When it comes to your health, doctors and nutritionists always recommend including omega fatty acids in your diet. But what exactly are they? And why are they important to the body? We’re here to tell you!
There are four omega fatty acids: omega-3, 6, 7 and 9. Omegas are a specific type of unsaturated fat, and are some of the best fats you can add to your diet. Each omega contributes to different body functions and, contrary to popular belief, can be found in more foods than just fish.
There are three types of omega-3s: DHA, EPA and ALA. DHA and EPA are mainly found in fish, so it is definitely a good idea to include fish in your diet a few times a week. ALA is found richly in nuts, seeds and vegetables.The fish with the highest omega-3s are mackerel, herring, salmon and tuna. The highest omega-3 non-fish foods include walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and egg yolks.
Omega-3s play a major role in brain function and body growth. They help your health in numerous ways but instead of listing how they benefit you, we will list the side effects of not consuming enough. You could suffer from inflammation, arthritis, depression and high cholesterol. There is even a higher risk of heart disease because omega-3s lower your triglyceride (blood fat) levels.
Like omega-3s, omega-6s also play a major role in brain function and body growth. This fatty acid helps promote skin and hair growth as well as maintaining a healthy metabolism, reproductive system and bone health. Vegetable oils (like sunflower and corn) and nuts contain high amounts of omega-6.
Omega-6s fight against allergies, high blood pressure, eczema, osteoporosis, diabetes and more. Although omega-6s have numerous benefits, consuming too many has the same side effects as under consuming omega-3s. Do NOT consume too many omega-6s, aim for a ratio such as 2:1 on omega-3 to -6.
Never heard of an omega-7? They don’t receive as much coverage as the other three, but nonetheless provides great benefits. This omega reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and increases your HDL (good) cholesterol. It slows down the production of fat molecules, is beneficial for fighting against fat storage and increases the body’s energy.
Foods high in omega-7s are macadamia nut oil, sea buckthorn oil and avocados. Avoid taking supplements as this is a fairly new omega and many studies are still being done.
Omega-9s are also found in vegetable oils, but unlike it’s omega counterparts, it can be produced in the body. Though, it is still more beneficial to obtain omega-9 from foods. They promote a healthy immune system, fight against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, raise your HDL (good) cholesterol and lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol. This omega also eliminates the buildup of plaque in the arteries, so if you are at risk of heart attack or stroke, increase your omega-9 intake. Foods high in omega-9s include vegetable oils, olive oil, nuts, avocados and olives.
All the omega fatty acids provide benefits to the body but omega-3 is the most vital. Aim to increase your omega-3 intake as it is the most important and can only be found in foods. Omega-6’s needs in the body are easily met so don’t fall for -6 supplements, as you will likely not need them. Only consume -7 from natural sources and -9 is created in the body so it is not as important but still beneficial when consumed from food.