Almonds: Too Many Omega-6′s?

Filed under: Nutrition

One of the most well noted problems with the Western diet today is the skewed omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. These polyunsaturated fats should be at a 4:1 to 1:1 ratio for ideal health, but in today’s average American diet, it ranges anywhere from 10:1 up to 30:1 in favor of omega-6′s!

Both omega-3′s and omega-6′s are essential fatty acids, meaning that we as humans cannot produce them (though we can technically produce some omega-3′s, it is not an efficient or wholly effective process) and must ingest them from food sources. They also both compete for the same metabolic enzymes and their ratio will significantly influence the body’s level of inflammation.

Omega-6′s are necessary for the inflammatory process, which is an essential part of healing, as well playing a large role in the health of the skin. Omega-3′s are essential to keep inflammation in check, and are also beneficial for cardiovascular, brain, eye, and joint health as well as innumerable other benefits.

The problem is that many leading nutritionists and their followers get so stuck on this ratio idea that they often miss the big picture. They will talk about how you should avoid foods that are too high on the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio spectrum. This may be true in cases of foods that contain huge amounts of polyunsaturated fats that are mainly omega-6′s, for example corn oil, but it does not hold true for every food that has a ratio above 4:1 like so many profess.

Straight up poison

Straight up poison

1 tablespoon of corn oil contains roughly 7.2 grams of omega-6′s and .16 grams of omega-3′s, or for the ratio nuts out there about 45:1. This is a problem. It is very difficult to consume foods with enough omega-3′s and minimal omega-6′s to balance that out.

Where this actually isn’t a problem are foods like almonds and olive oil. Many people who focus strongly on the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio will tell you to steer clear of almonds. While it is true that they have a omega-6 to omega-3 ratio even worse than that poison corn oil, at an astounding 1987:1, they contain far less actual omega-6′s at 3.3 grams (along with a paltry 1.7mg of omega-3′s). So even though they have a far worse ratio, their actual amount of omega-6′s is a number that is much easier to overcome.

Simply consuming 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds will provide you with 1.6 grams of omega-3′s while only providing .4 grams of omega-6′s, giving us a nearly 2:1 ratio with the almonds. While that same tablespoon of flax would only improve the corn oil ratio to 4.3:1, even that is almost right where we want to be!

It is true that most foods contain more omega-6′s than omega-3′s, so you don’t want to consume, or at least over-consume, foods with tremendous gram differences, simply for the fact that there are only so many omega-3′s to go around to help balance that out, but that doesn’t mean that all foods with ratios above 4:1 are off limits. This would remove tons of tremendously healthy foods from the diet:

  • almonds
  • pecans
  • olive oil
  • hemp seeds
  • avocado
  • peanut butter
  • pumpkin seeds
  • and more
eat some!

eat some!

The simple fact of the matter is that people need to stop only looking at individual components of individual foods and making ill-conceived judgements. Almonds offer lots of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, and fiber, as well as vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, antioxidants and more. We need to remember not to miss the forests for the trees.

The far more important fact is to judge foods on their entire nutritional value (of which we are still learning so many things) and your diet as a whole. Simply because you consume some almonds on a daily basis is not an issue, especially if you are consuming pasture-raised or omega-3 eggs, grass-fed meats, wild-caught fatty fish, fish oil, flax, chia, and walnuts on a daily or weekly basis.

The point of the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is not to look at individual foods, but to look at your intake from your entire diet, so stop being an ass-clown and eat some damn almonds.

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Posted on September 2nd, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre

20 Comments

  1. Robert Says:

    What are your thoughts about ALA conversion to DHA as well as antinutrient content in flax? I read that Cordain has changed his stance on flax and doesn’t recommend them anymore, but I’d be curious to hear what you have to say.

  2. Home-made Trail Mix : The Home of BSP Training & Nutrition Says:

    [...] cup roasted, salted almonds or mixed [...]

  3. Jeff Brewster Says:

    Brian,

    Given the spirit of this blog post, do you think the information in the following post (specifically the portion toward the bottom under the heading of “Hemp: Not For Human Consumption”) misses the mark by throwing hemp products under the bus? From the tone of the comments, it sounds like their verdict on hemp would remain as is, even when considering that a portion of the n-6 PUFA’s in hemp are from GLA.

    Of course I came across this link after placing an order through Manitoba Harvest, so I was hoping that the negative slant on using hemp products as food sources was mostly just a bogus viewpoint being peddled by the author. I’ve also noticed that the folks over at the WAPF aren’t keen on raw cacao, either, saying that as a seed, it’s anti-nutrient content is too high to make it a worthwhile food choice.

    If you could see my head now, it would look like it was on a merry-go-round, hah, hah.

    http://www.westonaprice.org/farm-a-ranch/457-instead-of-soybeans-hemp-and-kenaf.html

  4. You Asked, I Answered : The Home of BSP Training & Nutrition Says:

    [...] of things that I do not agree with as well. This question can be summed up in so many ways by my blog post on the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. I think people take the omega-6 content of a food too far. If huge portions of your diet contain [...]

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    Here are some details about how wonderful almonds are. Professionals have revealed that individuals who ate a diet that incorporated almonds were more probable to reduce the extra pounds than the individuals who chose a diet program with the identical number of calories. Almonds are also packed full of nutrients, check out all the subsequent nutrients that almonds contain: magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B2, manganese also called riboflavin and phosphorus. The beneficial thing is 90 percent of the fats in almonds are unsaturated!

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