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Tuesday, 29 November 2011 15:33

Why It's So Important To Have Essential Fatty Acids As Part Of Our Diet

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What are Essential Fatty Acids and why are they so important in our diet?

Essential Fatty acids (EFAs) are the “good fats” and are necessary fats that humans cannot synthesize, and must be obtained through diet. There are 2 families of EFAs: Omega 3 and Omega 6.

Western diets are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids compared with the diet on which human beings evolved and their genetic patterns were established.

Good fats compete with “bad fats”, so it’s important to minimize the intake of cholesterol (animal fat) while consuming enough good fats. Also good fats raise your HDL or “good cholesterol” one of the jobs of your good cholesterol is to grab your “bad cholesterol” (LDL), and escort it to the liver where it is broken down and excreted. In other words these good fats attack some of the damage done by the bad fats. This is very important in an age when so many people in the Western world are struggling to get their cholesterol down, and fight heart disease and obesity.

EFAs support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems. The human body needs EFAs to manufacture and repair cell membranes, enabling the cells to obtain optimum nutrition and expel harmful waste products. A primary function of EFAs is the production of prostaglandins, which regulate body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility, conception, and play a role in immune function by regulating inflammation and encouraging the body to fight infection EFA deficiency and Omega 6/3 imbalance is linked with serious health conditions such as heart attacks cancer, insulin resistance, asthma, lupus, schizophrenia, depression, accelerated aging, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, ADHD, and alzheimer’s disease, among others.

What foods provide omega-3 fatty acids?

Salmon, flax seeds and walnuts are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Very good sources include scallops, chia seeds, cauliflower, spinach, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, avocado, cabbage, cloves and mustard seeds. Good sources include halibut, shrimp, cod, tuna, soybeans, tofu, kale, collard greens, and Brussels sprouts.

It is important to note the EFAs are perishable, they deteriorate rapidly when exposed to light, air and heat so freshness is important.

There are many EFA supplements available including fish oil, flaxseed oil, cod liver oil etc, for more information consult your health professional.

This information is for general educational purposes only and does not replace individualized diagnosis and care.
Donald Rudin, MD, and Clara Felix. Omega-3 Oils; A practical Guide. US: Avery, 1996.
Andrew L. Stoll, MD. The Omega-3 Connection. New York: Fireside, 2001.

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