While we were young, we were given a drug called “cod liver oil”. I detested the smell. Now, I have come to realise that mum was doing us a lot of good by giving us that drug.
Essential fatty acids or EFAs are fatty acids that humans and other animals must ingest because the body requires them for good health. However, as essential as they are to our well being, the human body cannot produce them! You have to ingest them in your diets or through supplements.
Only two fatty acids are known to be essential for humans, alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid). Some other fatty acids are sometimes classified as “conditionally essential”, meaning that they can become essential under some developmental or disease conditions, examples include docosahexaenoic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) and gamma-linolenic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid).
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acid reduces inflammation and may help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function.
In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Women who eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids over many years may be less likely to develop breast cancer.
Research has actually found a link between increased menstrual pain and low omega-3 blood concentrations. In one study, there was an increase in fertility rates with supplements of omega-3. Scientists found that omega-3 supplementation reduced clotting in the endometrial cells that line the uterus and this improved the implantation rates of fertilized eggs. An imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 ratio has been connected to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which can contribute to infertility.
Deficiencies in these fatty acids lead to a host of symptoms and disorders like abnormalities in the liver and the kidneys, reduced growth rates, decreased immune function, depression and dryness of the skin. Among other things, these fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) are responsible for the health of our skin, hair and nails. Most of the health benefits linked to omega-3 fats are linked to the animal source. When you eat marine-based sources of omega-3s, you are getting polyunsaturated fatty acids that are truly beneficial for cell health.
Perhaps you are wondering what animal-based omega-3 options are available for you – fish is the option (Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, oysters, shrimps and halibut. Other seafoods including seaweed, algae and krill.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fish, particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon at least two times a week. Seeds like flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sun flower seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, walnuts, hemp seeds, kidney beans and pumpkin seeds are loaded with protein and omega 3. Dietary sources of omega-6 fatty acids are poultry eggs, nuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, vegetable oils like grape seed oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil, blackcurrant seed oil, flax or linseed oil, hemp oil and palm oil.