Essential Fatty Acids: What You Need to Know

Nutrition
Jun 06, 2014
Nutrition

No doubt you’ve heard of essential fatty acids, but you might be curious about why they’re so important for maintaining health. In this article find out everything you need to know about essential fatty acids and how to ensure you’re getting enough.

What are Essential Fatty Acids?

Also known as EFAs, essential fatty acids include omega-3 and omega-6, which are vital for keeping your health in check. This is why essential fatty acids are commonly referred to as ‘the good fats’.

In science-speak, EFAS are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that hail from oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids. They’re needed to maintain the body’s immune, reproductive, cardiovascular and nervous systems. Essential fatty acids are also crucial for making and repairing cell membranes.

Since your body can’t make its own fatty acid, the only way to get them is through your diet.

Health Benefits of Essential Fatty Acids

There are many great reasons to load up on essential fatty acids. Here are a few health benefits:

  • Maintain and improve brain function and memory
  • May reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Ensures optimal health in unborn babies
  • Lower cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Help treat diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Aid depression symptoms, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia
  • May help treat attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • May lower sun sensitivity
  • Reduce menstrual pain

Sources of Essential Fatty Acids

Thankfully, it’s easy to enjoy the many health benefits of essential fatty acids. Here are a few common sources of omega-3s:

  • Seafood: tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and trout
  • Nuts and seeds (pumpkin, chia, sunflower)
  • Fish oil capsules
  • Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
  • Soya and canola oil

Choosing Fish Oil Supplements

Many people choose to boost their intake of essential fatty acids by taking supplements. When choosing supplements, it’s a good idea to check that the product doesn’t contain mercury or other heavy metals.

Your naturopath or nutritionist can advise you on how to introduce or increase essential fatty acids in your diet.

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