Food is not only fuel to burn but also sometimes the source of basic chemicals to make hormones and various other necessary chemicals for healthy living. When these building materials are oils, they are called essential fatty acids. What makes them essential is that you’re not able to make them so you have to consume them as food. Of the 20 edible fats, only omega-3 and omega-6 fats are essential building blocks for our physiology.
Of the essential fatty acids, one teaspoon of corn oil can satisfy your daily needs for omega-6 needs yet most people get 10 to 20 times that amount. Unfortunately, most of us don’t get enough of the omega-3. In fact, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 for the typical USA resident is about 25:1. By contrast, the ratio consumed by our ancient ancestors was about 1:1. The health risks associated with today’s imbalance in the dietary intake of essential fats sets us up for problems including heart disease, exacerbation of inflammation and even pregnancy implantation failure. During pregnancy, these vital omega-3 fats are needed by the developing child for healthy brain and eye development. There is even evidence that they can reduce the risk of preterm birth.
The most natural way to boost your intake of these healthy omega-3 fatty acids is to boost your consumption of the fish that naturally produce them. For vegetarian’s like myself you can increase your intake of healthy plant sources in order to get your daily recommendation 1.4 grams of omega-3 per day; for instance, flax seed oil (1/2 tsp), canola oil (1 tbsp) or soybean oil (1 tbsp + 1 tsp). At the same time, you should also consider reducing your use of oils with high levels of the omega-6 like sunflower oil, corn oil and cottonseed oil.
During pregnancy, your dietary goal for omega-3 fatty acids should be 650 mg, about half should be the specific fat called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In order to reach this goal, you should consider taking a supplement. I feel that in order to get your pregnancy off to the healthiest start, this should be started before you actually conceive. Here are some compelling reasons to consider in making this decision:
- Most, but not all commercially available fish oil supplements contain less than 2 ppb of mercury. Cod liver oil has additional risk since it is a rich source of vitamin A which can be dangerous in high levels during pregnancy. So if you’re going to use fish oil supplements to boost your omega-3; choose your manufacturer and your source carefully.
- By contrast, there are commercially available vegetarian sources of DHA made from mercury free algae. Additionally, there are no environmental contaminants since they are grown and harvested in vats.
- The use of intralipid—an IV source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids—has been shown to reduce the risk of recurrent early pregnancy loss by normalizing the immune cells that can otherwise initiate a miscarriage. In fact, we have found it to be as effective as immuno-modulatory drugs that are 10x more expensive.