Essential Fatty Acids is a group of nutrients that, like vitamins and minerals, we must obtain from our diet. There are three categories of EFAs, omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9. Omega 3 and omega 6 are considered essential; omega 9, while still beneficial, is not considered essential because it can be synthesized in our bodies from the others.
The standard North American diet is deficient in EFAs, especially Omega 3s. Commercial cooking oils are refined and processed to remove the beneficial EFAs in order to prolong shelf life. Special processing and storage at low temperatures, in an oxygen and light free environment is necessary to preserve the fragile EFAs.
Flax and hemp oils are good sources of Omega 3s. Cold water fish oils are also good sources and have the advantage of providing two special Omega 3s, DHA and EPA. High quality fish oils do not have a fishy taste and odour, which is caused by oxidation.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an essential component of brain, nervous system and eye tissues and is critical to their development and function. It is a component of breast milk (and has recently been added to formulas). DHA deficiency can result in poor brain development, ADHD, learning disorders, memory loss and some visual problems.
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is an important essential fatty acid for cardiovascular health and control of the inflammation producing arachidonic acid. EPA deficiency can result in cardiac arrhythmia, high cholesterol, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
Together, DHA and EPA can:
· Promote cardiovascular health
· Reduce inflammation
· Support mental focus and cognitive function
· Support positive mood and emotional well-being
· Promote brain, eye and nervous system health
· Support healthy immune system function
· enhance appearance of skin and hair
· promote optimal fat metabolism
Udo Erasmus is a researcher specializing in fats and oils. I heard him lecture on this topic in the mid 1980s (he was already warning about trans fatty acids back then). I highly recommend his book “Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill” for more information on this fascinating subject.
This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.