Omega 3: A Heroic Fat
It seems almost implausible that one type of fat can do so much, but numerous studies have shown how important omega-3 fats are to health. It is alarming, though, that we still hear of a widespread fad among the younger population who follow a “low-fat” diet that lacks much of the Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) that are needed for optimal health. Unfortunately, this carries major negative health consequences and can show up in a number of different ways: Eczema, acne, psoriasis, poor memory, and hyperactivity are just a few imbalances that point to possible signs of EFA deficiency. Furthermore, a lack of EFA can be associated to disorders of the nervous and endocrine system, and has been linked to auto-immune dysfunctions.
The fact is we need good fats in our diet in moderate quantity; roughly about 10-15% of our total caloric intake, if only to ensure an adequate intake of EFA and to act as a carrier for fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K.
There are two types of EFA: Omega 3 derived from alpha-linolenic acid and Omega 6 linoleic acid. Both fats, when consumed from high-quality sources, have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Omega 3 fats are heroic fats which are components of the phospholipid cell membrane, hormones, and the nervous system, directly nourishing nervous tissues, particularly the brain. A deficiency in this important fat can lead to excess inflammation and contribute to a variety of conditions; including asthma, diabetes, colitis, cardiovascular diseases, nervous and mental disorders, immune disorders, arthritis, hormone imbalances and skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis. Since EFAs are the building blocks of hormones, we can see a correlation between lack of EFA and female disorders such as menopause and PMS.
Omega 6 fats are more common in the typical Western diet and are found in corn, peanut, soybean, canola, safflower and sunflower. These are common sources of oils used in everyday cooking and when fried or hydrogenated and commercially refined become pro-inflammatory due to their sensitivity to light, heat, oxygen and free radicals. When the diet is significantly higher in omega-6s and not enough in omega-3s, you reduce the ability of omega-3s to do their job properly. An ideal ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s ranges from 1:1 to 4:1. Healthy omega 6 fats include evening primrose oil, borage oil, avocado, olive oil, and sesame seed oil.
Raw healthy omega 3 oils lubricate your cells and have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming these oils daily gives every cell in your body an “oil change” and supports tissue healing. By reducing stickiness in the blood and helping the blood flow freely, these healthy fats help prevent cardiovascular diseases. Furthermore, they keep cell membranes fluid, lubricate joints and skin, boost metabolism, nourish the immune system, balance hormones and treat depression. EFAs are also important allies in preventing and healing cancer.
Because these essential fatty acids are lipids that the body cannot synthesize, they must be obtained from food or supplements. Omega 3 fats are highest in coldwater fish, ocean krill, enriched eggs, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts. Camelina oil is the most versatile source of omega 3 fat due to its remarkable nutrient properties. It is naturally high in vitamin E and contains twice as many Omega-3’s as Omega-6’s, which helps to rebalance our bodies’ optimal Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio. Due to its stability, this oil is not only great as a salad dressing, but its high smoke point (475° F) also makes it ideal for cooking, baking, and light sautéing. Visit your local health food store and grab some fat today!