This week, letís take a look at omega fatty acids and try to put some clarity around these essential fats. We have all seen a fair amount of information regarding omega 3 fatty acids and the importance to our overall health to get enough omega 3s in our diet. Omega 3 fatty acids are just one aspect of fats in our diet.
First, letís look at what makes up a fatty acid. Now without getting too deep into chemistry, there are three primary types of fatty acids: long-chain, medium-chain and short-chain. What defines these guys are the number of carbon molecules that make up the fatty acids structure. Carbon molecules also change how the human body utilizes these fatty acids and establishes them as either healthy or perhaps not so healthy for your diet.
There is one particular fatty acid to be avoided. Trans fatty acids, often referred to as trans fats, are created by manufacturers through the hydrogenation process to solidify liquid oils. These fatty acids are nasty for your health and found in many everyday food products. The primary reason oils are hydrogenated is to increase their shelf life and work as a food preservative.
But what about omega 3, omega 6 and the even less talked about omega 9 fatty acids? Healthy fat is essential for normal growth and development and can build on a personís overall nutrition wellness. As discussed in prior articles, low-fat, fat-free and no-fat-ever diets ó which have vilified fats with a broad brush ó is just not a healthy dietary plan for humans.
Healthy dietary fat provides energy, protects our organs, maintains cell membranes and helps the body absorb and process nutrients. Even better, it helps the body become very good at burning fat. Many times when you are working with a dietitian regarding weight-loss, they recommend at least one-third of your calories come from healthy dietary fat.
Another point regarding most fats is they have two essential fatty acids, linolenic and linoleic acid. These cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from a food source. These essential healthy fats that are found in plant foods are used to build omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are essential for the proper functioning of all tissues of the body.
Omega 3 fatty acids are needed in our diet for optimal nutrition and health. Since omega 3 fatty acids do not synthesize in the human body, we must rely on getting enough through the foods we eat. The best sources of omega 3s are cold milled pure flax, raw pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, raw walnuts and wild salmon. A tablespoon of cold pressed virgin coconut oil taken with the seeds aids in omega 3 absorptions.
Omega 6 fatty acids, like omega 3 fatty acids, cannot be synthesized in the human body, so again we must rely on food sources to keep our levels up. Unfortunately, if you consume a lot of corn or vegetable oil, you are likely getting too much omega 6 in your diet. If you eat healthily and avoid processed oils, your best sources of omega 6s are hemp hearts, sesame, sunflower and raw almonds. Omega 6 plays an important role in immune system support and blood pressure regulation.
Omega 9 fatty acids are considered an unsaturated fat and are common in both vegetable and animal fats. Omega 9 fatty acids are specifically oleic acid and considered a non-essential fatty acid since the human body can synthesize omega 9 from many of the things we eat on a daily basis. The most common food source of omega 9 fatty acids is olive oil and nut oils. In moderation, omega 9 fatty acids help support brain and heart function.
We need healthy fats to be included in our daily nutrition to maintain the right balance of omega 3-6-9. Recently, it has been found that some omega 3 and omega 6 in pill form are substandard and even mildly toxic. Be sure if you take the supplement route, buy quality products.
Many people ask ďCan I take too much omega fatty acids?Ē and the answer is yes. The daily recommended amount is 0.3 to 0.5 grams. However, many people have jumped on the omega fatty acid bandwagon and take up to 3 grams of omega 3 fatty acids a day through fish oil, which for people without health concerns can be regarded as safe.
Keep in mind that it can be dangerous to take too much fish oil in your efforts to get your omega 3. Over consumption of fish oil can lead to blood thinning and even strokes. Omega 6 is also something that can cause health problems when consumed in large doses. Omega 6 can directly raise blood pressure, cause blood clots to form and lead to heart attacks.
It is always an excellent idea to consult with your physician before starting a regimen of omega 3 or omega 6 to see if they would advise this based on your current health. Certain medical conditions and medication can cause an adverse reaction to omega fatty acids.
Be smart, cautious, take in moderation and if you have concerns, seek medical advice from a health care provider.
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Judd Jones is a director for The Hagadone Corporation and Certified Health Coach.