Why are “good” fats and Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) needed in our diet?
1. Your body needs healthy fat for:
*Cushioning body organs and keeping you warm
*Energy (energy value of fat is actually double that of carbohydrates or protein)
*Healthy brain, heart, nerve tissues
*Healthy skin, nails, hair, bones
*All organ and glandular functioning
*Cell communication, growth, division and repair
*Absorption and transportation of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K)
*Integrity of cell membranes.
2. Prostaglandin metabolism (prostaglandins are precursors to hormones that are vitally important for regulating):
*Inflammation, pain and swelling
*Gastrointestinal function and secretions
*Kidney function and fluid balance
*Steroid production and hormone synthesis.
Essential Fatty Acids versus Non-essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids cannot be produced within the body, therefore, need to be eaten in the diet (Omega 3 and Omega 6).
Non-essential fatty acids can be produced from the metabolism of other fats (i.e. Omega 9 can be made from the right intake of Omega 6 and Omega 3).
Balance is the key:
Omega 6 EFAs and Omega 3 EFAs must be eaten in the right balance to properly manage prostaglandins and maintain optimal health. Our ancestors ate a lot of fish, hydrogenated and trans fats did not exist, and they consumed about 50% Omega 6 and 50% Omega 3. Our modern diet contains 90-95% Omega 6 and 5-10% Omega 3. A healthy diet should contain 50-75% Omega 6 and 25-50% Omega 3.
This shift has come from a combination of 2 major changes in our diet:
1. A major increase in eating the bad types of fats (margarine, shortening, hydrogenated fats, heat processed low-quality supermarket brand oils, deep fried foods, poor quality meats).
2. A major decrease in eating the good types of fats (fresh fish, nuts, seeds, organic fresh butter, quality lean meat sources, quality Omega 6 and Omega 3 EFAs).
Plus, high levels of trans fats prevent your body from using EFAs.
Our modern diet provides very high levels of Omega 6 EFAs and very low levels of Omega 3 EFAs in an unhealthy ratio. The problem is that most of our Omega 6’s come from products where the “good” fats have been converted into “bad” fats through their processing. Therefore, we’re not really getting good quality Omega 6’s to produce the “good” type of prostaglandins. We are really getting an abundance of trans fats, which produce “bad” prostaglandins.
What can we do to correct the balance of EFAs?
*Eliminate/decrease hydrogenated and trans fats.
*Eliminate/decrease poor quality Omega 6 sources.
*Increase good quality Omega 6 sources.
*Increase intake of Omega 3 sources (flax, Omega-3, GLA, fish oils, DHA, EPA). Flaxseed must be purchased from a store’s refrigerator section and kept refrigerated. These oils and seeds spoil very easily when exposed to heat, air or light. Check expiration date. Once opened, use within 6-8 weeks. May be kept in freezer to increase shelf life. Use in salad dressings or add to fresh juices, shakes or smoothies. Ground flax seeds should not be baked with and should be used immediately after grinding. These are also a good source of beneficial fiber. Whole flax seeds may be added to baking for extra fiber.
*Supplement with a GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) product (http://bit.ly/1aVWjCk). GLA is linolenic acid (Omega 3) that has been converted to a form that is more easily used by your body.
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