Essential Fatty Acids: Getting It Right With Regard To Fat
You may have heard that there is such a thing as good fat - fat that is necessary for good health. That's because every cell in our body contains fat in its cell wall and because fat comprises many important substances like hormones and neurotransmitters. Essential fatty acids are substances derived from fat -both plant and animal - which are essential for the proper functioning of the cells throughout our bodies. Since our bodies don't produce these fatty acids, it's important to make sure you are getting enough of the right kinds of fats in your diet - chiefly, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. But knowing how much is good for you and which sources of fatty acids are actually healthy is key to getting it right with regard to fat.
Identifying The Sources of Good Fats
The health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids have been studied extensively and are many, with positive effects being seen in cardiovascular, neurological, and psychiatric diseases, certain cancers, and even dry eye disease. Omega 6 fatty acids aid in proper brain development and function, immune function, hormone metabolism, and in the right amount, fight inflammation. Here's a quick guide to good sources of both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids:
Sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
Cold Water Fish: Mackerel, Alaska salmon, sardines. Wild caught cold water fish is one of the best sources of omega 3's, but you need to limit your consumption of fish due to the heavy metals and other toxins they contain.
Fish Oils: Cod liver oil, Salmon oil. When choosing a fish oil or an omega 3 supplement, be sure to choose a high quality one which guarantees purity and freshness. Fish oils can interact with certain drugs like blood thinners, so consult your health care practitioner before taking fish oil or krill oil.
Krill Oil: Krill are small crustaceans which are also high in omega 3s and even higher in antioxidants than fish oils. More clinical research is needed, however, to further establish their health benefits.
Marine Algae: This is the source of omega 3s for cold water fish and a great vegetarian alternative to fish oils.
Plant Oils: Flaxseed oil, hemp oil.
Nuts & Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, walnuts, Chia seeds.
Other Plant Sources: Dark green leafy vegetables, soybeans.
Other Animal Sources: Animal fats (especially wild game), animal milk, eggs.
Sources of Omega 6 Fatty Acids:
Plant Oils: Evening primrose, black currant seed, sunflower, safflower, walnut, hemp, sesame oils.
Most Nuts & Seeds: Walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds.
Animal Sources: Grass-fed beef, milk, chicken, eggs.
Striking the Right Balance Of Omega Fatty Acids
In order for your body to obtain the benefits of good fats, you must strike the right balance of omega 3 fatty acids to omega 6 fatty acids. The average american diet provides an unhealthy amount of omega 6s, with a ratio omega 6 to omega 3 of 20:1. According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-Mcbride, "it is the excessive omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids from vegetable and cooking oils that are to a large degree causing an epidemic of inflammatory degenerative conditions in our modern world, from heart disease and various autoimmune problems to cancer." Therefore, it's important for your diet to contain fats that give you a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 that is 2:1. Here, it's important to keep in mind that the correct ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 for your optimal health will vary according to your state of health. Your healthcare provider can assess your level of omega 3 & omega 6 through nutritional testing to find the best ratio for you. We recommend the OmegaGenics line for the high quality and purity of their omega 3 formulas which include natural antioxidants to protect against oxidation and rancidity.
Getting the Most Out of Eating Healthy Fats
The last step in getting the most out of healthy fats is to eat a diet rich in nutrients that will enable your body to utilize the fats optimally. This involves consuming sufficient amounts of vitamin C and vitamins B3 and B6, as well as magnesium and zinc. It also requires having a healthy gut. If you're suffering from digestive problems, you may also benefit from food allergy testing and nutritional advice that will help you take steps to heal your gut. For more information on healthy fats or for an individualized nutritional consult, contact us today and check out our e-store for high quality omega 3 supplements like the OmegaGenics line from Metagenics.
Campbell-McBride, N. GAPS: Gut and Psychology Syndrome. Medinform Publishing. 2010.
Consumer Reports. Are krill-oil pills as good as fish oil?. June 2012.
Noriega, B.S. et al Understanding the Impact of Omega-3 Rich Diet on the Gut Microbiota. Case Rep Med.
The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.
~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~