There’s Omega 3 in nuts, but should you be eating them?

As more and more people recognize the importance of Omega 3 fatty acids to health, more people are also looking for Omega 3 foods, in other words foods high in Omega 3 essential fatty acids.

And today we wanted to look at Omega 3 in nuts. Because nuts are a rich source of Omega 3 fats, and are also yummy, and should be good for you for other reasons as well. But there’s still some questions about the health benefits of eating nuts.

Nuts are high in fat.

Although there is Omega 3 in nuts they have a bad reputation, not necessarily well earned, for several reasons. Many people associate eating nuts with consuming high levels of fat, and assume that just because nuts are high in fat they are no good for you.

However avoiding nuts because of their high fat content reveals a basic misunderstanding of the role of fats in health.

It’s important to understand that there are different types of fats, and that not all are bad for you. In fact some are extremely good for you.Omega 3 in nuts

Saturated fat, which is the type of fat found primarily in animal products, is not good for you, and for this reason you should limit your intake of foods high in saturated fat. However Omega 3 fats, or what are often called the essential fatty acids, are fats which are extremely good for you.

However not all “Omega” fats are Omega 3. It is also possible to get Omega 6 fats, (and others), which, whilst important for your health, should not be consumed in excess.

The most common source of Omega 6 fats in our diet is vegetable oils, commonly used in processed foods. These are very high in Omega 6.

Researchers are beginning to understand that many of us now eat way too much Omega 6 fats, and not enough Omega 3. In the past we tended to eat roughly as much of the Omega 6 fats as the Omega 3’s, now there is a tendency to eat way more 6 than 3, and this is not good for us. There’s even a ratio for it, called the Omega 3 Omega 6 ratio. (Scientists love ratios.)

Nuts are high in Omega 3, however also contain 6 as well. For this reason many people who have begun to learn about the ratio assume that nuts are not good for you.

Confused about Nuts and Omega 3 yet?

It all becomes pretty confusing doesn’t it? Nuts and Omega 3 go together, but so, it seems, do nuts and Omega 6. To confuse the matter further nuts also have some saturated fat.

So should you eat nuts? Are they good for you?

Evidence says nuts are healthy, but……

There is scientific evidence that eating nuts can help protect you against heart disease. This may be because of those good essential fatty acids. Walnuts have also been shown to lower cholesterol.

And there is some evidence that Oleic acid, commonly found in olive oil, may help protect against heart disease. Almonds, for example, contain Oleic acid.

And there is emerging evidence that nuts may help with type II diabetes.

There’s even evidence that walnuts can help prevent breast cancer.

And yet nuts are also very high in calories, and so perhaps should be avoided for this reason, particularly if you’re watching your weight. Then again they are also high in fibre, which can help you lose weight.

And so it’s even more confusing.

And to make it even more so, there is the added argument about ALA, DHA and EPA. The Omega 3 fat in nuts is ALA, and it is generally accepted that this type of fatty acid is not nearly as important to your health as DHA and EPA, commonly found in fish. Find out more about this particular issue read our article about ALA Omega 3.

So there are no crystal clear answers about eating nuts. It all depends. However there are solid reasons why adding some nuts to your diet can be healthy, with some qualifications.

If you’re trying to lose weight eat nuts sparingly. There’s no doubt they’re high in calories.

And if you’re not trying to lose weight then eat nuts in moderation as well.

Whilst there’s Omega 3 in nuts, there’s better ways

But if you’re eating nuts for Omega 3, there’s better ways. The best Omega 3 rich food is fish, which gives you a supply of DHA and EPA, the 2 most important Omega 3 fats. 2 fish meals a week should ensure a basic level of Omega 3 intake, though we usually suggest that a daily fish oil supplement is by far the simplest and most cost-effective way to an adequate intake of Omega 3 fats.

By all means eat nuts, they’re yummy and nutritious, but in moderation. But they’re not the best Omega 3 food. The best Omega 3 food is fish.

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