3

votes

Are walnuts a good source of Omega 3's?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created November 25, 2011 at 12:48 PM

I noticed in the Paleolithic Infographic that oily fish, walnuts and flaxseed oil are listed as good O3 sources right under the ideal ratio of O6:O3 being 1:1 to 4:1. Yet the ratio for walnuts exceeds 4. Not by a lot, but it's about 4.5:1. It seems those O6's sneak in with other foods and when one is deliberately trying to increase their O3 intake those foods should reduce the ratio. What say you?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on July 29, 2012
at 05:51 PM

It's a decent source of omega 3's, but not superior to pastured beef, eggs and wild caught oily fish. Don't go overboard with them. Have a handful once or twice a week as a snack :)

Medium avatar

on November 27, 2011
at 10:37 PM

Yea it mentions that in one of the articles I read, the difference in total amounts of omega 6s and 3s in grass fed vs grain fed is so small it makes it irrelevant. But as you say there are other reasons to buy grass fed meat if one can afford it. However, with the omega 3 eggs, I think having almost 20x the amount of omega 3s than regular eggs is a significant difference, in addition to higher levels of other nutrients from eating grass instead of grain.

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on November 27, 2011
at 08:10 PM

Interesting about those eggs Chris! I am surprised by the marketing of the so-called omega 3 eggs. The content is not all that different than regular eggs so I'm surprised some consumer protection agency hasn't jumped on them for that. Personally, the omega ratios for grassfed beef/meat from ruminants is not a reason to buy that form as they simply contain too little PUFA to make a difference. I am more concerned with toxins in fat or health of the animal, etc.

27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 26, 2011
at 04:31 PM

How can Dr. Lands know this? Has he done tissue biopsies on thousands of people and then adjusted for body fat, age and geography. Temperature changes saturation of body fat irrespective of diet -- I'm thinking of the pigs wearing sweater study Peat writes about that says this makes the fat more saturated.

Medium avatar

on November 26, 2011
at 05:03 AM

Yep, for more info on em check this out http://www.grass-fed-eggs.com/. Unfortunately they aren't nearly as common as pastured eggs that aren't grass fed, but if you can get em it's def worth it.

C471216c9fb4fcf886b7ac84a4046b49

(1371)

on November 26, 2011
at 03:54 AM

grass fed egg ehh???

A968087cc1dd66d480749c02e4619ef4

(20436)

on November 25, 2011
at 06:44 PM

Oily fish = good, eat plenty. Walnuts = questionable, okay in small amounts. Flax oil = useless, avoid or use to polish furniture as originally intended (flax oil = linseed oil).

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 25, 2011
at 03:42 PM

I actually exchanged email with Dr. Lands after learning that stored body fat is ~15% PUFA. He agreed that the average person has more than enough omega 6 in their tissues to last for their lifetime. The implication for me is that those of us trying to lose weight certainly want to avoid dietary omega 6. So I'd avoid walnuts even if I liked them (which I don't). But that said, for otherwise healthy folks an oz of walnuts plus 2T of ground flax is a pretty good ratio (2 to 1 6:3). It's kinda like vegetarians combining rice and beans!

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on November 25, 2011
at 02:56 PM

Nice answer Beth! I guess I'm sort of questioning the good source right under that target ratio. I realize it's for the whole diet, but your O3 sources should be like 6:3 ratio of 1:>1 to balance it all out. I have to reread Stephan's post ... lots of support for a threshold of sorts for total % in the diet or of dietary fat, and not much really done on ratio that I've seen.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 25, 2011
at 02:10 PM

If your diet is only about balancing omega 3s and 6s, perhaps. But there are lots of other needs in the diet too. And frankly, lots of people *like* nuts (tho I'm not one of them). The reality is that at 2.5g of omega 3s in an oz, walnuts *are* a good source of omega 3s which is what the infographic is pointing out. That they aren't the best source of omega 3s is also true.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on November 25, 2011
at 02:06 PM

But if you eat a food with a high 6:3 ratio, you are engaging in a self-defeating action, both from the perspective of maintaining a balance AND from reducing total PUFA load. If you eat walnuts as your O3 source, you approach a poor PUFA ratio unless you're eating pure O3 from some other source, which calls into question the idea of eating walnuts for O3 in the first place. If you're eating walnuts for some other reason, then they may or may not be a good food depending on the context. In the context of PUFA ratio/total load though I can't see how they could possibly count as a "good" source.

