The Omega Imbalance in Nuts

26 Mar 2018

For any of you who have followed my writings for the past decade or more, I have tried to emphasize the importance of balancing omega-3 and omega-6 fats in our diet. The problem with the Western Diet is that we consume far too many omega-6 fats and almost no omega-3 fats. Does this matter? Emphatically, yes!

Omega-3 fats reduce inflammation and nourish our nervous system. Omega-6 fats activate in the inflammatory process; this is important for processes such as fighting an infection, tissue repair after trauma or surgery. I have explored these issues in depth in my first and third books and would encourage all of you to read them if you want to better understand these essential fats.

The problem with the Western Diet is that we consume far too much omega-6 fat in our diet. These are found in vegetable oils, fast foods, processed foods and the like. At the same time, our diet has very little omega-3 fats in the foods that we find in restaurants, fast foods or the grocery store.

I recently posted an article about our ability to now measure the omega-3 and omega-6 content in our body. The test (Omega Check) allows us to see how balanced our diet has been for the previous 120 days. I have been testing individuals who have been supplementing their diet with omega-3 capsules (fish, flax or krill) since the Food and Drug Administration approved the test and have been amazed by the lack of our omega balance in spite of supplementation. Nearly everyone has had an excess of omega-6 fat in their test results.

Several patients and I were reviewing their diets as they are truly trying to eat “clean” by avoiding processed foods, fast foods, GMO-produced foods, etc. We went through their entire daily consumption of foods and what I found led to the writing of this article. One lady snacks on organic pistachios throughout the day. Another gentleman loves his peanuts as his “go to” snack. The list goes on.

Nuts are touted as a great snack food by the nutrition industry and I had never questioned their wisdom until the results of the omega blood test produced such high omega-6 levels in so many of my patients. Because of these patients’ results, I began homeworking the omega levels of nuts. I have produced this table that will help you see the problem very clearly.

NUT              Calories*      Omega-3’s    Omega-6’s      0-6/0-3 Ratio
Almond              207         0.0001 gm       4.4 gm             44000.0
Brazil                 218         0.001               6.8                     6800.0
Cashew             175         0.04                 2.5                         62.5
Coconut              71          0                      0.07                        0
Hazel                181          0.03                 2.3                        76.7
Macadamia       241         0.07                 0.43                        6.1
Peanut              204         0.07                  3.6                        51.4
Pecan               188         0.27                  5.6                        20.7
Pine Nut           227         0.04                 11.3                     282.5
Pistachio          171         0.08                   4.1                       51.3
Soybean          194         0.62                   4.6                         7.4
Walnut             191          2.7                   11.1                        4.1

*Serving size is one fourth cup of Nuts

As can be seen from this table, omega-6 fats dominate nut content of the omega fats. The ideal omega-6/omega-3 ratio should be 0.5 and the table reveals that coconut is the only nut that comes close to this ratio. And, that is because coconut does not contain omega fats. Walnuts are the only nuts that contain any significant amount of omega-3 fat.

It is now clear from this information that snacking on nuts all day will lead to excess buildup of omega-6 fat in our bodies as was seen in my patients. It is also important to remember that we need to consume about two grams of omega-3 fat for each gram of omega-6 fat to reach the ideal ratio of these two fats. As an example, if you consumed one serving (one fourth cup) of pistachios in a day, you would need to supplement yourself with eight grams of omega-3 fat (fish, flax or krill) to counteract this much omega-6 fat. That is a lot of fish oil: about 16 capsules per day.

There are several important things to remember about snacking on nuts. First of all, a single serving of only one fourth cup of nuts is very calorie dense and we can rapidly consume a lot of extra calories in a day. Second, unless you actually measure out your nuts, you can rapidly consume a significant excess of omega-6 fat for the day. Our daily requirement for omega-6 fat is about one gram per day while our daily requirement is twice that amount. Finally, you will need a great deal of supplementary omega-3 fat to rebalance your omega-6/omega-3 ratio.

I hope this is helpful for you. Nuts are low to carbohydrates as I will point out in another article in the near future but be cautious when trying to maintain nutritional balance with your omega fats.

Dr. M. Frank Lyons