One of my readers recently asked me a question. Here it goes – “Nidhi.. I have a doubt. Is there a limitation in terms of quantity while consuming flax seed, as I read somewhere that if consumed more (I do not know how much) then the balance of Omega-3 vs Omega-6 will be disturbed in the body and it is not good. I add 2 teaspoons of flax seed just before making rotis. If I add in rotis as well as Sabji, is there a problem?”
If we do not have fats then we will never lose fat. And this is a fact. I see a lot of people not eating paranthas, sabzis and dals just because they think that these things are made of oil which will make them fat. Hardly 2-3 tbsp oil goes into preparing these things, of which only 1/3 comes to our portion. Will a body of 5 feet (on average) get fat with half or one tbsp oil?
In the name of dieting, people eat a lot of fruits, but not dal, sabzi roti. Huh? That is not dieting, that is cruelty. And fruits have more carbs, especially quick carbs, which serve more chances of making you fat than any food with minimal oil does.
Dieting does not mean eating less. It just means eating the best.
And the best is home-made food. Packaged, frozen, processed, baked – all such types of food are definitely not good for your body.
So now the topic is Omega-3, flaxseeds and the dosage.
There are 3 types of fats:
1. Saturated fats: These are solid at room temperature: butter, animal fats, coconut, palm oil, etc. They have long chain fatty acids so they are a bit difficult for our body to absorb. This reminds me that even desi ghee is solid at room temp but it has small fatty acid chains so it is not difficult to absorb, unless you get highly processed desi ghee from market.
Having said that, even those long-chained ones are not bad; they are good to be had once in a while. They are difficult to absorb but not impossible, and they have other goodness too. So home-made white butter or coconut oil or lean meat once in a while are essential.
2. Unsaturated fats: They are liquid at room temperature; all oils except coconut oil fall under this category. These consist of some of the essential fatty acids, which have to be provided through our diet.
Unsaturated fats are divided into two groups of EFA -
a. Mono unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA):
These are found in peanuts, olives, avocados, almonds, etc. We already know how greatly olive oil is revered by people who want to get fit. I usually hear people say proudly, “I use no other oil except olive oil.” Why? Is it some kind of magic oil? Has it made you lose oodles of weight? I have never heard anyone say that though.
On a serious note, olive oil has MUFA, which is very good for the heart’s health. It is mainly this MUFA component that makes it so special and essential.
MUFA is in peanuts and almonds too. That is the reason I keep asking you to have peanut or almond butter, or use them as cooking oils. Why run after Italian olives or American avocados when we have our Indian peanuts and almonds?
b. Poly unsaturated fats (PUFA)
Again, they are of two types: Omega-3 and Omega-6. Omega-6 is found in sunflower, safflower oil, mostly vegetable oils. Omega-3 is found in flax seeds, walnuts and fish oils.
Well, now we come to the question. Indian diet has more of Omega-6 fatty acids as compared to Omega-3 fatty acids. Ideally the ratio should be 2:1 but mostly it is 20:1.
Do we need to mind this ratio? Yes. But I always believe that food is love. Once we start counting calories and ratios then food becomes more of a mathematical equation. So I have always believed that instead of getting into mathematical details, it is better to understand what to eat when and to know what the symptoms of various deficiencies are. For the dosage, let your body guide itself. That solves a lot of problems. Unless you are having supplements. Then the dosage is necessary.
Coming to Omega-3, it comes from three fatty acids.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in walnuts and vegetable oils like flaxseed, soybean, peanuts and olives which the body eventually, but in small quantities, converts to DHA.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is found primarily in fish oil. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is also found in fish oil.
The fish oil supplements are the best absorbed. In fact, ALA is also converted into DHA for absorption. Now as far as the dosage goes, I will answer in terms of: what to eat when and what the symptoms of its deficiencies are.
Symptoms related to deficiencies: No fat loss, even after putting in a lot of hard work in workout. Very dry skin, joint pain, memory loss, irritation, problem in conceiving, heart problems, acne, strained eyes.
What to eat when: Have them as fish oil supplements of at least 600mg DHA per day or eat fish as per your appetite. Flaxseeds could be had with sabzi as well as chapatis (nothing will happen, believe me). Have walnuts, peanuts, etc. as mini meals.
Eat fats; the denser ones as meals, and the lighter ones as combined meals. For example, nuts or cheese or a glass of milk or fish or lean meat as a meal in itself whereas flaxseeds or oils with other things.
Got my point?