Lately, there’s been a bit of a buzz about essential fatty acids (EFAs). But what exactly are they? And why are they so essential?
Let’s start with omega-3s, because they get the most attention. And rightfully so! They’re important to our health because we need them in order to survive, but our bodies can’t produce them. So we must get them through the food we eat. The best sources of omega-3s are cold-water fish, like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and bluefish. If you’re not a fan of fish, flaxseeds are another source. They’re loaded with alpha-linolenic acid, which your body can turn into the same kind of fat you can get from fish.
Next are the omega-6s. These EFAs are everywhere, and if anything, we probably get too much of them. They’re found in seed and nut oils, plus the kind of refined vegetable oil that’s used in snack foods, cookies, crackers, and sweets. Still, our bodies can’t produce omega-6s, so they must be taken in from the food we eat. But don’t go crazy—you most likely get enough 6s without making a conscious effort.
Before Americans started relying so heavily on processed food, there was a good balance between the omega-3s and the omega-6s. Now we tend to get far too many 6s and not enough 3s. Some nutritionists believe that the dietary imbalance could explain the increase in the occurrence of asthma, heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.
Now for the omega-9s. These are in a category of their own, because they are not EFAs. Our bodies can produce them, so they aren’t considered “essential.” But the reason they are included in this list is that they can be used as a substitute for 3s and 6s when we are lacking either of those. But it’s not an ideal replacement, and eventually the body will suffer.
Now that you know the difference between the omegas, you’ll see why there’s so much emphasis on getting omega-3s in your diet. So how about serving salmon for dinner tonight?
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