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9 Answers

4
27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 25, 2011
at 06:07 PM

Hi C-S,

Not all of the omega6 in walnuts will be as bioavalable as if you were using walnut oil. The fiber content of the whole nut and whether or not you are eating them raw are also confounding factors as to the bioavailability of the omega 6. If you enjoy walnuts, enjoy them freshly cracked and raw. If you have a sluggish thyroid, best to enjoy them in moderation and dry roasted if you tend to eat lots of them as raw walnuts are a goitregen --ymmv.

If you want omega 3 -- ditch the nuts and eat sardines or oily fish as overweights, diabetics, hypothyroids do not convert the ALA well as per Beth's excellent answer. IMO, this whole omega-6 to omega-3 ratio business has gone way too far down the road of pure speculation. I see omega 6 becoming a scapegoat just as carbs were demonized (fear of whole grains, tubors etc) and then fructose (fear of figs, pears, watermelon, etc).

4
4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on November 25, 2011
at 02:01 PM

My understanding has been that nuts are not particularly good foods when it comes to balancing your PUFA intake, for exactly the reasons you cite. I haven't actually thought about it in a long time because it seemed like one of those settled questions that is obvious once you've been down the rabbit hole long enough; most paleo bloggers have commented on it (or at least that's what I would have said prior to reading this question).

So I would say, good catch. I've never read the infographic carefully and this seems like a worthy fix to make.

3
Medium avatar

on November 25, 2011
at 07:37 PM

I think what matters most isn't the omega 6/3 ratio of each specific food, although that's a factor, but the omega 6/3 ratio of your overall diet. If you don't eat any processed foods and eat lots of fish and seafood and don't eat vast amounts of nuts, especially the ones higher in omega 6s, then you don't have to worry about how much walnuts you eat. It's best to eat foods that have DHA and EPA like fish since those are the omega 3s that our brain uses directly, unlike ALA, which needs to be converted. As noted in another answer, there's some debate about the efficiency of this conversion and so far the science shows that it's not very efficient. "Using deuterated ALA in controlled human trials coupled with GLC-mass spec analysis of newly formed DHA in human trials, conversion efficiencies ranging from 0 to 8% on average have been reported. Furthermore, a recent study has shown that the consumption of several grams of ALA per day failed to increase the low levels of DHA in human breast milk" http://www.dhaomega3.org/Overview/Differentiation-of-ALA-plant-sources-from-DHA-%2B-EPA-marine-sources-as-Dietary-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids-for-Human-Health. The omega 6/3 ratio of each food, to me, isn't as important as my overall 6/3 ratio because I can eat some foods that have a high omega 6/3 ratio while eating some that have a lower one, as long as the total balance per day is about 1-3:1. However, we do have to pay attention to the individual omega 6/3 ratio of foods we eat a lot of. Take beef for example. One study showed that, "Cattle fed grain for 120 days (40 fewer days than typical for feedlot cattle) had Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios of 11 to one. Forage-fed (alfalfa hay) cattle had Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios of 3 to one." We probably shouldn't be relying on beef for our omega 3s in terms of overall amount (Grass fed beef: 25mg omega-3/ounce; Grain fed beef: 15mg omega-3/ounce), but if you eat a lot of it, I think there will be significant negative cumulative effects of beef that has a high omega 6/3 ratio vs beef with a low one (grass fed) http://texasgrassfedbeef.com/omega_3_fatty_acids.htm. Eggs are much more important in terms of total omega 3 amounts (they have a lot more than beef), therefore the kind of eggs you buy (from grass fed, free-range chickens vs grain-fed, caged ones) will determine what omega 6/3 ratio they have. I read that each grass fed egg has 225mg of omega 3s. Also, one study showed "The Greek egg had a Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of 1.3 to one whereas the ???supermarket egg??? had a ratio of 19.4 to one." This is because the greek chickens were fed on grass high in omega 3s whereas the standard eggs were from grain fed chickens. We can't just focus on isolated nutrients and then view all foods in terms of how much they have of those nutrients. Rather, we have to look at the whole food, because real food is the sum of its parts, like nuts having antioxidants (vitamin E) to balance out some of the inflammation their omega 6s cause. To answer your question directly, I don't believe walnuts are a good source of omega 3s and you shouldn't be relying on them for that, but I think eating moderate amounts of them on a regular basis is just fine as part of a balanced diet.

