Why we need essential fatty acids in our diet

Fish oil capsule close up

 We’ve all heard of essential fatty acids…..but what exactly are they?

In a nutshell, they are fatty acids that we are required to ingest in order for us to live because our bodies don’t synthesize them on our own. Pretty important, right?

The two most critical are alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid). They affect brain function, normal growth and development, inflammation, mood, behavior and cell signaling.

Some of the most popular food sources of these fatty acids are fish/shellfish, flaxseed (my personal fave), hemp seed, canola (rapeseed) oil, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, leafy vegetables, and walnuts. You can also get them in supplement form but it would need to be very high quality.

Standard American diets are more deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and have excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids (which can cause more inflammation). It’s important that we get a good balance. According to The University of Maryland, the ratio should be in the range of 2:1 – 4:1, omega-6 to omega-3. Check with your doctor if you are unsure what your levels may be .

The Mediterranean diet is very well known for being balanced when it comes to EFAs and that my friends, will ensure longevity. So, it’s okay to use that olive oil and we should be cutting back our red meat consumption and snacking on more fish, eating fresh veggies and fruits and of course, smiling!

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