Omega-3 Fatty Acids - What are they?
Our world is a fatty one. We rely on fat more than air it seems. Whenever we go out to lunch on our lunch break we avoid all of the healthy alternatives we could have and instead gorge ourselves on a Whopper or Big Mac which are loaded with fat, salt and oil. All this is doing is dragging us down to a slow death by clogging our arteries until they cannot take it anymore and they burst.
Limiting our intake of fat is important and even more so when we are talking about saturated fats and trans fats because they help to raise our cholesterol to dangerous levels. This, of course, puts us at risk for many life ending diseases like heart disease. Other chronic illnesses will also creep in. We do, however, need some fat regardless of what some fad diet purveyors tell you. We need to limit our fat intake by thirty percent of whatever our calories are and choose good fats over bad fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which will help to counter the bad ones.
The monounsaturated fats will aid us in lowering the bad cholesterol (LDL) while it will also help to raise the good cholesterol (HDL). Some monounsaturated fats are more valued than others because some of these fats are a lot less stable and can lower the good cholesterol along with the bad. Polyunsaturated fats are typically a great source of omega-3 acids which we find in fish, oils, nuts, seeds and even some leafy dark green vegetables. Essential fatty acid cannot be created by our bodies so the only way to get it is by eating foods that are rich in it. Doing this can lower the blood pressure and bring down bad cholesterol.
Bad fats clog the arteries. These are fats found in red meat and dairy. Saturated fats are solid when at room temperature. Besides clogging your arteries they also raise your levels of bad cholesterol.
There have been some discoveries as of late that tells us that not all saturated fats are bad for us. Coconut and palm oil for instance have some beneficial properties because their fatty acids are metabolized differently in our bodies. They are conducting studies currently about plant life and fatty acids to hopefully come to a conclusion.
What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids Anyway?
That is a very good question. Well, omega-3 fatty acids are actually a form of polyunsaturated fats which are found in nuts, oily fish, seeds and even leafy green vegetables. These omega-3 fatty acids are believed to aid our bodies in protecting us against many ailments such as heart disease, inflammations, Alzheimer’s disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, and macular degeneration which is a leading cause of loss of vision loss. Many doctors currently believe that omega-3 fatty acids are now critical for the brain to properly develop. These fatty acids also are important to the growing neurological functions in babies.
Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids Essential?
They are, in fact, classed as "essential fatty acids," which does mean they are needed in our bodies and we are not able to make them ourselves. That is not completely accurate as our body can produce many omega-3 fatty acids except for one: alpha linolenic acid (LNA or ALA). This is why it is important to consume foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids regardless if we are attempting to eat low fat.
Where can you find Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
You can find most sources of LNA in plants, nuts and seeds. In fact, most of us get enough LNA in our diets currently. We do burn off a lot of LNA as energy rather than allow our bodies to utilize it. Only 5% of LNA is converted to the most potent forms of Omega-3: EPA and DHA. Fortunately for us we can find these two forms of Omega-3 fatty acids in fish.
Keep in mind that many foods on the market today are fortified with Omega-3 fatty acids. Some of these foods include breads, pasta, yogurt and even eggs. Keep in mind that although good these foods contain levels of LNA that are not very helpful to our bodies. These LNA are less potent and serve the energy needs and not the overall health need of the body mechanic. The Federal Drug Administration will allow certain products to carry health claims on the packaging such as “help reduce risk of heart disease”. There is much debate over the use of claims on certain products that have been linked to such issues – such as eggs.