How Omega 3 s can help you stay fit in Thailand: PART 1 – Omega 6 rich food is making us weak
I just let my husband read this blog and after a few minutes, he says “wow this is long!” (honesty is his best quality). It was supposed to be a short entry but somehow I got carried away because it is an important topic. So I did split the post in 2 parts. If you just want to read why we are taking the liquid form of extra virgin cod liver oil as a source of Omega 3s, just go to Part 2. If you want to read my notes on some details, please start reading this post below, i.e. Part 1:
- PART 1: understanding Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. a short summary of our health journey. how to optimise YOUR own Omega 3 intakes by carefully selecting fats you eat
- PART 2: Omega 3 supplements. Why we take the liquid form of extra virgin cod liver oil.
PART 1: UNDERSTANDING OMEGA 3 AND OMEGA 6
[OUR HEALTH JOURNEY]
Like many expats here in Thailand, we arrived in this country and got too comfortable with the wonderful lifestyle we were having. Great food everywhere, especially fruits! Mangos, pineapples, lychees, mangostins… You go to the mall, there are so many cafes with delicious sweets! We were constantly eating something.
Few years into living here, we felt that we were getting sick quite often, taking down antibiotics every few months. My migraines were getting worse and I often had to get an injection at the emergency room because no painkillers could help me. We were also gaining a lot of weight. Then we had a wake-up call: something had to be done immediately.
It took some time to adjust but now we are in good shape again. Here is what we have been doing the last 3 years to stay healthy and fit:
- Cut down on sugar dramatically
- No more sweets: whenever we were at the shopping mall, we sat down at some cafes and had a dessert like ice creams, cakes, muffins and so on. Not anymore! Rather we eat at home, eating what I bake or cook, which does not contain any sugar and mostly low carb.
- Much less fruits: we used to eat all kinds of fruits such as mangos, pomelos, pineapples, lychees, marian plums, you name it. All because they are high in Vitamin C and so on. Well, there is so much fructose our bodies can process! Nowadays we just take fruits which are low in fructose, such as berries, passion fruits, and so on, or lacto-ferment them to reduce the sugar contents.
- No more Nutella for my husband: he was super addicted to this evil thing all his life. He stopped eating croissants for breakfast, so no need for Nutella! Anyway, he finds that gross now.
- No more refined-sugar in our kitchen: we use sugar alcohol such as erythritol and xylitol, which are low glycemic. Erythritol is my favourite because it has zero carb and it causes no digestive discomfort. Now I bake everything with erythritol and it makes my desserts all pretty much guilt-free!
- No more diet soda: we used to drink at least 5 cans a day! we just lost interest in them…
- No more junk food: for a quick meal, we often stopped at Burger King or McDonald for a quick meal at night. NO MORE!
- No more processed food: I cook almost everything from scratch. I even make my own vinegars at home.
- Eat mostly organic food: we are not too strict about it, but if we can, we always try to have organically grown food.
- Eat low/moderate carbs: I only eat complex carb like sweet potatoes once a week. most of my carb comes from vegetables. My husband is happier eating moderate amount of carbs because he had some issues with digestions with little carbs.
- More healthy fat: fat intake has been more than 60% a day for me. From quality fat such as grass-fed butter, ghee, MCT oil, olive oil, coconut, pasture raised egg, wild caught salmon and extra virgin cod liver oil.
We really do feel much better and both of us haven’t been to the hospital to be treated for a common cold or some nasty infections like before. Our sleeps have been better. Our days are a lot more productive than before. I haven’t taken any painkillers in years, my life-long chronic migraines and headaches are almost gone. Of course, we have lost a lot of fat, especially my husband. And most importantly…. we just had a healthy boy after years of hopeless infertility treatments.
So what is the next step? We have been working on reducing the intake of anti-inflammatory foods. This is the reason why your body succumbs to illnesses, because something goes off-the-balance inside you. It can also add a lot more age to your face & body.
There are still many nightshades vegetables we should be avoiding, or there are also many foods which are high in histamine, which could also cause inflammation in your body. We are not too strict about it though – but we do not eat them every day. However, as far as fats are concerned, we have been particularly careful at maintaining a healthy Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio. What does it mean? Basically stop eating crap, full stop. But here are some more detailed explanations!
[OMEGA 3s vs Omega 6]
There are 2 types of important kinds of fat: Omega 6 and omega 3. They are both polyunsaturated, and they’re key to survival. We cannot produce them, you need to EAT them. That’s why low-fat diets are not a clever choice!
Omega 3s and omega 6s exist in a ratio to one another. There’s a cap on the total amount of the two that the body can use, so they end up competing for space. Omega 6s are inflammatory, while omega 3s are not. You need both, but because of the inflammation factor, it’s optimal to maximize omega 3s and minimize omega 6s.
- Omega 3s are great for your cells.
- They are an integral part of cells membranes throughout the entire body and affect the cell receptors in these membranes.
- Omega 3s also provide a launchpad for making hormones that regulate blood, heart, and genetic function.
So what’s up with the daily recommended serving on supplement labels all about? They are in fact very misleading. The question you have to ask is, how much Omega 6 are you exposed to daily.
Optimally, 4:1 ratio of an Omega 6 to Omega 3 works great. Anti-aging freaks (sorry, enthusiasts) would go for 1:1 but hey, good luck with that. It is said that the average Americans eat a ratio from 12:1 – 25:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3. That’s not good, is it.
Why are we exposed to so much Omega 6? Well, it is in all the vegetable oils people often take without realizing: corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, cotton seed oil, sunflower oil, linoleic acid, corn oil, poultry, some nuts (e.g. walnuts) and seeds (e.g. pumpkin, poppy, sesame). Vegetable oils are heavily promoted as healthy oil by the industry. We are all brain-washed. Plus, most of the processed foods contain these kinds of oils. This is why it is important to avoid eating as much processed foods as we can. If you google, there are many tables like this to give you some ideas.
Since Omega 6 fats are unstable, they get oxidized with high heats, i.e. frying and microwaving. Fried foods are unhealthy not because it is fatty, because you will be eating oxidized fats. Some go further to get Omega 6 fats stablized by hydrogenation, i.e. TRANS FAT. This is the worst.
Now think of all the food you can eat at Thai markets or food court at the mall. If you eat out often here, I bet it is extremely hard to maintain the healthy Omega 6 / Omega 3 ratio. Nowadays when I go out to eat Thai food, I avoid all those fried foods. They are all overloaded with Omega 6!!!
I just eat steamed/boiled vegetables with some dips, grilled squid, and Som Tam or other salads without sugar and MSG. Thai curry with coconut cream can be great, if they don’t use a lot of palm sugar and MSG, but they probably do. I occasionally cook it at home but I substitute it with erythritol, then it is OK for me.
What is worse than Thai street food – fast food! I won’t go into details but you can check out this link. Everything from burgers to chicken nuggets, especially the sauce, is overloaded with Omega 6 fats.