Essential Fatty Acids
Fatty acids play an important role within the body. Fatty acids are considered essential because our bodies need them to perform normal functions. Many essential fatty acids (EFAs) are not produced by the body naturally, so we must get them from the foods we eat. Increasing our intake of essential fatty acids may help better our health, treat certain diseases, improve body composition, and improve mental and physical performance.
It is important to know which essential fatty acids your body may be lacking, as many people are deficient without knowing. There are two primary types of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are known to be the most important for the body; however, these two types may be what humans are most deficient in.
Alpha-linolenic acid (Omega-3 fatty acids) are known to benefit heart health and are also beneficial for brain, nerve, and eye cell development in infants. For adults, Omega-3s keep the immune system functioning properly while lowering the risk of heart diseases, blood clotting, and imbalanced hormones. These fats can be found in many plant-based foods like flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and oils like canola and soybean. Omega-3 fats can also be found in cold-water fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel. To consume the necessary amount of essential fatty acids; it is recommended to eat at least 8 ounces of seafood each week. Oral supplements like fish or cod liver oil may be consumed each day for the proper dosage of daily Omega 3’s. These fats are one group of fatty acids that the majority of Americans are deficient in, hence why it is the most talked-about!
Linolenic acid (Omega-6 fatty acids) is the least talked about of the two fatty acids but is just as important. These fats are found in many foods typical to the average American diet; so, many people already consume the recommended daily intake needed for optimal health. However, it’s important to strike a balance. Without consuming enough Omega-6 fats, cells may not function properly, but an overabundance of Omega-6 fats can alter the way that cells operate in the heart and blood vessels. It is important to consume a healthy amount of Omega-6 fats and is recommended to consume 17 grams for males and 12 grams for females each day. These essential fatty acids help to regulate genes, promote immunity, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis and dermatitis. Omega-6 fats come in a variety of food sources like vegetable and avocado oil, nuts, peanut butter, red meats, corn, beans, and eggs.
Maintaining Health with Essential Fatty Acids
It is important to consume essential fatty acids to maintain a healthy life. Talk to a trusted healthcare provider to assess your diet and receive a recommended intake plan that will work for you.
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