The Importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and the Best Way to Eat Them!
Curious about what all the hype is about omega-3 fatty acids? Read on as Cristina Curp of The Castaway Kitchen shares why they are such an important part of a healthy diet and how they can help fight inflammation. And you can make her Crispy Sardine Cake Boats for a fun and delicious way to get your daily amount.
The majority of people today eat a diet low in fat or high in rancid or hydrogenated fats. On a cellular level, why is a low-fat (or “poor fat”) diet detrimental to health? Vegetable and seed oils are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs); which are highly unstable and prone to oxidation when heated! During oxidation, free radicals form. Radicals are highly reactive molecules with an unpaired electron in the outer shell. These free radicals cause cell damage and essentially make the PUFA carcinogenic. Our system reacts by countering them with antioxidants but also with inflammation which can be problematic, according to JZ Nowak. Low-grade chronic inflammation is associated with obesity, chronic pain, depression, vascular disease, and dementia.
These rancid and hydrogenated fats are highly processed and are made with extreme heat and strong chemicals. They are like poison to your bodies, according to this study. Safe forms of PUFA’s come in whole food forms like small oily fish (sardines, mackerel), wild caught salmon, grass-fed beef, chia seeds, and hemp hearts!
No food is 100% omega-3, without some omega-6 fatty acids as well. However, most foods we consume today, like hydrogenated vegetable oils and most nuts and seeds are much higher in omega-6 fatty acids. AP Simpopoulos contends that making a conscious effort to consume foods with higher omega-3 rations is instrumental in managing inflammation.
Can’t we just pop a Motrin?
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) and steroids block the enzymes that produce prostaglandin. When you get hurt the damaged tissue releases a hormone, like prostaglandins, that increases swelling (causing it to swell before it heals) and communicates pain to the central nervous system. So, by blocking the production of prostaglandin you get less pain and less swelling; however, it’s not treating the injury and blocks important communication pathways in your body.
Prostaglandins are a type of eicosanoid. Eicosanoids are regulatory molecules made from omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Prostaglandins D2, E2 and F2 are made from omega-6 and are a part of the inflammatory prostaglandin, PG2. Inflammation is a natural part of the healing process. However, sometimes the inflammation can become chronic and this is unwanted.
PG1 and PG3 series prostaglandins act in an anti-inflammatory capacity, made from DGLA and omega-3 FA. This is why it’s important to have fatty acid balance and at least a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 in your diet. These two EFA’s cannot be created in the body and must be consumed. NSAID’s work by blocking the COX-1 and COX-2 isoenzymes. They suppress all eicosanoids and in turn block all prostaglandins, PG1, 2 and 3. Suppressing not only the body’s inflammatory response but also the anti-inflammatory response.
Dr. James DiNicolantonio concluded in a study that, “Instead of using NSAID’s to inhibit the formation of omega-6 AA metabolites, eating more EPA/DHA can provide a similar effect. Omega-3’s PUFAs act to prevent chronic low-grade inflammation. Using long-chain omega-3s to suppress low-grade inflammation may benefit numerous chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, dyslipidemia, diabetes, obesity and heart failure.”
Don’t get me wrong, we need omega-6 fatty acids. Linoleic acids are essential to your healing process. Be mindful of staying in that 1:1 or 4:1 ratio, and believe me, it’s harder said than done! So many foods we commonly eat today are high in omega-6, which while good for you, need to be kept within a close range of omega-3 fatty acid. Also, we need to avoid ingesting rancid forms of omega-6, especially in seed-based oil!
Best and Most Bioavailable Forms of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Yeah, you can supplement, but the really good and effective fish oil supplements are expensive! Why pay $50 or more when you can pay a few bucks for a can of sardines. You get the most bioavailable form of omega-3, protein and a meal out of it! Sardines also pack vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium and more!
I love these Wild Planet Sardines packed in olive oil. Lightly smoked with a lovely lemon flavor. These sardine cakes are going to be your go-to omega-3 dose. You can also try their canned salmon, another amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids. Wild Planet Wild Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Lemon are lightly smoked. The sardines contain 1,800mg of EPA and DHA omega-3 and 18g of protein per serving (per can). These are scale-free, sustainably sourced and just so good. You’re going to go nuts over these sardine cakes. Even if you are hesitant to try sardines for your inflammation, this recipe will make you a believer.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
- 2 cans Wild Planet Wild Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil with Lemon
- 1/4 cup red onion minced
- 1/4 cup fresh dill minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fine garlic powder
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoons lard or ghee
- 1 tablespoon Spicy Brown or Dijon Mustard
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 romaine lettuce leaves
- 1 ripe Hass avocado
- Sliced Fresh dill for garnish Pickled veggies (optional)
- Open the cans and drain the oil out into a measuring cup.
- Crumble the sardines into a medium bowl and add the onion, dill, salt, garlic, and egg. Mix well and shape 6-8 small patties.
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
- Melt the lard. When it comes to temperature, fry the patties for 3 minutes a side. Remove from the heat.
- Use an immersion blender or a frother to mix the drained olive oil from the cans with coconut aminos, mustard, and black pepper. More salt to taste.
- Put two patties on each romaine leaf with avocado, and garnish.
- Drizzle the sauce over the sardine patties and dig in.
- If you’re a mayo lover, I highly recommend using Chosen Foods Wasabi Mayo or my Cilantro aioli on these bad boys too! Fish cakes and mayo just go together!
What are some of your favorite ways to consume omega-3 fatty acids? Let us know in the comments below!