The average person, eating a typical Western diet, consumes a radically different balance of omega fatty acids than our evolutionary ancestors did.
Restoring the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in your diet reduces inflammation, lowers risk for coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic conditions. Additionally, balancing their intake helps to prevent fractures.
Studies have shown that consuming significantly more omega-6 than omega-3 can lead to bone density declines and other unwanted health problems. Today we’ll review the research that confirms this, and we’ll look at the nine best plant-based food sources of omega-3.
Omega 3, Omega 6, And Your Health
Omega-3 and omega-6 are the two classes of essential fatty acids (EFAs). They are called essential because we can’t synthesize them. Here are some quick facts about these EFAs.1
- What makes them different is the location of their molecular double bonds
- Omega 6 acid in its basic form is linoleic acid (LA)
- Omega 3 acid in its basic form is α-linolenic acid (ALA)
- We metabolize these parent compounds into longer-chain fatty acids that perform different functions throughout the body
- LA becomes gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), dihomogramma-linolenic acid (DGLA) and arachidonic acid (AA), among others
- ALA becomes eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) among others
- EFAs are required to maintain cell membranes, visual, and neurological function
- Early humans consumed an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of about 1:1
- Contemporary Western diets typically contain ratios as high as 17:1
That large EFA imbalance is responsible for a slew of health problems. They include:1,2
- Cardiovascular disease
- Inflammatory disease
- Autoimmune diseases
- Neurodegenerative diseases
Studies show that the incidence of these often chronic conditions can be reduced by correcting the dietary imbalance of EFAs. Many of those positive effects are thought to be the result of a reduction in inflammation.3
Omega 6 and omega 3 are essential fatty acids that our body converts to other fatty acids used for the maintenance of our cell membranes and bodily functions. Western diets that include many times more omega 6 than omega 3 result in health problems ranging from coronary heart disease to diabetes, to osteoporosis.
How Essential Fatty Acids Affect Bone Density
Many studies have linked EFA deficiency to bone loss. One study, which included 1532 participants over the course of 4 years, found an inverse association between the ratio of dietary LA to ALA and bone mass density (BMD) at the hip- regardless of the participant’s age, lifestyle or body mass index. This means that the bigger the omega-6 to omega-3 divide, the lower the BMD.4
This relationship has to do with cytokines.
Cytokines are secreted proteins that induce cells to proliferate and differentiate. There are many kinds, but the cytokines interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor
necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) increase osteoclast formation, activity, and lifespan.
Osteoclasts are cells responsible for removing old bone material. In a healthy body, their work is balanced against that of osteoblasts, cells that deposit new bone.
When our bodies contain an imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 EFAs, it changes the function of our cell membranes and increases the production of the cytokines IL-1, IL-6, and TNFα.
A glut of IL-1, IL-6 and TNFα ramps up the production and activity of osteoclasts, which throws off the balance of the bone remodeling process, resulting in reduced BMD and increased risk of fracture.
A dietary EFA imbalance causes bone loss because it increases the cellular production of cytokines that disrupt the balance of our natural bone remodeling process.
You Can Restore Balance, And Recover Bone Density
Just as a diet with an imbalance of EPAs can result in overproduction of cytokines that remove bone material, consuming increased amounts of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can restore balance to EPA levels and decrease the production of these cytokines.5
In one study, titled “The effect of dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on the synthesis of interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor by mononuclear cells” researchers gave nine participants 18g of omega-3-rich fish-oil concentrate in addition to their regular Western diet for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks, the participants IL-1 beta level was reduced by 43%. Ten weeks after the supplementation had ended, the reduction had increased to 61%. After an additional ten weeks with no supplementation, the IL-1 beta levels had returned to their pre-supplementation levels. IL-1 alpha and TNFα showed similar results.6
A 1998 study conducted with 65 women with a mean age of 79.5 examined the impact on bone mineral density of receiving gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) supplements versus a coconut oil placebo capsule.
The results showed that supplementation with these omega-3 EFAs resulted in increases of femoral bone density and lumbar spine density and are safe to administer for prolonged periods of time.7
The evidence shows that a dietary increase of omega-3 fatty acids not only reduces the production of the cytokines that disrupt the bone-remodeling process, it increases bone mineral density.
How To Get More Omega-3 EFAs In Your Diet
You’ve probably heard about taking fish-oil, or eating more fish as a way of increasing your omega-3 intake. Although several fish are Foundation Foods for this very reason, they are still acidifying animal products.
