“While fish is one of the best food sources of omega 3 fatty acids, we have been warned to limit consumption because of high mercury levels. These animals could represent an alternative source.” – Yifan Dai
Omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids are all important dietary fats. They each have some health benefits for your body.
Omega-3’s (linolenic) are essential fatty acids, polyunsaturated, that the body can’t make but must get them from food. There are 3 main omega 3’s: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). They are an essential part of cell membranes throughout the body in which they affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes. Omega-3’s provide the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction, and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation (anti-inflammatory). (1,2)
EPA and DHA come mainly from fish. ALA, most common in Western diets, is found in vegetable oils, nuts, flax seeds, leafy vegetables, some animal fat. The (4)World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating at least two portions of oily fish per week, which is rich in omega3’s EPA and DHA. (4)
Omega-3 fats have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke (2). Some other benefits may include: lower blood pressure, heart rate, improve blood vessel function, decrease depression symptoms, and help slow cognitive decline (1,2,5,8) Another advantage, that may help with this country’s obesity problem, is how omega 3’s may be able to reduce weight and waist size. (6,7)
Omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic) is another polyunsaturated fat that the body can’t make, and therefore needs to get it from food. They are also shown to have some benefit in reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering total cholesterol levels, lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol, raising “good” HDL cholesterol, if eaten in moderation, and in place of saturated fats found in meat and dairy products. (9) More studies research is needed to fully understand how omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids interact with each other and with other nutrients. (3) According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the US Institute of Medicine, the adequate intake of omega-6s per day is 17 grams for men and 12 gram for women, for adults 19-50 years old. (11)
Omega-6 fatty acids can be obtained through a large number of seeds and oils. Some examples as to where you can get these omega-6’s are: flaxseeds, hempseeds, grapeseed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, pistachios, along with oils that are made from these seeds.
Omega-9 are monounsaturated fatty acids. They are not entirely essential, because it can be produced in the body, and be consumed through food. Oleic acid is the most common omega-9 fatty acid produced by the body and consumed in the diet. One study found that high-monounsaturated fat diets could reduce plasma triglycerides by 19% and very-low-density-lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol by 22% in patients with diabetes. The same study found that people who ate high-monounsaturated fat diets had less inflammation and better insulin sensitivity than those who ate foods high in saturated fats. (10)
Some foods that have Omega-9 fatty acids can be found in olive oil, cashew nut oil, almond oil, avocado oil, peanut oil, almonds, cashews, and walnuts. (12)
Hopefully, this has educated you on the differences between the 3 omega fatty acids. With this increased insight on the omega fatty acids, you can live a healthier lifestyle. (Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, or changing your diet)
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