Recently, there has been a lot of news about the importance of Omega-3 fats. It has been suggested that most people, while getting enough Omega-6 fats, are deficient in the Omega 3 variety. This is a cause for concern because, in addition to being important for brain health, eye health and normal growth, these healthy fats seem to protect us against diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and Type II Diabetes.
There is also a significant body of scientific research that suggests that this lopsided ratio may contribute to the increased incidence of clinical depression. There is no doubt that what you eat has a profound effect on your brain chemistry and thus, your mood, and omega fats are an important part of that discussion.
Step right up and get your essential fatty acids!
Food manufacturers have capitalized on this concern by changing the labels on their products to promote the presence of these essential fatty acids in their products. Supplements abound that promise to fulfill your body's need for healthy fat.
Linolenic Acid is the one you need to get from food.
Although we generally hear about Omega fats as a group, the essential member of the Omega-3 family of unsaturated fats is called linolenic acid, (or sometimes alpha-linolenic acid--ALA). It is essential because it cannot be made by your body and must be supplied by the food you eat.
EPA and DHA
It is important to note that, if your body has enough linolenic acid, it can make the other Omega fats that it needs to function, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) anddocosahexaenoic acid DHA, which you may also have heard about in the news.
Excellent sources of linolenic acid are walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed and fish.
Caveat: To get the most benefit, flaxseed should be ground (A coffee grinder works great for this purpose!)just before using, since it will begin to deteriorate as soon as the seed is crushed. The ground flaxseed that you see in stores is not as good a choice as freshly ground seed.
How much is enough
It is recommended that at least 2% of your daily calories be in the form of Omega-3 fats. For a person eating 2,000 calories a day, this would amount to about 4 grams of Omega 3 fats.