Will Nuts Interfere with Omega 3s?

Dear Jack,

While it was recommended to adjust the intake of oils to match an ideal omega-6:omega3 ratio, I have heard that this precaution didn’t apply to the consumption of seeds and nuts. In other words, you could have those in the amounts you deemed right and according to your taste, without worrying about their omega-6 and omega-3 composition.

Answer:

The main concern with omega-3s from plant foods (aka ALA) is whether it is being converted into DHA. There is evidence that a lot of people do not convert it efficiently, especially if their diets are high in omega-6s (as most vegan diets are).

Hempseeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are high in ALA, so these seeds would help correct an omega-6 to omega-3 imbalance. But other seeds and most nuts are primarily omega-6 and monounsaturated fats and could prevent the converstion of ALA to DHA. That said, nuts have so many beneficial effects that I would not want to recommend that people eat less than they want. Seeds have not been studied like nuts, so it’s hard for me to say if they are as healthy as nuts.

The easiest way to ensure you are getting enough DHA is just to take a DHA supplement, and then you do not need to worry if your omega-6s are preventing the conversion of ALA into DHA.

You can read more about omega-3s here.

8 Responses to “Will Nuts Interfere with Omega 3s?”

  1. Jack Norris RD Says:

    A follow up question:

    “The considerations brought to bear are the same as those one would take into account in thinking about oils. My question is: Is the situation different with nuts and seeds, in that they are whole foods, with fiber, other vitamins and phytonutrients? In other words, doesn’t the need to balance different oils stem from their being a pure extract, which the body has never seen before the last century? Could it be that when whole, nuts and seeds are properly processed by the body such that it goes on to take what it needs and leave the rest?”

    My answer:

    To my knowledge, the body does not have a mechanism to choose which fats it absorbs and which fats it does not such that it has the most healthy ratio, either from oils or whole foods.

    However, nuts do not have as much fat per volume, and the fiber in nuts does reduce the amount of fat absorbed, so by eating nuts you will not ingest or absorb nearly as much omega-6 per volume or weight as you would eating oils.

  2. veganlinda Says:

    Do you have a favorite DHA supplement? I have tried several and they all make me gag. The “fishy” taste makes me sick to my stomach (very unusual for me) so while I was pregnant I consumed Silk with DHA (not a brand I support and I haven’t seen the DHA fortified one lately). I even tried DHA supplements in my daily green smoothie, but I could still taste it. The kids are the same.

    Is there a way to tell if one is converting the ALA properly? I would much rather eat wanuts and ground flax seeds than a DHA supplement. Btw, from what you said about fiber decreasing the amount of fat absorbed, would it be better to use flax seed oil?

  3. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Linda,

    Joel Fuhrman says he takes great care to make sure his DHA supplements are never rancid, you might want to try his. I found Spectrum’s to have very little smell to them. You can find out if you are converting DHA by eating only ALA for awhile and then having your DHA levels tested. It’s probably best to have them tested at two points in time to assess the change. I do not know how easy it is to get them tested, but it can be done.

  4. Rachel Says:

    I have a question about oils. Is it possible to get too much oils by taking things like hemp oil, flax seed oil, O-Mega-Zen Liquid omega-3 from nutru.com, etc?

    http://www.rawguru.com/store/raw-food/Vegan-DHA-O-Mega-Zen-3.html

    Yesterday I had my first eye check-up in about 18 years. I’m 35, and I don’t wear glasses. But I noticed my vision has been getting a little blurry lately. And for the last couple years, I’ve been getting dry eyes (I never had that before). Anyway … the main thing that the optometrist found wrong with me (other than a very mild astigmatism and very mild far sighted-ness) was … OILY EYELIDS! Yes. Oily eyelids!!! I was like, huh? What could cause that?

    Right away the optometrist asked if I had been taking any supplements like flaxseed oil or fish oil, etc. She said that if you take too many of these oily supplements, when you were getting enough oil in your diet already, it can come out through the pores in your skin, such as in your eyelids. And somehow the oily eyelids causes your eyes to dry out.

