Health Tips | Essential Fatty Acids

EFA's, what are they? Why are they important?

EFA's stand for essential fatty acids. They are termed "essential" because the body cannot create them and therefore consumption in the diet is essential.

A diet or supplement rich in EFA's is used to treat depression, dementia, anxiety, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and high blood pressure, eczema, PMS, fertility, asthma and the list goes on!

Omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic)

  • Used in the treatment of PMS, hormonal imbalance, psoriasis, eczema and asthma
  • For maintanence of healthy blood pressure and ensure a healthy heart
  • Omega-6's are abundant in the Canadian diet.

Dietary Sources of Omega-6 Fatty Acids:

nuts, seeds, legumes, cereals, eggs, poultry, avocado, vegetable oils, whole-grain breads, baked goods and corn, canola, safflower, soybean and sunflower oils

Supplemental sources of Omega-6 Fatty Acids

  • Flaxseed oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil, hemp oil
  • These oils in liquid form should always be refrigerated
  • Never heat or use in cooking
  • Flax and hemp come in a liquid or capsule form, evening primrose and borage oils are usually more palatable in a capsule
  • Add hemp hearts or flax seeds to boost fibre intake too (sprinkle on cereal or a salad, add to a smoothie or blend in yogurt)

Omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic)

  • They are important in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, auto-immune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, depression and dementia.
  • They function to ensure the health of the brain and nervous system, formation of cell membranes, regulate immune system function, help produce hormones in the body, ensure a healthy cardiovascular system.
  • These EFA's are largely deficient in the Canadian diet

Omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic)

cold water fish: salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines (EPA + DHA), flaxseed oil (richest plant based source of omega-3, and also a source of omega-6's), walnuts and soybeans(ALA)

  • It is recommended 2-3 servings per week of fish will satisfy this requirement (be careful of fish with high heavy metal content, choose smaller fish or cold water wild fish such as salmon)
  • A fish oil or vegetarian omega-3 supplement daily can also be used to boost the levels of these very important fats.
  • You can choose to take fish oil or omega-3 supplement in liquid or capsule form If you take Omega-3s in supplement form, be sure to check with your health care provider first if you are taking a blood thinning medication such as warfarin or heparin.

Facts about Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids:

  • Fish oils are one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Vegetarians sources include soy, flax or an algae DHA source DHA is known to make up approximately 30% of the grey matter of the human brain
  • Fish oils should never taste overly fishy.If the oil has a strong taste or smell, then it is probably spoiled, do not consume it!
  • Quality matters! we recommend purified fish oils that have to adhere to strict standards of quality and testing. (free of toxins and heavy metals)
  • Fat is an essential part of a healthy brain, a healthy heart, optimal vision, not to mention glowing skin, hair and nails!

Make sure to enjoy an abundance of essential fatty acids in your daily diet:

  • Add 1/2 avocado to a lunchtime sandwich or wrap Make your own salad dressing with flax or olive oil and fresh lemon juice
  • Add hemp hearts to your smoothie or sprinkle ground flax seeds on your cereal or salads.
  • Enjoy plain unsalted nuts and seeds, including nut and seed butter for a good way to boost these essential fats and balance blood sugar. (try sunflower or cashew butter as a new way to add variety to your diet)
  • Choose wild salmon for dinner once per week Make a trail mix and be sure to include walnuts or pumpkin seeds!

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