Medium avatar

on November 26, 2011
at 05:03 AM

Yep, for more info on em check this out http://www.grass-fed-eggs.com/. Unfortunately they aren't nearly as common as pastured eggs that aren't grass fed, but if you can get em it's def worth it.

C471216c9fb4fcf886b7ac84a4046b49

(1371)

on November 26, 2011
at 03:54 AM

grass fed egg ehh???

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on November 27, 2011
at 08:10 PM

Interesting about those eggs Chris! I am surprised by the marketing of the so-called omega 3 eggs. The content is not all that different than regular eggs so I'm surprised some consumer protection agency hasn't jumped on them for that. Personally, the omega ratios for grassfed beef/meat from ruminants is not a reason to buy that form as they simply contain too little PUFA to make a difference. I am more concerned with toxins in fat or health of the animal, etc.

Medium avatar

on November 27, 2011
at 10:37 PM

Yea it mentions that in one of the articles I read, the difference in total amounts of omega 6s and 3s in grass fed vs grain fed is so small it makes it irrelevant. But as you say there are other reasons to buy grass fed meat if one can afford it. However, with the omega 3 eggs, I think having almost 20x the amount of omega 3s than regular eggs is a significant difference, in addition to higher levels of other nutrients from eating grass instead of grain.

3
7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 25, 2011
at 01:57 PM

Since an oz of walnuts provides ~2.5 g of omega 3s, it makes sense to list it as a source. As far as the ratio goes, I believe the idea is to have an overall diet ratio of 1:1 to 4:1, not that all individual foods eaten need to be that ratio. And what ultimately seems to be important is keeping omega 6 to under 4% of your dietary calories. Stephan Guyenet has a great post talking about Bill Lands' work on this.

Some in paleo space give nuts a pass because the omega 6s in them are not really on a par with those from refined veggie oils. Mark Sisson talks about this over on MDA:

When we strip a nut of everything but the liquid fat, we???re asking for trouble, but if we eat the whole nut, the fat remains protected by the natural antioxidants, at least to a point (eating burnt, damaged, or rancid nuts isn???t the same as eating raw or soaked nuts). In other words, extracting, refining, and isolating a highly unstable Omega-6 fatty acid in oil form is entirely different than eating the odd handful of pistachios every other day or so. If you roast your nuts to the point of burning, then, yeah, you???re probably eating damaged fats, and that could be a problem. But eating a quarter cup of nuts every few days isn???t going to hurt you ??? even if they???re high-O6 walnuts (the horror!). Even if the Omega-6 fat in nuts is bad, the positives of the nut seem to weigh more heavily.

Lots of good minerals in nuts! That said, the omega 3 in walnuts is ALA and there is some question about our efficiency at converting ALA to the forms we need (EPA & DHA). Seth Roberts discounts this, but then, he gets his ALA from flax seed which has a great ratio of 6:3 (nearly 1:4).

