Last updated on October 29th, 2018
Maintaining a good balance of nutrients in your diet is important.
It helps support good health.
You are what you eat and people who eat a healthy diet that provides a sufficient amount of nutrients are more likely to enjoy good health.
However, when it comes to dietary fats, eating healthy can become a very confusing issue because although eating a lot of high-fat food can be murder on the waistline and jeopardize the health.
Not all fats are bad and some fats, including omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids, can actually protect the heart, promote good health, and may even help you to lose weight.
What are Omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats and, on a chemical level, fats of this nature differ from other forms of fat because they have multiple double bonds.
The body cannot manufacture omega-3 fatty acids, you have to obtain them from food or supplements. For this reason, omega-3s are classed as “essential fats”.
There are several forms of omega-3 fatty acid and, on a chemical level, each one has a distinctive shape and size.
The three most common types of omega-3 are:
- Alpha-Linolenic Acid: Naturally-occurring in certain nuts and vegetable oils, Alpha-Linolenic Acid serves many roles in the body and is known to be good for the heart.
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): Up to 8% of brain tissue consists of DHA and it’s extremely important for healthy cerebral function.
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA): EPA supports the production of chemicals called eicosanoids. The body uses them to fight inflammation. Research conducted on cancer patients suggests EPA may also be good for encouraging weight loss.
Apart from being vitally important for human cell membranes, omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for a number of other important functions in the body.
A few important omega-3 benefits include:
- Increases bone strength
- Improves mental health and helps fight dementia
- Eases the symptoms of asthma
- Supports weight reduction
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces cholesterol
- Increases energy levels
Good Sources of Omega-3
Although some people prefer to top-up their omega-3 levels by taking supplements, and there is nothing wrong with that, it’s also possible to obtain these important fatty acids from a number of foods.
Foods that are unusually high in omega-3 include:
- Nuts (Most notably walnuts and Brazil nuts)
- Fish (anchovies, tuna, mackerel, salmon, herring, and sardines)
- Vegetable Oils (chia seed oil, canola oil, walnut oil, wheat germ oil, and flaxseed oil)
- Seeds (mustard, chia, flaxseeds, hemp, and pumpkin)
What are Omega-6 fatty acids?
Omega-6 fatty acids are very similar to omega-3. The body cannot manufacture omega 6 fatty acids, so they have to be obtained from supplements and food. The body needs them for growth and development.
A few important omega-6 benefits include:
- Reduces symptoms of Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Soothes rheumatoid arthritis
- Reduces pain in the nerves
Good Sources of Omega-6
Most of the foods that are high in omega-6 fatty acids are vegetable oils, but a few nuts and seeds contain omega-6 too.
Foods that are good for providing omega-6 include:
- Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios)
- Vegetable Oils (soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, sesame oil, safflower oil, hempseed oil, sunflower oil, and olive oil)
- Seeds (grape seeds and sunflower seeds)
What are Omega-9 fatty acids?
Omega-9 fatty acids are monounsaturated. The most common omega-9 fatty acid is oleic acid.
Unlike omega-3 and omega-6, omega-9 is not considered an essential fatty acid because the body is capable of manufacturing it.
Omega-9 holds the distinction of being the most abundant fat in the body and it’s present in nearly all human cells.
Despite the fact that it is not considered an essential fatty acid, studies show supplements that provide the body with additional omega-9 can be good for reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity.
This latter ability gives omega-9 value in the field of weight loss because improved insulin sensitivity helps prevent the blood glucose crashes that can trigger carb urges and desires for sweet and sugary food.
Good Sources of Omega-9
Many foods that are high in omega-3 and omega-6 are also good sources of omega-9 fatty acids, but omega-9 can also be found in some foods that do not contain omega-3 or omega-6.
Foods that are good for providing omega-9 include:
- Fruit (acai and avocado)
- Nuts (almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and pine nuts)
- Oils (almond oil, cashew nut oil, avocado oil, peanut oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil)
Omega Fatty Acid Supplement Considerations
Although there is nothing to prevent people from getting all the omega fatty acids they need from their food, some people prefer to use cover all the bases by using supplements.
However, people considering going this route need to bear in mind some supplements are better than others.
The best supplements for providing omega fatty acids are the ones that contain oils that have been extracted by cold pressing. Unlike other extraction methods, cold pressing does not involve the use of heat.
This offers supreme advantages because exposing polyunsaturated fatty acids to heat causes oxidation and ultimately results in an inferior extract. Such options are best avoided.
If you are considering using any form of supplement it always pays to go for the best.