Why Essential Fatty Acids are essential?
What is the definition of essential fatty acids?
Essential fatty acids are the types of fatty acids found within the Omega 3 and Omega 6 family that are “essential” because our body cannot make those particular forms of fatty acids. So we have to get them from food and they are only found in plant based food sources. They are also known as the parent Omega 3 and Omega 6 as they are found at the top of the family and will convert down into the longer chain Omega 3 & 6. The two essential fatty acids are called alpha-linolenic acid (Omega 3) and linoleic acid (Omega 6).
Why are they so essential to health?
Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are important for our health as they have structural & metabolic functions to do around the body. A component of our cell membranes are made from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA). Nourishing our cell membranes with EFA’s will keep them flexible and permeable in order to allow nutrients and oxygen to come into the cell and wastes and toxins to go out of the cell. If our cell membranes are nourished all the biologically processing within the cell will function optimally. Unless we eat foods containing EFA’s we can be compromising our cell membrane health.
What health areas are they particularly important for?
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid critical for heart health (lowering cholesterol, controlling high blood pressure), brain development, reducing inflammation and joint pain, managing depression, preventing dry eyes, weight managements; hair, skin & nails.
What are the signs of deficiency?
Common deficiency signs of Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fats are: low energy, dry skin and other skin conditions, joint aches and pains, sluggish metabolism & weight gain, PMS & menopause symptoms, fertility issues and impaired brain function.
There are so many different sources of essential fats, is there a danger people can be confused about what they need?
The ideal consumption of the essential fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 6 is a 2:1 ratio. The recommended intake is from 20g undamaged Omega 3 (Alpha Linolenic Acid) and 9g undamaged Omega 6 (Linoleic Acid) on a daily basis. By consuming 30ml of the organic seed oil, Udo’s Choice Ultimate Oil Blend, you will get just under these amounts and additionally eating a variety of plant based foods such nuts, seeds, avocado and green leafy vegetables you will be consuming enough essential fatty acids to be nourishing your cell membranes.
What sources of essential fats do you consider the best and why?
The richest source of ALA (Omega 3) are flaxseeds as they have the highest ratio of Omega 3 to 6 at 4:1, then chia seeds 3:1, hemp seeds 1:2.5, walnuts 1:4 and green leafy vegetables.
It is much easier to find plant based foods rich in LA (Omega 6) as all nuts and seeds contain a predominantly higher ratio of Omega 6 then Omega 3. Pistachio nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, almonds and peanuts have a ratio starting at 50:1 and going as high as 5500:1.
What should people look for in terms of quality when buying an essential fatty acid supplement?
First of all, your essential fatty acids should be part of the foundation of your diet, not taken as supplements. So for example, eat the whole foods of nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and also incorporate a high quality cold-pressed organic seed oil into your daily diet. The organic cold-pressed seed oil should always be kept refrigerated as EFA’s are very fragile and can spoil easily to light, heat and oxygen. The oil should be in an amber glass bottle and further packaged in a cardboard box, as this protects the oil from UV light.