STARTING THE LOW OMEGA 6 DIET
The basis behind the high omega 3/low omega 6 regimen is explained in Chapter 15.
We've gotten many questions on how to go about this, so additional details on the low omega 6 diet are outlined below. Since the low omega 6 diet goes hand-in-hand with high omega 3, information on the high omega 3 supplementation is outlined here.
The key is to make the low omega 6 diet sustainable, so I took my usual diet and tried to replace high omega 6 food items with low omega 6 options.
It will take 1-2 weeks of diligently going through one's usual diet (everything that enters your mouth: food, drinks, snacks, oils used to cook foods, eating out) to calculate how much omega 6 you ingest. It will require reading nutritional labels or searching online for nutritional facts. A food weighing scale was useful for me to understand the portion size to approximate the amount of omega 6.
After getting a good idea of how much omega 6 is in the common foods one eats, you can eliminate foods that are high in omega 6 and find replacements for them. You may find other omega 6 culprits in your normal diet in addition to the ones I list here.
HIGH OMEGA 6 CULPRITS
The biggest culprits to high omega 6 I found are:
1) OILS: cooking oils, oils in condiments (salad dressing, mayonnaise, dips, sesame seed oil - common in Asian foods)
2) NUTS and SEEDS: most are high in omega 6, apart from macadamia nuts
3) SOYBEAN products: soymilk, tofu (the firmer the tofu, the more omega 6), soybean oil. (There is no omega 6 in soysauce, as there is no oil in it)
4) PROCESSED FOODS: chips, snacks, frozen food
5) EATING OUT: unidentified cooking oil (usually these are the high omega 6 oils: soybean oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, etc) and unknown amount of oil in the food
HOW TO LOWER OMEGA 6
How I've tackled each of these high omega 6 culprits:
1) OILS: I use very little oil to cook in general. But when I do cook with high heat, I use coconut oil (refined, if you don't like the coconut flavor), avocado oil (from Costco) or butter. For salads or for pouring on pasta/soup, I use olive oil.
2) NUTS and SEEDS: I try to pick nuts that are lower in omega 6, and eat them in small amounts: almonds, cashew, hazelnuts. Walnuts do have high omega 3, but if you look closely, walnuts have an even higher amount of omega 6. When doing the high omega 3/ low omega 6 diet, I don't consider the walnut "OK" because the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is still very high. Macadamia nuts have no omega 6. I avoid seeds (sunflower seeds, sesame seeds) - if these are in bread, check the PUFA content in the nutritional facts (See point 4 below).
3) SOYBEAN: I avoid tofu and soymilk. Occasionally now, I eat silken tofu, as the omega 6 is less than regular tofu.
4) PROCESSED FOODS: I look under the "FAT" content in the Nutritional Facts label, for the Polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) content. PUFA includes both omega 3 and omega 6. However, there is usually so little omega 3 in food that I assume all the PUFA is omega 6 (apart from salmon).
What if the label doesn't list PUFA? Then I assume the worse case scenario. I take the total fat, then subtract all the other fats that are listed, such as monounsaturated fat, saturated fat. I assume the resulting total to be all omega 6.
This usually eliminates a lot of the chips in the supermarket aisle! You will be surprised how high the PUFA content are in some chips. Some chips that I've found that are low in omega 6 include: Late July Tortilla chips (at Costco), Sunchips, Kettle baked chips. Of course, if you end up eating bags of the chips, you'll still end up with high omega 6, so keep in mind the total amount of omega 6 one is eating.
5) EATING OUT:
- I try to avoid fried foods or foods that are cooked with oil.
- I ask for burgers/ sandwiches/ salads without dressing or sauce. Mustard and ketchup are OK (usually no oil), I avoid mayo or any sauce with mayo mixed in. I avoid all salad dressings (usually made with soybean oil) apart from plain olive oil. Most of the time I put no dressing at all.
- Grilled, steamed, raw options usually omit the cooking oil problem.
- I take extra omega 3 after eating out to counteract the omega 6.
It takes some time to adjust to this new way of restricting one's diet. It was a bit depressing for me at first to have so many restrictions, but now I don't even need to calculate my omega 6, as my food guidelines have become second nature to me.