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The Importance of Essential Fatty Acids

Essential Fatty Acids are needed to take part in virtually every function of our body. From our mental capacity to our daily energy, governing our growth rate, converting food into fuel for our bodies through oxidation, taking part in hemoglobin production and in damage prevention from the “hard fats”, the list could continue on and on.& Essential Fatty Acids play a direct part in our metabolism as well. The more saturated, hard fats we eat, the slower our metabolism runs, and vice versa.In short, the Essential Fatty Acids are so named because they are essential to the life of our body. However because the body doesn’t produce these nutrients, we must get them through the food we eat, such as nuts and seeds. The two familiar grouping names of the Essential Fatty Acids are the Omega-6 EFA’s and the Omega-3 EFA’s. Although both are needed for correct functioning of the body, the ratio over the years has skewed heavily into an excess of Omega-6 EFA’s (the main source in vegetable oils - think “fried foods”) and that can lead to dire consequences. The body is set up to receive them in about a 1:1 ratio, yet our lifestyles today tip the scale to a more 20:1 ratio of Omega-6 EFA over Omega-3 EFA.&

Overuse of the Omega-6 EFA’s can lead to obesity, diabetes, and premature aging, just to name a few problems. Omega-3 EFA’s are those commonly found in things such as flaxseed oil, walnut oil, fatty fish and fish oil. Much study has been done in the work that these Omega-3’s do for the body, specifically in the area of heart health. For example, fish oil has been seen to reduce blood pressure, maintain the “elasticity” of the blood vessels, even stabilize heart rhythms, which is one of the reasons we are encouraged to eat some sort of fatty fish in our diets at least once weekly.&

Common names of other supplements containing Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids would be Evening Primrose oil, Borage oil, and Flaxseed.&

Evening Primrose is a flower that has been used for centuries in medicinal work. The oil that is extracted contains linoleic acid which is an Essential Fatty Acid. A common use of Evening Primrose Oil is to relieve the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, which the Arthritis Foundation considers as an option in relieving the pain of inflammation. Mild side effects have been reported, mostly stomach aches and headaches.&

Borage oil is another supplement used for the relief of Rheumatoid Arthritis pain, however, borage oil may contain liver toxins, and extreme caution should be used if consuming this particular supplement.&

Flax seed oil is a powerhouse of nutrients and Essential Fatty Acids. The seed is made up of 4.9% linoleic acid and 20.3% Alpha Linoleic Acid, among other fibers and nutrients. To eat the seed, the hull or shell must be crushed for it to be digested, otherwise it will just pass straight through.&

To receive maximum benefits from Essential Fatty Acids, aim for a 12-15% part of total calorie intake. For example, a man on a 2500 calorie a day plan would consume roughly 2 2/3 tablespoons of some sort of Essential Fatty Acid oil. For a woman on a 2000 calorie a day plan, that number would be right around 2 tablespoons. It is also wise to take a daily Vitamin E supplement, because some of the oils will lower the content of Vitamin E in the blood.