Benefits of Omega Fatty Acids
If you spent any time in grocery stores during the nineties, you may remember the barrage of ‘low-fat’ and ‘no-fat’ items that filled grocery store shelves. From low-fat snack cakes to no-fat drinks, we knew fat was bad. But what if I told you that there are good fats – fats our bodies need to survive?
Say hello to the Omega fatty acids – specifically, the Omega-3, 6, and 9 varieties. These fatty acids are all important dietary fats that provide a number of health benefits, so keep reading to learn about how you can incorporate these advantageous acids into your daily diet.
Polyunsaturated fats – a type of fat your body can't make – Omega-3 fatty acids are actually classified as essential fats. Not only are these fats a critical part of the human cell membrane, they are also known to improve heart health, support mental health, fight inflammation, and promote bone health.
Omega-3 fats are commonly found in oily fish, such as herring, salmon, and sardines, eggs, and flax, or flaxseed oil. If you’re looking to up your intake, check out Bon Appetit’s 20 Recipes Full of Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
Similar to Omega-3s, Omega-6 fatty acids are also a polyunsaturated fat, used primarily by the body to produce energy. Although they are also essential, Western diets typically contain more than enough Omega-6 fats and most people should actually work to reduce their intake. These fats are commonly found in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds.
Omega-6 fatty acids are the more scandalous member of the trio – linoleic acid, an Omega-6, is a precursor to arachidonic acid, which can be metabolized into bioactive eicosanoids associated with inflammation and chronic disease. While there are cases to be made for both the negative and positive aspects of Omega-6 fatty acids, it further supports the idea that everything in moderation is the way to go.
Unlike the other fats we’ve looked at, Omega-9 fatty acids can be produced by the body. This means that they are non-essential fats, and do not have to be actively supplemented through our diets. However, it is important to note that diets that replace some saturated fats with omega-9s may have benefits for metabolic health. You can find Omega-9 fats in both olive and avocado oils, almonds, and walnuts.
While many resort to supplements to increase their intake of Omega fatty acids, the best way to benefit from their various attributes is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Next time you’re at the grocery store, consider the ingredients more so than the packaging of your purchases. With a balanced diet, you can have your cake, and eat it too.