Omega Fats 101- Why Are They Important?

Eat Your Fatty Acids Because Your Body Needs Them

Fat is a substance made from the molecules of hydrogen, carbon and a little oxygen. What kind of fat it is depends on the different combinations of these molecules.

There are twenty different needed fatty acids in your body, but they are all made from two: linoleic acid and linolenic acid. These two fatty acids are essential. You must get them from the foods you eat because your body cannot manufacture them. Essential fatty acids (EFA) are the building blocks for all the other fats in your body.

Essential fatty acids are necessary to make cell membranes and many of the important hormones and other chemical messengers that tell your body what to do.

Another name for linoleic fatty acid family is the omega-6 fatty acids. The linolenic fatty acids are often called omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids are especially important for making prostaglandins in your body. Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that regulate many activities in your body including inflammation, pain, and swelling. They also play a role in controlling your blood pressure, your heart, your kidneys, your digestive system and body temperature. They are important for allergic reactions, blood clotting and making other hormones.

Fatty acids are also natural blood thinners; they can prevent blood clots, which can lead to a heart attack and stroke. They contain natural anti-inflammatory compounds that can relieve the symptoms of arthritis and auto-immune diseases. In addition, a diet low in essential fatty acids can result in skin problems, such as dandruff, eczema, splitting nails and dull brittle hair.

Fatty acids influence the structure of the cells inside the intestinal tract, as well as the “villi” through which absorption of nutrients takes place. They increase the thickness and surface area of the digestive-absorptive cells that line the inside of our intestine. This results in more effective digestion, better absorption of nutrients, less absorption of allergens, and better health.

Essential fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and are very important for cognitive (brain memory) function.

So where can you find these rich sources of omega-3 and six essential fatty acids?

You may already be including them in your diet now and aren’t even aware of it. Omega-3 food sources include cold water fish such as salmon, anchovies, herring and mackerel to name a few.  Plant sources include flax, chia, hemp and walnut, among others.

The main food sources of Omega-6 include evening primrose oil, olive, canola, sunflower, safflower, hemp seed and avocado.

EFA deficiency and Omega 3/6 imbalance is linked with serious health conditions, such as heart attacks, cancer, asthma, schizophrenia, depression, accelerated aging, stroke, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, ADHD, and  Alzheimer’s disease.

It is very clear how important these essential fats in our diets are. They truly can improve your overall health and save your life!

Crystal Mortley, R.N.C.P, is a registered nutritionist with 14 years of experience in the health food industry. Her goal is to cut through the myths and confusion surrounding nutrition by providing people with the proper tools to make healthier choices.

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