You can also get the omega-3 you need by incorporating more of these plant-based omega-3 rich foods into your diet, all of which, except for beans and winter squash, are alkalizing.
- 6288mg Omega 3 per ounce
- 1655mg of Omega 6 per ounce
- Flax oil contains 7196mg omega 3 per ounce
- Best plant source of lignans that reduce LDL cholesterol and boost immune function
- Source of Foundation Supplements manganese, copper, Vitamin B1, and magnesium
2. Chia seeds
- 4915mg of Omega 3 per ounce
- 1620mg of Omega 6 per ounce
- Rich in calcium, fiber and manganese
3. Leafy Greens
- 1 cup cooked spinach contains 352mg omega 3 but barely any omega 6
- Broccoli rabe, collards, kale and grape leaves are also good sources
- Rich in Vitamins A,C,K, and E
- Good source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, fiber and potassium
4. Cruciferous Vegetables
- Cauliflower leads the pack with 208mg omega 3 and 62mg omega 6 per cooked cup
- broccoli and brussel sprouts are close runners up
- Broccoli in particular is rich in calcium, manganese, potassium, copper and Vitamins A,K,E and B vitamins
5. Winter Squash
- 338mg omega 3 per ounce
- 203mg omega 6 per ounce
- Also rich in carotenoids that reduce fracture risk
- Mungo beans contain 603mg omega 3 but just 43 mg omega 6 per cooked cup
- French beans and navy beans are also rich in omega 3
- Good source of protein
- Iron rich (especially kidney beans and chickpeas)
- 77mg omega 3 per fruit
- 29 mg omega 6 per fruit
- Great source of Vitamins C, B6 and A
- Contains copper and potassium
8. Honeydew Melon
- 58mg omega 3 per cup
- 46mg omega 6 per cup
- Rich source of powerful antioxidant superoxide dismutase
9. Herbs & Spices
- Most spices and herbs have a strong EFA ratio
- Cloves: 86mg omega 3 and 52mg omega 6 per 2g
- Oregano: 73mg and 18mg per 2g
- Marjoram 49mg and 18mg per 2g
- Tarragon 44mg and 11mg per 2g
- Parsley is rich in Vitamins C, K and B-complex
- Cilantro contains Vitamins C and A, plus Zinc, calcium and magnesium
- Peppermint offers copper, manganese, calcium and Vitamin C
- Because we eat relatively small amounts of these spices, they can’t tip the scales alone, but every bit helps in the fight to restore balance
You don’t have to load up on acidifying fish to get an omega-3 rich meal that supports healthy bone-remodeling. Foods like flaxseed, leafy greens and mangoes all contain more omega-3 than omega-6, leading you on the path to strong bones.
Stop Worrying About Your Bone Loss
Join thousands of Savers from around the world who have reversed or prevented their bone loss naturally and scientifically with the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
Savers are accustomed to eating meals containing the foods listed above. It’s a delicious part of a pH-balanced diet. Today you’ve expanded your knowledge of EFAs to help you maintain a desirable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. This improved dietary practice reduces inflammation and keeps osteoclast synthesis in check, balancing bone remodeling and allowing your bones to increase in density.
Till next time,
1 A. P. Simopoulos. “The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. Volume 56, Issue 8, October 2002, Pages 365-379. Web. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0753332202002536
2 Artemis P. Simopoulos. “The omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio: health implications.” OCL Volume 17, Number 5, 267 – 275. 15 September 2010. Web. https://www.ocl-journal.org/articles/ocl/full_html/2010/05/ocl2010175p267/ocl2010175p267.html
3 A. P. Simopoulos. Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases. J Am Coll Nutr 2002 ; 21 : 495–505. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=12480795
4 Weiss et al. “Rancho Bernardo Study.” Am J Clin Nutr 81: 934. 2005
5 Cleland LG, James MJ, Neumann MA, et al. “Linoleate inhibits EPA incorporation from
dietary fish-oil supplements in human subjects.” Am J Clin Nutr 1992;55:395-399.
6 Endres S. “The effect of dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on the synthesis of interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor by mononuclear cells.” N Engl J Med. 1989 Feb 2;320(5):265-71 Web.
7 Kruger MC. “Calcium gamma-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid supplementation in senile osteoporosis.” Aging (Milano). 1998 Oct;10(5):385-94. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9932142