We cannot live without fats as they form an essential component of our bodies and serve numerous roles in the body and brain. Fats line the membrane of each of our cells, provide insulation and protection for our organs and are needed to manufacture some vitamins and hormones and also are a great storage for energy. Different types of fats react
differently inside the body and not all the fats are unhealthy. The omega 3 and 6 family of essential fats found in marine and plant oils. These are long chain fatty acids which the body cannot be manufacture, hence they are termed essential and have to be consumed in the diet. EPA and DHA are the two omega 3 fats researched to show the most physiological health benefits. Their numerous health benefits include:
-Lowering triglyceride levels- important risk factors in coronary heart disease, improving blood vessel elasticity, and reducing blood pressure.
– Preventing and treating depression and additional mental health disorders. Research also shows a positive improvement in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Fats for a positive mood are important.
-They are safe to take in pregnancy as they contribute to the normal development of the fetal brain and eyes.
-Omega 3’s also exert anti-inflammatory effects in the body and can reduce inflammation in the body, which forms the basis of many conditions including arthritis, skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, allergies and autoimmune conditions.
For vegans, vegetarians or anyone that does not consume oily fish omega 3’s can be obtained from supplementing with algae oil which is dominant in DHA. Flaxseed oil can be taken in conjunction however the minerals zinc, magnesium and some vitamin B’s are needed for the oil in flaxseed to be broken down into the longer fatty acid chains which are EPA and DHA.
Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is an essential fatty acid from the omega 6 family. It can be difficult to obtain from the diet. GLA also exerts anti-inflammatory effects in the body similar to the omega 3’s. Evening primrose oil, blackcurrant seed oil and borage oil also known as starflower oil are rich sources of GLA. Hemp seed oil and spirulina also contains a small amount. Continuing research into both omega 3’s and GLA will give us further insights into the many other health benefits of omega 3 fats.
Past research including a recent study conducted in June 2012 published in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Research journal found that nutrients are better untilised from fruits and vegetables when consumed with a fat dressing and the ones that showed the strongest benefits were the monounsaturated fats found in avocado and olive oil. The polyunsaturated fat dressings required higher amounts of fat to get the same benefit. The concept of food synergy has and is still being followed by many traditions. Certain foods are paired up to obtain greater health benefits, for example tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and a dollop of butter on cooked vegetables. Tasty and nutritious of course 🙂