Omega 3 and 6 are considered essential fats – i.e. fat that you need to eat because your body cannot make it itself. Yet, the focus is always on omega 3 – why is that?
Omega 6 intake needs to be considered less because it is found in things we tend to eat a lot of anyway.
Any type of ready made food is likely to be high in omega 6, since vegetable oils are both high in omega 6 and are in pretty much anything you buy readymade – mayonnaise, cured meat etc.
Other rich sources of omega 6 are chicken, nuts and seeds (almonds, sesame, peanuts, sunflower and pine especially) and corn.
The point is really, that however you are eating, you are most likely getting more than enough omega 6. It doesn’t mean you’re eating badly, as is often inferred when talking about omega 6, it simply means omega 6 is more available in foods we eat more often – and actually, that is the way it is meant to be – to a point.
The important thing with the essential fats is the balance between omega 3 and omega 6 in your diet. Ideally, we should have a ratio of 1:4. It is estimated that the ‘average person’ (whoever that is!) these days is eating a ratio of more like 1:15.
You should, of course, moderate your intake of processed foods for a million reasons as well as omega 6 intake. But, once you’re at that point, it is generally accepted that the focus should be on increasing omega 3 intake rather than reducing omega 6 intake.
You already know the omega 3 sources. Oily fish (fresh or tinned), outdoor-reared eggs, grass fed red meat, nuts and seeds (flax, chia and walnuts especially).
You could supplement with omega 3 to get your levels up if you’re regularly falling short or if you’re vegetarian or vegan. There are vegan friendly supplements available. Do remember though that just because some omega 3 is crucial, more is not necessarily better.
Getting the balance right is associated with improved heart health, reduced inflammation, improved gut health, improved recovery after exercise, improved joint health, improved eye health, improved sleep quality – amongst other things.
So, with boosting our omega 3 in mind, here is one of my new favourite recipes with fresh sardines. It’s a little adapted from a Field & Flower recipe and makes a delicious and easy lunch!
Fresh Sardines in Homemade Tomato Sauce
To serve 2:
1 tsp oil (I use avocado oil)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
400g tomatoes, chopped
Splash of stock
200g butterflied sardines
2 tsp capers – or 2 tsp cider vinegar
Chopped fresh parsley
Cook the onion in the oil until soft, then add the garlic and tomatoes
Cook the tomatoes until they’re starting to soften, then add some stock to help it along the way
Reduce the sauce for 15-20 minutes until it’s lovely and thick
When the sauce is nearly ready, grill the sardines until they’re cooked and the skin is crispy
Stir the capers, pepper and chopped parsley into the sauce, then put your sauce onto your plate and top with the sardines