24df4e0d0e7ce98963d4641fae1a60e5

on November 25, 2011
at 02:56 PM

Nice answer Beth! I guess I'm sort of questioning the good source right under that target ratio. I realize it's for the whole diet, but your O3 sources should be like 6:3 ratio of 1:>1 to balance it all out. I have to reread Stephan's post ... lots of support for a threshold of sorts for total % in the diet or of dietary fat, and not much really done on ratio that I've seen.

4145b36f1488224964edac6258b75aff

(7821)

on November 25, 2011
at 02:06 PM

But if you eat a food with a high 6:3 ratio, you are engaging in a self-defeating action, both from the perspective of maintaining a balance AND from reducing total PUFA load. If you eat walnuts as your O3 source, you approach a poor PUFA ratio unless you're eating pure O3 from some other source, which calls into question the idea of eating walnuts for O3 in the first place. If you're eating walnuts for some other reason, then they may or may not be a good food depending on the context. In the context of PUFA ratio/total load though I can't see how they could possibly count as a "good" source.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 25, 2011
at 03:42 PM

I actually exchanged email with Dr. Lands after learning that stored body fat is ~15% PUFA. He agreed that the average person has more than enough omega 6 in their tissues to last for their lifetime. The implication for me is that those of us trying to lose weight certainly want to avoid dietary omega 6. So I'd avoid walnuts even if I liked them (which I don't). But that said, for otherwise healthy folks an oz of walnuts plus 2T of ground flax is a pretty good ratio (2 to 1 6:3). It's kinda like vegetarians combining rice and beans!

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 25, 2011
at 02:10 PM

If your diet is only about balancing omega 3s and 6s, perhaps. But there are lots of other needs in the diet too. And frankly, lots of people *like* nuts (tho I'm not one of them). The reality is that at 2.5g of omega 3s in an oz, walnuts *are* a good source of omega 3s which is what the infographic is pointing out. That they aren't the best source of omega 3s is also true.

27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 26, 2011
at 04:31 PM

How can Dr. Lands know this? Has he done tissue biopsies on thousands of people and then adjusted for body fat, age and geography. Temperature changes saturation of body fat irrespective of diet -- I'm thinking of the pigs wearing sweater study Peat writes about that says this makes the fat more saturated.

0
5913e240534fb4b4f97135a3cdb34f07

on January 28, 2013
at 11:10 PM

Well that's not good to hear. I just bought some raw walnuts I think for O3 because I read that it was a good source (and Vitamin E). What am I gonna do with all these nuts? I don't particularly care for the flavor either. They were pretty expensive too. I guess I gotta suck it up and eat them til they are gone. Interesting about the grass fed eggs too. How does that work for chicken? I wasn't sure if they are supposed to eat grass or corn or what. I never see grass fed chicken in Whole foods. I have been buying pasture raised eggs and spending way too much on them might I add, because I thought they were the cream of the crop. So these grass fed eggs are superior to those? Not sure where I'd find them anyway.

0
C57c99875fbd0ed1cf879941a873c822

on July 29, 2012
at 05:31 PM

jemiedany Very good article about walnuts, I enjoyed reading. When searching earlier I also found an interesting guide that answered the question are walnuts good for you. I am going to start eating these every day now.

0
20172354416166004d612e7d6bdd2f5e

on November 26, 2011
at 04:33 AM

No.
;)

0
C471216c9fb4fcf886b7ac84a4046b49

on November 26, 2011
at 03:55 AM

i only think the PUFA and omega 3:6 ratio matters if youre eating meat/eggs...which is like 99% of people here, so i would eat nuts sparingly

0
Bfa1c9eacfc94a1b62f3a39b574480c6

(3700)

on November 25, 2011
at 06:28 PM

Prevent overeating on nuts by buying them in shell form. Shell each one, and you'll find that nuts, all of a sudden, are fairly hard to eat (at least 20 at a time). Otherwise, some walnuts, or any nut, here n' there, is okay.

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