The Skinny on Essential Fatty Acids
I’m a firm proponent of the raw vegan diet, it’s the best way to get LIVE nutrition to help repair your LIVING body. Eating food that has been either cooked or processed and made less bio-available just does not make sense.
With many decades of living raw vegan I have heard it all from well meaning folks about if I’m getting enough of this, that or the other thing, you can fill in the blanks.
One of the blanks I thought I would share with you is essential fatty acids. This is a topic that gets brought up from time to time, not as often as the “where do you get your protein” question but it comes up in conversation frequently. We’re talking about the two main fatty acids that the body can’t synthesized, Omega 6 and Omega 3; they have to come from our diet. There is an optimal balance between these two that should be maintained, if not it can cause many health issues.
The healthy ratio is typically between 4:1 and 1:1 (omega 6 to omega 3). The Standard America diet can have unhealthy ratios as far off as 20:1. I could get into details about how they work and the problems caused by an excess of one over the other but that is not the scope of this writing. There are many websites that can give you the details if you wish to go deeper.
Basically omega 3 fatty acids will help reduce inflammation and infection while studies show too much omega 6 fatty acids can undo the benefits of omega 3’s and can trigger fat storage.
The main point I want to share with you is that if you are deciding to go on a plant based lifestyle without cooking your food then the fact is that you’ll get what you need in the essential territory simply by KEEPING it SIMPLE which it’s very easy to do.
It’s important to know that all fresh and unprocessed foods contain essential fatty acids. The more processed the food the more unbalanced the optimal ratio will be. Many nuts and seeds can have a higher ratio of omega 6 to 3’s but this can be balance out with ground flax seeds, chia seeds or hemp seeds.
What about Greens and Fruit?
Great news here for those who predominately eat these foods. Let’s start with greens, more than 50% of the fat in greens like romaine, spinach and parsley etc is from omega 3 fatty acids. If you didn’t think greens have fat try this experiment. Next time you get some greens from your garden or supermarket like romaine or kale, take one of the leaves and let a little water trickle from your faucet and dribble down the leaf. You will notice that it beads up and rolls off like water on a ducks feathers. That’s the essential fatty acids at work and 10 cups of these greens a day will supply your daily requirement. If you’re a raw vegan like myself 10 cups is on the light side of my vegetable consumption in a day.
Now how about fruit? Most don’t think of fruit being a source of essential fats. The good news is, in fact, many fruits contain the beneficial omega-3 fats. Great sources include: berries, guava, cherries, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi, papaya, mangoes, grapes and lemon.
For example just one medium cantaloupe provides a third of the recommended daily intake for omega-3 fats. Add that to other fruits and greens you eat during the day and you will have an adequate balance of both omega 6 and 3 and as long as you are not eating a large amount nuts and seeds which have high levels of omega 6 then there is no need to supplement on foods like flax or chia to offset the undesirable higher omega 6 levels.
For this reason, people eating a raw food diet consisting primarily of fruit with leafy greens are usually getting a healthy intake of omega-3 fats. As long as you keep your nuts and seeds consumption at a minimum which contain high levels of omega-6 fats it generally isn’t necessary to supplement with omega-3 or even to focus on or high omega 3 foods like flax or chia.
As always my suggestion for great health is to eat a variety of un-cooked plant based foods that support your caloric needs and let your body take care of the rest.