The omega 3 essential fatty acids are particularly important and the best sources are the aforementioned cold water fish and fish oil capsules, with nuts and seeds as the second best source.
However, omega-3 is not the only type of essential fatty acid necessary for good health. Also important are the omega-6 and omega-9. All are needed to form and maintain the structural and functional integrity of cell membranes, provide fuel for cellular energy and create the hormone-like messenger chemicals, the prostaglandins and the eicosanoids, which regulate many key metabolic functions.
Because the body cannot make these essential fats, we must obtain them from our diets. This is a lot easier said than done. For one thing, many of us consume a low ratio of essential fatty acids compared to our intake of saturated fatty acids, such as those found in full fat dairy products and meat (we all know that saturated fats are pro-inflammatory and are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease).
Unfortunately, when most of us do consume essential fatty acids, they tend to be omega-6, which is found in grains and vegetable oils such as corn and safflower. In fact, very few of us are getting the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, which may account for the growing prevalence of serious health conditions like heart attacks, cancer, asthma, lupus, schizophrenia, depression, accelerated aging, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and diabetes in our society.
This imbalance upsets the proverbial fat-metabolizing apple cart. An overabundance of omega-6 is inflammatory and interferes with the body’s ability to use omega-3s—a serious situation because of the positive effects of omega-3s we talked about earlier: They inhibit the calories we consume from being stored as body fat, while promoting the burning of body fat we already have. It is believed that human’s evolved with a 1:1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6. It is now believed that the Western diet is 15:1 or significantly greater with the omega 6 intake far surpassing the omega 3 intake. To prevent disease and to look and feel your best, drastically limit intake of omega 6, eliminate all refined vegetables oils other than extra virgin olive oil and increase your intake of the omega 3’s.
Best Choices for Omega 3 Essential Fatty acids (Linolenic Acid)
- Cold water high fat fish, esp. wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, shad, herring and trout
- Flaxseed oil (flaxseed oil has the highest linolenic content of any food), flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, hempseed oil, hempseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds
- Certain dark green leafy vegetables, including kale, spinach, purslane, mustard greens, collards, etc
Best Choices for Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids (Linoleic Acid):
- Flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, flaxseed meal,
- hempseed oil, hempseeds,
- grapeseed oil,
- pumpkin seeds,
- Pignolia (pine) nuts,
- pistachio nuts,
- raw sunflower seeds (raw),
- borage oil,
- evening primrose oil,
- black currant seed oil
Corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, and cottonseed oils are also sources of linoleic acid, but are refined and may be deficient in nutrients
Best Choices for Omega-9 Essential Fatty Acids (Oleic Acid)
While Omega-9 is not technically classified as an essential fatty acids because our bodies can manufacture it –however foods rich in oleic acid are recommended because oleic acid oleic acid assists in cancer protection, and decreases the risk of heart attacks and arteriosclerosis.
- Olive oil (extra virgin or virgin), olives,
- sesame oil,
- pistachio nuts,
- macadamia nuts
A special note on nuts and seeds:. Buy organic when possible, in small batches and store in the freezer to protect from rancidity