By now, you probably know that everything you eat during pregnancy or lactation affects your little one. This article will look at fat in particular - the fats you consume in your food. Despite your fear of fats leading to weight gain, you need enough fat in your diet to keep you healthy. And now, we’ve found out that your baby's weight depends on YOUR fatty acid balance!
A study has found that a balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in a mother can reduce the risk of obesity in their child. To simplify this, there is a certain ratio between Omega 3 and Omega 6 in the body, and an imbalance between them can increase your child’s risk for obesity.
Don’t worry, we have a simple guide for you that will explain Omega 3 and Omega 6, why you need them and where you can get them.
What are Omega 3 and 6?
Omega 3 and 6 are types of fatty acids, that are called as ‘essential’ fats because they are not produced by our body, and we need to get them from the food we eat.
Why do you need Omega 3 and 6 balance?
These fats are different from other fats - they are not simply used for energy or stored. They play a role in body functions like blood clotting, inflammation, as well as anti-inflammatory effects. Our body needs both inflammation and anti-inflammation to survive infections and fight diseases.
The balance between these fatty acids is crucial, because too much Omega 6 and a lack of Omega 3 leads to heart disease This is a rising problem today, because we are consuming too much Omega 6 from meats and animal products, and not enough Omega 3.
Benefits of Omega 3 and 6
Omega 6 is also important as it is pro-inflammatory in nature, and inflammation (up to a certain extent) is important for survival as it fights infection and is an immune function.
Omega 3 is important because it reduces the risk of heart diseases, reduces inflammation pain from arthritis, reducing the risk of bone loss and helping improve your mental health too. You also need Omega 3 during pregnancy for your baby’s nervous system development, as well as to prevent preterm labour and preeclampsia (high blood pressure). After birth, Omega 3 is also used by the body to produce breast milk.
Today, due to an increased consumption of meat, animal products and vegetable oils, the Omega 6 in our diets has increased, while we get little to no Omega 3, and are missing out on important nutrition.
With too much Omega 6, we have a higher risk of heart disease, asthma, arthritis - due to the inflammatory nature of Omega 6.
How does your Omega 3 and 6 balance affect your baby?
Your Omega 3 and 6 balance is important to fight obesity in your baby, and also during their childhood. Why this matters is because your baby’s weight is influenced by the microbes in his gut.
The microbes in the baby’s gut are hugely influenced by your diet during pregnancy and during breastfeeding. So your Omega 3 and 6 balance determines not just your health, but your baby’s gut microbes too.
Cut down on Omega 6 and Up your Omega 3
A balance between the two has to be achieved, not just to fight off your risk of heart diseases, but also to fight off your child’s risk of obesity. To balance these out, we need to reduce Omega 6 intake and increase Omega 3 in our food. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are rich sources of Omega 3s, and have almost no Omega 6. However, limit your fish to two or three servings a week to minimize mercury poisoning risks.
Swap your oils: Vegetable oils are high in Omega 6 and have no Omega 3 so it would be a good idea to reduce the amount of oily food you eat. If you must use oil, use olive or coconut oil where possible, and minimal vegetable oil while cooking. Avoid refined oils as much as possible.
Use flax and chia seeds wisely: Flax seeds have Omega 3, so you can try introducing them into your food. You could powder flax seeds and add it into the flour while making rotis, or add them into your smoothies while blending.
Read ingredient lists: Often, foods disguised as healthy may have vegetable oils, so read the ingredient list and avoid foods that have a lot of these.
Walnuts: Walnuts are a healthy, plant-based source of Omega 3, as well as protein. They are a great snack when paired with bananas!
Avocados: Avocados are another vegetarian source of Omega 3.
Remember to eat a balanced diet, featuring healthy foods most of the time, and a minimal amount of junk food. Pregnancy and breastfeeding periods are crucial to a child’s health and the best protection for your child would be to take good care of your health!