Fats have been given a bad reputation. There are good fats and yes some bad fats.  Know your good fats. In fact they are so important for our health, some facts are good Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). Humans cannot make their own EFAs, so we have to get them from our diet. Chemically, they form a long-chain known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (versus the saturated fatty acid, which we want to avoid).

Here is a list of the essential functions these Essential Fatty Acids do when they enter our body:

  • Cell membrane function and its flexibility to allow transmission of signals from cell to cell.
  • EFAs make hormone-like structures called prostaglandins that control body temperature and inflammation. So, EFA help in the fight against arthritis and related pain.
  • Fatty acids can prevent blood clots (blood clots cause strokes and heart attacks).
  • Improve the health of your hair and nail (deficiency causes brittle hair and dry skin).
  • Helps the absorption of nutrients through the walls of the intestines.
  • Inhibits the growth of cancer cells.
  • Our brains are made up to mostly fat. Yes, our brains are fat, but they are made up of the good fats. Omega-3 is very abundant in our brains; that is why breast milk has so much of it- to support the rapid growth of the baby’s brains. The transmission of important chemical messengers, known as neurotransmitters (example is serotonin) are decreased with EFAs deficiency. In fact studies have shown that Omega-3 deficiency can cause depression.
  • EFA are also found in our eyes.

    EFAs are classified into Omega-3 and Omega-6:

    • They are called omega because of their position on that chain.
    • Omega-3 EFAs come from alpha-linolenic Acid. They are used in the building of our cells walls.
    • Omega-6 from linoleic Acid.
    • There is also a cousin called Omega-9 which comes from Oleic Acid. It is mentioned here but our body can make some of it (therefore “not considered essential”), but we still need it. What we need is to eat a balanced amount of the two omegas: for every one portion of Omega-6 you eat, you will need 2 portions of Omega-3. An optimum amount of essential fatty acid has been suggested as 3 to 6% of our daily calorie intake.

      Here is a list of food rich in EFAs:

      • Fish, especially cold-water fish such as Salmon, cod, mackerel, sardines
      • Seeds: Pumpkins, sunflower
      • Avocados
      • Leafy vegetables
      • Walnuts
      • Try to include raw nuts or flaxseed into your salad or meals.  High heat can destroy EFSs.
      • For cooking, use oils that are not destroyed by heat: Grapeseed oil and extra virgin olive oil. Avoid hydrogenated , polysaturated fats or oils. Pay attention to labels.
      • Look at the labels; use “cold-pressed” extra olive oils or flaxseed oil for your salad dressing.

        Stay away from these:

        • Bad fats such as saturated fats found in red beef. However, we are learning that grass raised cows have lower saturated fats. Aim for lean cuts.
        • Butter- use in moderation.
        • Avoid using fatty acids for cooking (high heat) because high heat turns them into bad fats.

          Remember, no one will have a heart attack from eating pumpkin seeds- so enjoy it.