There’s a high chance you’ve heard the term ‘omega 3’ or ‘fatty acid’ before. What really is a fatty acid? Why do our body need it? What are omega-3,-6 and -9 fatty acids? What are the health benefits of the omega family? You’ll come to have a deep understanding of the omega family as you read this article!
Fatty acids are very essential for the body to function normally. I’m talking about the whole body system here, each and every one. Talk about your circulatory system, your respiratory system, your skin, brain and organs.
We have two kinds of fatty acids, Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) which our body doesn’t produce on its own and Non Essential Fatty Acids which is naturally produced by the body whenever there is enough of essential fatty acids. Non-essential fatty acids are naturally produced (can also be ingested) while essential fatty acids have to be ingested.
The Omega Family
The Omega family consists of the ‘Omega-3 fatty acid’, ‘Omega-6 fatty acid’ and ‘Omega-9 fatty acid’. Two essential fatty acids that our body can’t produce are the omega-3 fatty acid and omega-6 fatty acid. Omega-9 fatty acid is a non-essential fatty acid (naturally produced by the body).
The omega-3, -6, and -9 fatty acids are all important dietary fats and play very important roles when it comes to our health. They help in regulating our blood pressure, keeping our heart healthy, balancing cholesterol levels, proper development of our brain, proper function of our immune system, proper digestion and many more. Look how important they are!
It is very important we get the right balance of omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids in our diet. Any imbalance may contribute to - or cause - chronic diseases.
Let’s take a better look at each of the omega fatty acids:
Omega-3 fatty acids are a class of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids (e.g lard, eggs, butter, red meat, etc) can raise blood cholesterol and increase the risk of developing a coronary heart disease if taken in excess. No wonder some of us become vegetarians. Unsaturated fats do the exact opposite!
Health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids
Below are few of the numerous health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids:
Improving heart health
Decreasing liver fat
Promoting bone health
Tackles digestive difficulties
Reduce cholesterol level
Supporting mental health
Sources of Omega-3
We have lots of sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Some might be from animals and some from plants. Some sources are:
Wheat Germ Oil
Flax seeds or Flax seed Oil
Salmon fish oil
Cod liver oil
Just like omega-3s, omega-6 fatty acids (Linoleic Acid) are also polyunsaturated fats. They reduce our levels of cholesterol. Omega-6 fatty acid combined with omega-3 fatty acid gives us a lot of health benefits. To play the fatty acid game right, we have to eat them in the right amounts. It’s advisable we consume about twice as much omega-6 as omega-3. Our omega-6 to omega-3 ratio should be about 2:1.
Health benefits of omega-6 fatty acids
Here’s a little list of the countless benefits that omega-6 fatty acids has to offer:
Reduces High Blood Pressure
Reduces Nerve Pain
Stimulate hair growth
Maintains bone health
Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
Sources of omega-6 fatty acids
Seeds, nuts and vegetable oils are much better - and most common - sources of omega-6 fatty acids. They can also be found in fish oil. Below are some sources:
Raw Nuts & Seeds
Omega-9 fatty acids (oleic acids) are also unsaturated fats (reduces levels of cholesterol). They are in the class of mono-unsaturated fats unlike omega-3 and -6 which are polyunsaturated fats. Omega-9 fatty acids are non essential fatty acid naturally produced by our body whenever there is enough of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. If omega-3 and -6 are inadequate, we must ingest omega-9 fatty acids. By ingest, I mean, we get it from our diet.
Health benefits of omega-9 fatty acids
Like the omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, the omega-9 fatty acids also provide lots of health benefits. Some are:
Balancing cholesterol levels
Improving immune function
Promoting heart health
Enhances anti-inflammatory properties
Prevents numerous kinds of diseases
Sources of omega-9 fatty acids
Omega-9 fatty acids are commonly found in vegetable and animal fats. Some sources are listed below:
Olives & Olive Oil
Salmon fish oil
Cod liver oil
If you feel you aren’t getting enough of the Omega fatty acids, you can always take supplements. Ensure you consult your health-care provider or doctor before taking supplements. Taking fish oil supplements is a good thing if you don’t consume enough fish, you should only take doctor recommended dose!
Now, you’ve got a better understanding - and have seen the great benefits - of ‘The Omega Family’. Time to live a healthier life! Good luck!
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