There are so many different types of fats that we eat and they all have different jobs and functions for our bodies. Some fats do not even benefit us at all. In fact some fats harm us! The fat that I am referring to is Trans fats. First, before we get into Omega-3 fatty acids, let’s understand why trans fats are harmful.
First of all trans fats (trans fatty acids) are artificially made. The process to create trans fats is to add hydrogen molecules to liquid vegetable oil to make it more of a solid form. The primary source of trans fats in foods that are highly processed are called partially hydrogenated oils. Thanks to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2013 they no longer considered hydrogenated oils to be Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for human consumption. However it still is not illegal and is found in highly processed foods
A lot of companies use trans fats because they are inexpensive to produce and they are able to use the same oil repetitively in commercial fryers. What makes trans fats so bad for you? They increase your “bad cholesterol” (LDL, which then puts an individual at an increased risk to develop heart disease and stroke.
Now that you got a little less on trans fats why are omega 3 fatty acids so healthy for you!? Well to start off omega-3 fatty acids are an essential fat. This means that people need to consume food in order to have it in their diet, a.k.a. our body does not produce it on our own. This fat is a polyunsaturated fat, which is a good type of fat! There are three types of polyunsaturated fats:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are popularly down to be in fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel.
For those who are not big fish eaters you can still get your omega-3 fatty acids because Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in plant based foods. ALA is found in some vegetable oils, soybean rapeseed (canola), walnuts, flaxseeds, along with some dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Out of this plant based list, flaxseeds seems to be the richest when it comes to ALA. Try adding 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds to your smoothies, protein shakes, yogurt, cottage cheese, or oatmeal to get a boost of omega-3 fatty acids.
Just keep in mind that while it is important to intake omega-3 fatty acids daily some sources are super high in fat. Why?- Well because omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat, and fat has a lot of calories per gram. In general fat has more than half the amount of calories per gram compared to protein and carbohydrates! Fat has 9 calories per gram! Which means if a product has 12 grams of fat, that is 108 calories just coming from fat!
What Makes Omega-3 Fats so Special?
Omega-3 fatty acids play many roles for our body to be optimally healthy. They help produce hormones that are involved in blood clotting by preventing platelets from clumping together. Omega-3 fatty acids also do the exact opposite compared to trans fats when it comes to cholesterol. Unlike trans fats who increase the likelihood to develop heart disease and stroke, omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help keep the heart beating at a steady rate along with decreasing blood pressure, heart rate and improving vessel function. This healthy fat at higher doses may also help with rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, inflammation. Of course always consult with your doctor if you are looking to supplement.
Now comes omega-3 fatty acids friend… omega-6 fatty acids. Is omega-6 fatty acids healthy for you? The answer is yes! However most Americans don’t have a problem getting omega-6 fatty acids into their diets. The reason for this is because the Western diet includes omega-6 fatty acids a lot more into cooking and daily food choices. Some sources of Omega-6 fatty acids include: safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, avocado oil, eggs and more. Omega-6 fatty acids are essential like omega -3 fatty acids, which have to be obtained for your diet.
If this article got you thinking about how much omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids you are eating I did my job! A general ratio between omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids is 1:4. I personally would recommend taking a look at what types of oils and foods you cook with and eat. From there you can see if you would need to make any adjustments to your diet to get a better omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids ratio. If you are looking to take supplements always make sure to consult with your doctor before hand!