Over the course of the past few decades, nutrition science has pointed fingers towards several causes for poor health related to dietary choices. Some of the identified foods have included refined sugar, refined grain products (particularly white flours), highly processed foods, and genetically modified foods, to name just a few. The issue with this focus on unhealthy foods is that while these foods can, in fact, contribute to various disease states, it fails to encourage a dietary perspective that is centred on abundance and gratitude. This creates a feeling of lack and restriction, often driving people to throw their hands in the air with a defeated “nothing is healthy anymore”, and a resulting forfeit.
However, over the past few years, it has been abundantly clear that some of our previous theories on nutrition have been mistaken. This includes the ever-essential discarding of the demonization of dietary fat. In the 50’s, a single researcher (and the supporting corporations to fund the biased studies) concluded that dietary fat is bad, The End. Thankfully, we’ve now had a multitude of studies concluding that not only is this misguided, but it’s outright incorrect, and the effects of the low-fat movement have had a damaging impact on the health of our population.
One type of fat in particular has gained a great deal of publicity – omega 3 fatty acids. This vital nutrient is imperative for optimal brain function and cognition, moderating inflammation, maintains eye health, and reduces symptoms and risks for metabolic syndrome.This oil that was rich in the diet of our ancestors is practically void from the modern diet. Though omega 3 status testing is still inaccessible through our doctors, private lab data shows that omega 3 deficiency is quite prevalent in our western civilization.
This is in part due to the replacement of whole foods with processed and refined food products, but is interestingly also connected to the diet that we feed the animals that we eat. Livestock that are fed grains (a biologically unnatural diet) produce meat and dairy that is extremely low in omega 3 fats, and higher in omega 6 fats. These same animals, when fed their natural diet of grass and allowed to forage, have substantially higher levels of omega 3 fats, lower levels of omega 6’s, and higher concentrations of fat soluble vitamins.
Another consideration for the decline in omega 3’s consumed in the diet is the shift away from animal foods in general, towards a more plant based diet. While plants are absolutely essential (and also valuable medicinals), animals provide certain nutrients in unparalleled quantities and bioavailability, and should be a primary focus in the diet, especially when dealing with nutrient deficiencies. Some plants do contain omega 3’s, but in an inactive, less absorbable form than their animal counterparts.
The best food sources for acquiring omega 3 fatty acids is wild seafood, particularly cold water fish such as salmon, cod and sardines, but also shellfish and algae; grass-fed beef and dairy; and yolks of eggs from pasture raised chickens and ducks. Plant based sources of omega 3’s include flax and walnuts, though these should not be relied on as standalone sources.
Kayla MacDonald, R.H.N.