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Omega 3 – Essential or Critical Fatty Acids




Latest findings show that the average population in developed countries gets less than 10% of their Omega 3 needs.  This can only be corrected by having a balanced diet because the human body cannot synthesise Omega 3 fatty acid.

Sitting in at a presentation by noted nutritional biochemist, Professor Philippe Legrand, we were presented with his facts and figures thus leading to the conclusion that most of us must correct our Omega 3 Fatty Acid deficiency. Omega 3 fatty acid has to be obtained through consumption of food sources rich in Omega 3 such as sardines, tuna and salmon.

During his research, Prof Legrand found that while it is recommended that we need at least 2.7g of Omega 3 in our daily diet, the average population in the developed countries usually get less than 10% of their needs.

Omega 3 deficiency in Singapore

According to studies done by the National Nutrition Survey 2010, an average Singaporean’s diet ratio of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA): Monounsaturated Fatty Acid (MUFA): Saturated Fatty Acid (SFA) is currently at 0.5: 1: 1.  This is far from consuming enough essential polyunsaturated fatty acids and this flags a concern with Singaporeans consuming more saturated and monounsaturated fats.

Essential Fatty Acids : Essential or Critical?

These polyunsaturated fatty acids are called “essential” because the human body is unable to synthesise them, so we have no choice but to get them from our diet.  If our bodies do not get sufficient essential fatty acids, we increase our risk of becoming ill, because they have important roles in processes like preventing blood clotting and inflammation.  Prof Legrand went on to tell us that “Omega 3 intake must be balanced with consideration to Omega 6 which are also essential fatty acids”.

The truth about Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are commonly known to prevent cardiovascular diseases but their actions and impact on health occurs beyond this.  Omega 3’s inflammation lowering effects, for example, could improve brain disorders, cancer growth and other pathologies like age-related macular degeneration.

We learn that today, most people are consuming an imbalance intake of more Omega 6 instead of Omega 3.  Excess in Omega 6 intake can increase inflammation and potentially raising the risk of all sorts of diseases.


How do we ensure sufficient intake of Omega 3?

Prof Legrand recommends that “It is encouraged, for instance, to consume more olive oil to reduce Omega 6 in our food intake, and limit the amount of intake on sunflower, maize or soy oils as these are rich in Omega 6.  Also, choose products from grass-fed animals, linseed or other Omega 3-rich sources.  Adding fatty fish and seafood like sardines mackerel, tuna, herring and salmon in to our diet at least twice a week is recommended”.

Small diet changes will make BIG differences

The good news, as we aim to correct our Omega 3 deficiency, is that small, and often simple, changes to our recipes will make BIG differences.  For example:-

CHINESE DISHES – Sardines in a steamed fish and ginger recipe, or substitute the pork with fish in a sweet and sour dish,

MALAY DISHES – Nasi Lemak can be made Omega 3-rich by adding in salmon and tuna to the dish,Udang Masak Merak includes Omega 3-rich prawn in the chilli paste, and Sayur Lodeh is a curry including vegetables with tofu and egg,

INDIAN DISHES – such as chutney and chapati can be changed to incorporate tuna in the chutney along with tuna and onion in the chapati, while tandoori chicken is equally tasty, yet Omega 3-rich, when you cook salmon in place of the chicken.

When choosing eggs, use the eggs fortified with Omega 3 which can be found in most food markets.


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