What is Omega and Why it's Important
If the word "fat" has you running for the hills then this article is meant for you. Not all fat is created equal [we are talking about dietary fats] so its important to know the difference so you know which type of fat to limit and what type of fat to consume more of. The "bad" types of fats are saturated (found in meat, dairy, and eggs) and trans fats (found in foods like chips, cookies, and cakes), these types of fats should be limited as they lead to clogged arteries which can lead to coronary artery disease. We will discuss these types of fats in another article but for now lets focus on the "good" fats and the types of foods you should be consuming more of.
Good fats are composed of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats both which reduce the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids [FA] is a type of polyunsaturated fat which is essential for optimal health, our bodies can not make this type of fat ourselves so its important to get it through supplements or a healthy diet.
What makes omega-3 FA's so special is that they are an integral part of cell membranes throughout our body and they affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes. They lay the foundation for making hormones in areas that regulate blood clotting, contract artery walls, reduce inflammation, improve vision, improve heart health and brain function. Because the omega 3's are found in virtually every important cell you can see how important they are to the overall health of your body.
Omega 3 FA's come in the form of ALA, DHA, and EPA. DHA and EPA are commonly found in certain types of fish and is sometimes referred to as marine omega 3's, these types of fats are what our bodies need more of. ALA is commonly found in most western diets and our bodies generally use ALA for energy and blood sugar regulation.
Now that we know how important Omega 3 FA's are to our bodies it’s important is to consume as much of it in our diets as we can. Luckily, many foods are naturally present or fortified with these FA’s so we can easily increase our levels.
The most important type of FA we should have more of is, DHA. DHA is a key structural component of our brains, retinas of our eyes, our hearts, and many other important functions of our bodies. It is naturally found in fatty fish, meats, dairy, and eggs. Vegans and vegetarians often lack this essential FA so its imperative for them to obtain their FA’s through supplements.
EPA is important to reduce cellular inflammation and reduce the likelihood of platelet aggregation, which reduces the risk for clot formation. Clot formation is a dangerous risk factor for strokes and heart attacks. EPA is commonly found in the same types of food that DHA is in such as fatty fish, eggs, and meat.
ALA is also important to reduce the incidence of heart attacks and heart disease. It plays a role in inhibiting the formation of plaque which causes the arteries to harden and is the fatty build up that characterizes atherosclerosis. It also plays a unique role that it can also help lower blood pressure. Unlike DHA and EPA, ALA is commonly found in nuts and oils such as walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds. Flaxseeds and canola oil.
As we know now, omega FA’s are the building blocks of the fat in our bodies and the foods we eat. FA’s have many important roles in our bodies including energy storage, anti-inflammatory processes, immune system support, prevention of heart attacks amongst others. It is important for us to consume adequate levels of omega FA’s either through our diet or through supplements for us to take advantage of the array of health benefits they offer.