In my earlier article, “Get a Grip on Fatty Acids,” we discussed how the right ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids promotes lower cholesterol. The goal is not to cut omega-6 fatty acids (found in corn oil, beef, and chicken) completely from the diet, but to achieve a ratio of 4:1 or 1:1 omega-6 to omega-3. In order to attain this ratio you need to increase your omega-3 intake. Here are a few ways to do so:
1.) Eat fish at least twice a week. If you like fish, this would be my first choice. Fish contains DHA, and research is starting to indicate health benefits linked to DHA alone. Be aware of mercury content of fish, however, especially if you are pregnant.
2.) Take a fish oil supplement. Start with the smallest bottle you can find and make sure you do not have the unpleasant side effect of burping with a fishy aftertaste. Not everyone has this problem, so you may be fine. To decrease likelihood of this problem I recommend taking the supplement and then eating. That way, something is “on top” of the fish oil. Fish oil has a tendency to go rancid, so keep the supplement refrigerated, especially if you buy a large bottle.
3.) Eat flaxseed. You can buy flaxseed two ways -- whole seed or ground. In order for the body to utilize the omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed must be ground. If the flaxseed is not ground it passes straight through the body without being absorbed. Flaxseed is high in fiber, so by ingesting whole flaxseed you have increased your fiber intake, which is beneficial, but if you grind your flaxseed you will also increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake and lower cholesterol.
4.) Try a flaxseed oil supplement. A simple supplement provides the omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Now, ALA is not as effective as DHA and EPA at lowering cholesterol, but consuming it still results in an improved ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. Again, it can go rancid, so be sure to refrigerate it.
5.) Add omega-3 nut and seed sources to your daily intake. Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, and sesame seeds are especially high in omega-3s. Nuts are a high-calorie food, so watch your intake. If you gain weight, you are not doing your heart any favors!