Just like any other kind of nutrients, essential fatty acids are vital in the proper functioning of the body. As one of the nutrients that the body cannot synthesize, essential fatty acids are specific fats that can be obtained from other food sources depending on the type that the body needs.
Essential fatty acids come in different forms, but the main types that must be included in the diet are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are involved in several normal body functions, including regulating blood clotting and building the cell membranes in the brain. In addition, they help in maintaining the viscosity of the blood to prevent the formation of unwanted blood clots in the arteries that might cause heart attacks and stroke. Current studies aim to identify their potential benefits in other types of health conditions, including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Two major types of omega-3 fatty acids are usually found in different kinds of food. The alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) can be obtained from some vegetable oils like soybean, rapeseed or canola oil, flaxseed oil, and walnuts. ALA can also be taken from green vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and salad greens. On the other hand, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are acquired from fatty fish.
Similarly, omega-6 fatty acids contain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are common in the Western diet because safflower, corn, cottonseed, and soybean oils are usually added in their meals. This type of fatty acid reduces the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is commonly referred to as the “bad” cholesterol. It also serves as protection against heart disease.
Of these two main types of essential fatty acids, insufficient omega-3 fatty acids in the diet result to more adverse effects. Low levels have been associated with dementia, hair and skin problems, mood swings, memory loss, and certain vision problems.
Although it is a known fact that these essential fatty acids are required in the daily diet, most people do not get their daily servings of certain foods that are rich in these nutrients. They can choose to take supplements to obtain the necessary dosage of omega-3 fatty acids.
For example, individuals who do not eat fish can take fish oil gel supplements. Small amounts of vitamin E are added to prevent spoilage. Other vitamins and minerals in fish oil supplements are calcium, iron, or vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, or D. As “brain food,” some people eat fish to alleviate and control depression, psychosis, ADHD in kids, inflammation problems such as arthritis, prevent Alzheimer’s disease and various other disorders. Generally, it is recommended to take 500 mg per day of essential fatty acids supplements.
Essential fatty acids are important to the body’s health. Thus, it is good to check each person’s diet to ensure that he or she is getting the adequate supply of these essential building blocks. Include fatty fish, soybeans, green vegetables, and other good sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the grocer’s list. Or, invest in dietary supplements that contain these essential fatty acids.