by Paul Tarbath
We have been getting several questions, asking us to write about raw vegan omega 3 and omega 6 sources. This is a common question amongst raw vegans and, especially, those who are new to the diet. No doubt you would have heard the mainstream medical establishment saying that many people need to be supplementing their Omega 3 with fish oils, however, this all stems from the fact that people who eat the Standard Western Diet consume a diet that gives them too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3.
So let’s break this down a little first for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term fatty acids. Fats contain what are termed fatty acids which can be polyunsaturated (PUFA’s), saturated or monosaturated, with the large majority of fats coming from plants being either polyunsaturated or monosaturated. Plant-based fats are known as the healthy fats.
What Omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids do for you (in a healthy amount and ratio):
- Aid healthy cell development
- Assist with nervous system and brain function
- Aid blood clotting
- Aid hormone regulation
- Have anti-inflammatory qualities that the body uses to protect itself
- Help us to maintain healthy skin, nails and hair
- Aid correct liver function
- Involved with blood pressure regulation
Now, too much consumption of omega 6 and a high imbalance in the ratio to omega 3, which are typically 15/1-16.7/1 on the western diet, can promote a host of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (1). Achieving a good balance and a healthy intake of these fatty acids is easily done when you consume a diet of whole, plant-based foods. Raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds have an abundance of both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.
Can you get enough omega 3 and 6 on a raw vegan diet and in the right ratio?
The general understanding is that omega 3 fatty acids should make up a good proportion of the fats that we consume, whether that comes in overt or non-overt forms. Eating a low-fat, raw food diet, you can easily achieve a very healthy intake/ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids and so benefit from their many health pluses. A 1:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is thought to have been the ratio humans originally evolved with and ratios closer to this balanced ratio such as (omega 6/omega 3) 4/1, 2.5/1, 2-3/1 have seen many health benefits in studies (2). Try using the cron-o-meter (a free downloadable software program avaliable from here) that allows you to track your daily nutrient intake from what you eat.
Some raw vegan foods that are very good sources of omega 3 include:
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
Foods sources that include good amounts of omega 6 include: avocado, pine nuts, brazil nuts, almond nuts, hemp seeds and sesame seeds.
For example, the following menu (2,500 calories) will provide you with 4g of Omega 3:
Breakfast: about 4 mango and 12oz (350g) blueberries
Lunch: about 11 medium sized bananas
Dinner: 1lb (450g) oranges, later followed by 1lb (450g) romaine lettuce, 8oz (226g) tomatoes, 10g flax seeds.
Eating a varied diet of whole, raw fruits, vegetables and some nuts and seeds, you will be able to more than adequately consume enough Omega 3 and Omega 6 and obtain a healthy ratio of both.