Essential fats are good fats. They are polyunsaturated fats which are required by the body – we cannot make them hence their name. There are two key types - omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. These fats are critical for the structure of our cell membranes and as such are very beneficial for brain health, skin health, hormone health, and heart function.
Essential fatty acids are needed for the functioning of every cell in the body, they also lubricate the intestines so that food can move more easily through the colon.
EFA`s are anti - inflammatory and so help in reducing inflammation that can be caused due to constipation. They can also reduce inflammation elsewhere in the body and so can help support diseases such as arthritis, asthma, heart disease and brain and mood disorders.
Essential fats also help the detoxification process by stimulating the gallbladder and the flow of bile. Bile helps prevent constipation, and so prevents the buildup of toxins. They can also help make the stool softer and easier to pass. Omega 3 is important for eye health,in particular the retina and may even help with weight management. If you have a skin condition, omega 3 fats can help to support you.
Essential fats aid with deep cellular hydration of the body. The cell membrane is made of a type of fat called a phospholipid mixed with cholesterol.
If the phospholipid isn`t replaced regularly, the cell membrane can go too hard making it impenetrable. This means that the cell is inhibited in removing the waste that needs to leave the cell, or nutrients entering it.
Our steroid hormones (which include our sex hormones) are made from cholesterol, which is derived from the essential fats that you eat. So if you suffer with hormonal imbalances, make sure you are getting enough healthy fat to make the hormones you need.
Omega 3 is really important for foetal development so if you are pregnant or planning on pregnancy, make sure you get plenty from your diet and speak to your GP or a nutritional therapist about supplementing with Omega 3.
Where can you find essential fats?
Omega 3 fats
Omega 3 fats are found predominantly in oily fish, such as mackerel, sardines, salmon, anchovies and herring. You can also find omega 3 fats in flaxseeds, hemp, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, soya beans, chia seeds and to a lesser extent green vegetables such as kale.
Omega 6 fats
Omega 6 fats are found in nuts and seeds such as walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, pecan nuts, cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds. They are also found in hemp, soya beans, and evening primrose and blackcurrant seed oils.
Whilst Omega 3 is often supplemented, It isn`t usually necessary to supplement with omega 6 unless it is a combined supplement that is made in such a way that it is in perfect balance. The omega 3 and 6 fats have to be in a delicate ratio or the balance can be outweighed. A typical diet gets plenty of omega 6 and so it is the omega 3 that tends to be low.
Whilst omega 3 is safe for many, it does have contraindications, especially for those people on blood thinning medication so always seek advice before starting to use essential fat supplements.
Supplementing with essential fatty acids is a really good idea if you are pregnant, along with your pregnancy multivitamin. Again - always seek advice from your GP or a nutritional therapist regarding this.
Vegan and vegetarian Omega 3
If you are vegan or vegetarian, you most probably won't want to take fish oil supplements. Omega 3 in fish oil is actually made by the algae that the fish eat. It's just that the fish eat so much that it is highly concentrated. There are vegetarian and vegan supplements made from the algae itself. You can still get omega 3 from your diet if you eat plenty of nuts and seeds - in particular chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. If you eat eggs, these can also provide you with omega 3.
Thrive Clinical Nutrition and Naturopathic Health Eve Morley BA hons. NT. FNTP. AMNNA. Soc Nat
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