You may have heard quite a bit about omega fatty acids during your quest to learn more about eating cleaner, more nutritious foods. But have you ever taken the time to actually learn the differences between them and why that matters? This article should help clear up some things for you.
So you know, there are actually three types of omega fatty acids, which in essence are the primary components of fat. As noted by Prevention, some are saturated and others are unsaturated. The former have single bonds between carbon atoms; for example, butter has saturated fats. The latter have double bonds, and that's where you find omega fatty acids. There are three types of omegas: -3's, -6's and -9's, and they are naturally unsaturated, which most experts consider to be far healthier.
Let's break these down:
Omega-3 fatty acids: Quite simply, Omega-3 fatty acids are superfoods.
A plethora of research indicates that Omega-3 consumption reduces cardiovascular disease, fights cancer and cuts inflammation and bowel disease. One recent study revealed some truly groundbreaking information about the health effects of Omega-3s. During the study, published in the Netherlands-based journal Pharma Nutrition, researchers found that supplementing with Omega-3 was "shown to augment the therapeutic efficacy of antidepressant, mood-stabilizer, and second generation antipsychotic medications..." They may also reduce cardiometabolic side effects, the study noted.
So profound are Omega-3's psychiatric effects that researchers are suggesting they be incorporated into psychiatric treatments. If this approach is adopted by psychiatry in general, it could mean a dramatic reduction in Big Pharma "solutions" that can lead to dangerous consequences, in favor of a more natural approach.
Omega-6 fatty acids:
Unlike Omega-3's, Omega-6's can have detrimental effects on your body and your health. As Prevention notes, your body does not make Omega-3's or -6's, and your body does need some of the latter – just not a lot. Unfortunately, Omega-6s are very prevalent in cooking oils high in saturated fats, like vegetable oil, corn oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, peanut oil and soy. Dietary experts have noted that Americans are getting something like 15 to 25 times more Omega-6's than Omega-3's.
As we have reported over the years, a diet high in Omega-6's is linked to higher incidence of breast cancer, depression, heart disease and prostate tumor cell growth. Naturopathic doctors recommend boosting the Omega-3 intake in your diet while scaling back on foods that contain Omega-6 fatty acids. The best sources of Omega-6 fatty acids (because again you need some) include the above oils, but also pumpkin seeds, chia seed oil, raw nuts and seeds, grains, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, purslane and kale.
Omega-9 fatty acids:
These are non-essential fatty acids that are produced by the body. Castor Oil is high in Omega-9's and, according to this Natural News Blog, has been reported to be effective in re-growing hair, thickening eyelashes and preventing hair loss.
Omega-9's are also found in the oils mentioned above – canola, sunflower, and olive oils. They are also found in avocados and almonds, among other foods.
"Omega-9s aren't required, but they have their own health benefits," Sonya Angelone, RDN, told Prevention. For instance, consuming them in lieu of saturated fats can lead to lower cholesterol levels. Also, the website noted, new research suggests that certain foods rich in Omega-9's, like avocados, may in fact help reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
So Omega-9's are a nice addition to your diet because they are a good source of energy and do provide some health benefits. But they're not essential so you'll want to limit intake because, as with all fats, too much can add calories quickly. A few slices of avocado on your salad per day or with lunch or dinner will do nicely.