With Around the Bay this past weekend, I’m sure there are some sore and tired legs out there. Intense exercise results in an inflammatory state, leading to soreness. Outside of this discomfort, inflammation is bad news for a variety of other reasons. Chronic inflammation is linked with heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s… and the list goes on! Evidently, chronic inflammation is not good for health, but what can we do about it?
Dietary factors can have a huge impact on the amount of inflammation in the body. What we eat or don’t eat, can negatively or positively influence inflammation. There is no way that I could cover all these factors in just one blog, so today I will just be focusing on one of these dietary factors: omega-6 fatty acids.
So, what are Omega-6 fatty acids? These are an essential fatty acid, which means that we must consume them on a daily basis. However, the problem with today’s Western diet is that we tend to overconsume these omega-6 fatty acids, and on the other hand, consume too little of the other essential fatty acid: omega-3. This excess ratio of omega-6 fatty acid to omega-3 fatty acid can increase inflammation.
To reduce inflammation, we should focus not only on increasing our omega-3 fatty acid intake, but also decreasing omega-6 fatty acid intake. Most oils have a mixture of all the different types of fatty acids. Oils with a high amount of omega-6 fatty acid in comparison to the other fatty acids include
- Sunflower oil
- Soy bean oil
- Corn oil
- Peanut oil
- Cottonseed oil
Most people don’t cook with these above oils. Rather, the source of these oils in our diet comes from processed foods. The food industry usually uses these oils when making products. Typical examples include salad dressing, mayonnaise, margarine, crackers, chips and other processed foods.
When looking at the nutrition fact labels of these products, most won’t break down the unsaturated fat content of omega-6 fatty acid or another type of unsaturated fat such as monounsaturated or omega-3 fatty acids. So rather than looking at the nutrition fact label, it’s more useful to look at the ingredients list to see if one of the above oils are listed. Take a look at the salad dressing in your fridge or the crackers in your pantry, and you’ll probably see “sunflower or soybean oil” listed. This is where most of those excess omega-6 fatty acids are coming from.
To reduce your omega-6 fatty acid intake, eliminate or reduce some of these highly processed foods. Start making your own salad dressings with olive oil or canola oil. Fork over a couple extra bucks for mayonnaise or margarine made with olive oil. Replace package foods with unprocessed food. For instance, rather than having crackers or a granola bar as a snack, have a piece of fruit and some nuts.
We all know inflammation has negative impacts on our health and performance. Let’s take steps to fuel our body with high quality food. I am soon transition to moving these weekly blogs to a weekly nutrition newsletter. If you want to stay updated with how to fuel your health and performance, sign up here.