by Mila McManus, MD
Often people are puzzled why their LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol remain high, which is normally accompanied by inflammation. One reason could be an excess intake of linoleic acid, an Omega 6 fatty acid. We need this in small quantities for good health, but in excess, it drives inflammation. Omega 6 fatty acids are very prevalent in the Standard American Diet (SAD), and it is extremely easy to consume too many. Balancing Omega 6 fats with anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fats is also part of the health equation. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to obtain adequate sources of Omega 3 fats. As a result, it takes an intentional effort to limit intake of Omega 6 fats while intentionally consuming Omega 3s in order to reduce inflammation in the human body. In both cases, quality also matters!
We often talk about main sources of Omega 6s which are highly inflammatory. They include canola, soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, and corn oil – all found in processed and packaged foods, salad dressings, fast foods, and restaurant foods. In addition, meat from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) has high amounts of Omega 6 fatty acids. This includes most of the beef, pork, chicken, and eggs in grocery stores and restaurants. Animals such as these are fed genetically modified corn and soy in feedlots, and thus are higher in Omega 6s. Alternatively, when animals eat their normal instinctual diet, such as grass, insects, and scavenged food from nature, there is an increase in Omega 3 fats and a significant decrease in Omega 6 fats.
Another important consideration is to evaluate your seed and nut sources. Below is a chart showing the percentage of Omega 6 linoleic acid that is found in various nut and seed sources. Moreover, many of these nuts and seeds are found in protein powders, food bars, oils, and flours. Many of the higher Omega 6 nut and seed sources still offer considerable nutritional value, so the idea here is not to completely avoid them, but to rotate and moderate your intake. Also note that peanuts and cashews aren’t really nuts. They are legumes! So even though, e.g., cashews are listed as ‘non-inflammatory’ with respect to omega 6, they are high in lectins, which for some people, poses major health issues.
Eating real whole food from optimal sources really matters to overall health and longevity. One good example is 100% grass-fed and finished beef and lamb or pasture raised chicken that eats insects and grass.. When eating their instinctual diet, these meats (and eggs) have benefits such as helping with weight loss, improving immune function, regulating blood sugar levels, boosting cardiovascular health, and promoting proper growth and development.
- When you consume linoleic acid, choose organic, non-GMO whole food sources including grass-fed beef, chicken, and eggs.
- Avoid processed and CAFO meats, potato chips and other junk and processed foods, and store-bought salad dressings.
- Increase Omega 3 non-inflammatory oils by eating wild-caught Alaskan Salmon, cod liver oil, herring, anchovies, and sardines or supplement with a high quality, carefully chosen Omega 3.
- Rotate nuts and seeds and avoid making the higher inflammatory nuts and seeds your routine “go to” choices. Instead, enjoy the rotation of macadamia, hazelnut, cashew, and pistachio nuts, keeping in mind every source from nut butters to protein bars.
Axe, Josh, (2018, September 6). Linoleic acid helps improve brain, heart, skin, bone and reproductive health. www.draxe.com.
Levy, Jillian, (2022, March 14). 16 Omega-3 foods your body needs now. www.draxe.com
Mercola, Joseph, (2022, September 9). Ultra-processed food – The worst choice for planet and health. www.mercola.com