    So … anyway … UGH!!! I thought I was doing so good by taking all these plant oils and liquid supplements, etc. Now … I don’t know. How will I know how much is too much? I don’t even know how to tell if my eyelids are OILY or not … geez, it’s so weird!!! And the optometrist said it can take a few months for a dietary change to really take effect …. so I don’t even know how I can check my progress and figure out if I’m getting the balance right.

    Do you think I should just stop taking the oil supplements completely? I eat a pretty healthy diet in general. If I need to cut out the oil supplements, I guess I can still keep taking my B12 liquid drops (I don’t think that has any oils in it) as well as my regular vitamins (vegan D, calcium, etc).

    Any advice Jack? THANK YOU!

  5. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Rachel,

    Is your optometrist saying that your oily eyelids are causing your vision to be blurry? How much oil (or fat) do you get in addition to your supplements?

  6. Rachel Says:

    I think the blurry vision is from the mild astigmatism and mild far-sightedness. So she gave me a small prescription for that. The dry eyes, I’m not sure, I think it contributes to eye strain and can lead to other problems down the road? And of course, having the proper moisture on your eyes does help you focus etc. So the dryness in the eye is related, but probably not the main cause of my slightly blurry vision.

    Also, the OILY EYELIDS … well, that’s a problem on its own because she said, not only does it lead to dryness of the eye, it can lead to chronic problems such as inflammation of the eyelids or other infections.

    http://www.oprah.com/style/Whats-Up-with-Oily-Eyelids

    Hey! I found a link where someone asked about oily eyelids. You know what, I wonder if it might be caused by me putting too much eye cream on! I HAVE been going gangbusters with my natural eye creams the past couple weeks. I think that makes a lot more sense as the cause. I will try keeping the eye cream AWAY FROM my eyelids from now on and see if that helps.

    Also … Jack, for your question about how much oil I normally eat … I have no idea. But I have been eating a lot of tortilla chips lately. I’m thinking I will stop eating those! Other than large amounts of chips, salsa, and hummus, lately my diet has consisted of:

    1) fresh fruits: bananas, stone fruits, apples, blueberries, or tomatoes,

    2) salads made with beets, fresh raw spinach and spring mix, raw cauliflower, broccoli, spring peas, cabbage, carrots, sunflower seeds, pickled ginger, sesame seeds, red bell peppers, green onions, and sometimes a little tofu or red beans or garbanzo beans, and

    3) corn tortillas with grapeseed oil veganaise, hemp oil, hemp nuts, green spring mix (I eat a whole package for dinner), salsa, avocado, and …

    4) tofutti cuties!!!!

    All of the above is what I would eat on a typical day, no kidding. I didn’t plan to write it out that way, but yes … that’s my typical breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. (plus … chips and salsa and hummus for snacks … but like I said, I’m going to cut out the chips from now on.)

    So … maybe I’m getting enough oils already without the Omega-Zen supplements? Or maybe it’s just an issue of the eye creams. (Hoping!!!)

    Thanks so much Jack … If you have time to offer any advice on the oily eyelids or diet recommendations in general, that would be great!

    Take care,
    Rachel

  7. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Rachel,

    It doesn’t sound like your diet is particularly high in fat. I would see how your eyes are after cutting back on the eye cream. But I would be careful how much omega-3s you take. You mentioned hemp, flaxseed, and DHA. I would stick with no more than 300 mg DHA per day, and .5 g of ALA which is the equivalent of:

    1/5 oz English walnuts (3 halves)
    1/4 tsp of flaxseed oil
    1 tsp of canola oil
    1 tsp ground flaxseeds

    Good luck!

  8. Meo Says:

    For Rachel – I have very similar problems with dry eyes contributing to blurry vision. I have not had my eyes checked recently to see if I have oily eyes, but will do so. However, I have also attributed my dry eyes and blurriness to perimenopausal symptoms. This is just another avenue that you can check on. This can start in mid-30’s as well. Blessings…

Leave a Reply