Fat is the new black. It wasn’t long ago that the fat-free craze had everyone swearing off this important macronutrient. Thanks to modern research, we now understand how important the right kinds of fats are to our health.
There is one type of healthy fat that remains largely misunderstood and under-consumed. 95% of us are not getting enough omega-3’s in their diet!? That means if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re deficient in these vital fats that are so important for our brains, beauty, and immune health
What are Omega-3s?
Omega-3s are essential polyunsaturated fats that you must get from your diet as the body is unable to create these on its own. There are many fatty acids that belong to the omega-3 family, but there are three types that you want to be aware of.
- EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)- Inflammation Reducer/Depression Fighter
EPA is a 20-carbon-long omega-3 fatty acid. It is primarily found in fatty fish, seafood, and fish oil. This fatty acid has many essential functions, but most importantly, it is used to form signaling molecules called eicosanoids. Eicosanoids are powerful hormone-like compounds produced in the body from essential fatty acids and contribute to reduced inflammation. EPA has been found to be particularly effective against certain mental conditions, especially depression.
- DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) Brain booster/Nerve Builder
DHA is a 22-carbon-long omega-3 fatty acid. It is primarily found in fatty fish, seafood, fish oils, and algae. The main role of DHA is to serve as a structural component in cell membranes, particularly in nerve cells in the brain and eyes. It constitutes about 40% of polyunsaturated fats in the brain. DHA is very important during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and it is absolutely crucial for the nervous system during development. Breast milk contains significant amounts of DHA.
- ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid)
ALA is an 18-carbon-long omega-3 fatty acid. It is found in high-fat plant foods, especially flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Despite being the most common omega-3 fat in the diet, ALA is not very active in the body. It needs to be converted into EPA and DHA in order to become active. Unfortunately, this process is highly inefficient in humans. Only about 5% gets converted into EPA, and as little as 0.5% gets converted into DHA. For this reason, ALA should never be relied on as the sole omega-3 source. Most of the ALA you eat will simply be used for energy.
All fat is not created equal!
Omega 3’s are on the front line of defense against inflammation – which as you may have heard, is at the root of nearly every disease. It’s SO important to make sure we’re getting enough of this in our diet!
So what makes omega-3 fats special? Studies show Omega 3’s can:
- Boost your immune system
- Improve mood and prevent depression
- Help lower blood pressure, cholesterol and plaque build-up in the arteries which can help prevent against heart attack and/or stroke
- Reduce your risk for cancer
- Help with concentration and learning
- Improve the quality and health of your skin
- Help prevent diabetes by stabilizing blood sugar levels
- Reduce muscle, bone and joint pain
What about Omega-6s?
Like omega-3s, omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated and must be obtained through the diet. These fats are primarily used for energy. The most common omega-6 fat is linoleic acid, which can be converted into longer omega-6 fats such as arachidonic acid (ARA). Like EPA, ARA is used to produce eicosanoids. However, the eicosanoids produced by ARA are more pro-inflammatory. Pro-inflammatory eicosanoids are important chemicals in the immune system. However, when too many of them are produced, they can increase inflammation and inflammatory disease.
Although omega-6 fats are essential, the modern Western diet contains far more omega-6 fatty acids than necessary. The recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is 4:1 or less; however, the average American typically consumes a ratio of 25:1. That’s a big difference! Common sources of omega-6s are walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, soybean oil, corn oil, and mayo. Most packaged and prepared foods have higher quantities of omega-6s – even the “hot food bar” at popular organic markets. Check labels no matter where you are.
As you can see, it’s really easy to get enough of these 0mega-6 fatty acids in your diet. In fact, it’s actually too easy, which is why the healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids can easily be out of range. It’s important to maintain a healthy balance and to make sure you’re consuming plenty of omega-3s.
What are the best sources of omega 3’s?
Here are a few: mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, herring, oysters, sardines, anchovies, tuna, walnuts, grass-fed beef, organic eggs, flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
It a great idea to take an Omega 3 supplement if you’re not getting enough naturally in your diet. Unless you are consuming salmon or other cold-water fatty fish, at least 3-4 times per week on a consistent basis, there’s a good chance that you need to supplement. It’s important that you choose a high-quality, pure, cold-pressed pharmaceutical grade supplement to ensure you are getting the best levels of omega-3s without any added toxic burden. One of my favorites is Omega Avail Hi-Po: