Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids Are Important
For decades our culture waged a war on fat, blaming its consumption for obesity, heart disease, diabetes and more. We found ourselves faced with a multitude of low-fat food options but they didn’t make us thinner or healthier.
In fact, we are heavier and more diseased than ever. It turns out fat is not the villain and we actually need a good dose of it in our daily diet. So if you are wondering why Omega-3 Fatty Acids are important? Let’s look at what they are, the types of food sources and 5 ways that healthy fats are beneficial to us.
So, what makes a fat good? I would be remiss if I sent you off thinking that any old fat would support your brain health, your hormones, or give you any of the above benefits. We need to know the difference between the good and the bad.
The Good: All fat that we ingest is broken down by the body into fatty acids. Those which the body needs, but cannot make itself, are called essential fatty acids, (or EFA’s) because it is ‘essential’ that we consume them in our diet. The two essential fatty acids our body requires are Omega 3 and Omega 6. These are the good fats.
Omega 3’s are one of the healthiest fats we can consume. Good sources include fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines), avocados, avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts and seeds, as well as their oils and butters. Omega 6’s, while an EFA, are generally abundant in the western diet already. They can be found in processed seed and vegetable oils, beef fat, and egg yolks. So for optimal health, remember to include many sources of good fat in your diet.
The Bad:Unfortunately, our modern food culture has created a couple of nasty villains in the fat world in order to increase the shelf-life of products needing to be stored, shipped, and sold over a long period of time. The two big villains are hydrogenated fats and trans fats, which you will find added to a lot of processed food products.
The Sources: So where do we find the good fats and where to we find the bad? Any food label that lists “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” fat or oil should be avoided. Products like margarine, chips, french fries, donuts, and commercially prepared pastries tend to be full of trans or hydrogenated fats and should also be avoided.
Now that we know what Omega-3 Fatty Acids are, lets take a look at why they are important to us:
Fat helps our brains stay nourished.
Our brains are made of 60% fat and the protective sheath around all our nerves are made of 70% fat. A good amount of daily fat supports our entire nervous system, and a healthy nervous system is less prone to brain fog, depression, anxiety, Parkinsons, and Alzheimers.
Fat helps our glands make hormones.
Fat is one of the key building blocks of hormones. A lack of healthy fats can lead to hormone imbalances which can show up as estrogen dominance, PCOS, thyroid troubles, or adrenal fatigue, to name a few.
Fat helps our bodies absorb nutrients.
Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble nutrients our body needs every day. Without fat, our body cannot properly break down and utilize these important vitamins which are essential for things like good vision, bone health, fighting free radicals, and blood clotting.
Fat helps our skin stay lubricated.
Good fats help our skin retain nutrients and moisture and flush out waste products. Fat is not only a necessary component for youthful, supple skin, but also for healthy hair and nails.
Fat helps us feel full and satisfied.
Of all the macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein), fat is the slowest to fully digest. This means that we feel full longer when we’ve included fat in our meals or snacks, which helps regulate blood sugar levels and control food cravings.
These are just a few of the heroic acts fat performs in our body every day. Fat is also a key component in the membrane of every cell in our body, it blankets our vital organs, protecting them from trauma, the cold, and it helps regulate our body temperature. With all this in mine, we would be wise to focus on obtaining plenty of good fat in our diet.