest protein (slightly more than one large egg), 10 grams of heart healthy fats, and nearly 8 grams of dietary fiber. Hemp is also a good source of vitamins like the antioxidant, vitamin E and minerals like potassium, magnesium, and iron, to name a few. In fact, just 2 tbsp. of hemp powder meets more than a quarter of your daily iron needs. Hemp seeds are high in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and together these fats may help reduce the risk of diseases affected by inflammation, including heart disease, cancer diabetes, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. They also have a protective effect on the brain and the skin.
Omega 3 fatty acids are especially known for their potent inflammation fighting effects. Although omega 6 fatty acids - the ones found in some vegetable oils, nuts and seeds - don’t tend to receive quite the same fanfare as the omega 3 fatty acids, they are still important to our health, especially our heart. Hemp seeds are an excellent source of linoleum acid, an omega 6 fatty acid that may help lower total and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and triglyceride levels, maintain healthy blood pressure, and prevent the formation of clots associated with heart attack and stroke. Together, these fats help fight inflammation in the body and reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases.
Hemp seeds have a mild, nutty flavour and are an easy and excellent addition to salads. Hemp powder or flour is made of finely milled seeds that can be used in smoothies and shakes or as a flour for baking. Adding 2-3 tbsp. 15-23 g) of powder will give you an additional 10-16 grams of high quality, easy to digest protein.
Try our SUPERFOOD POWER FUEL snack recipe; perfect for pre or post-workout!
Source: Lauri Boone, R.D., Author of Powerful Plant Based Super Foods