Essential Fatty Acids: The Important Role Of Good Fat

You have probably heard all about the ‘bad’ types of fat, so let’s talk about essential fatty acids and the important role of good fat.  First of all, it’s important to understand what essential fatty acids are. 

What Are Essential Fatty Acids?

Essential Fatty Acids, or EFA’s, are actually two types of fat that cannot be produced by the human body and must be obtained into the body through diet.  These two polyunsaturated fatty acids are called linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid and are often more commonly referred to as Omega 3 and Omega 6, respectively. 

Why You Need EFA’s

There is a particular deficiency of Omega 3 that has been noted in the United States.

EFA deficiency and Omega 3 and 6 imbalances have been associated with some pretty serious health issues such as:

  • heart attacks
  • cancer
  • asthma
  • high cholesterol
  • accelerated aging
  • depression
  • arthritis
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • lupus
  • skin disorders (including eczema) 

In children, this deficiency can reveal itself in the form of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, reduced growth, and even death. 

How Much You Need

For a relatively healthy person, the amount your body needs is based on percentage of a daily diet.  The total EFA’s that should be ingested daily are between 15-20%.  Of that percentage, the total that should come from saturated fats is 3-4%.  The total that should come from Omega 6 is between 5-7%.  The total that should come from Omega 3 is between 2 ½-3 ½ %.  The total daily intake from the EFA Omega 9 should be between 5-10%.  Omega 9 is the non-essential, yet completely necessary fat that our bodies actually can produce on its own as long as the other EFA’s are present. 

How You Get It

Now comes the easy part; how you make sure you are getting enough EFA’s.  The best source for acquiring EFA’s is flax seed oil.  Flax seed oil has the highest percentage of Omega 3 along with some Omega 6.  It is also the most cost efficient in terms of daily use. 

Some other good food sources for Omega 3 are: 

  • walnuts
  • wheat germ oil
  • salmon
  • sardines
  • tuna and other cold water fish
  • flax seeds
  • purslane 
  • perilla oil

Good food sources for Omega 6 are: 

  • almonds
  • peanut butter
  • Brazilian nuts
  • soybean oil
  • cotton seed oil
  • corn oil
  • sunflower seeds 
  • walnuts

Food sources for Omega 9 are: 

  • olive oil
  • olives
  • almonds
  • peanuts 
  • pecans

Other Sources

In general, some other great sources for adding EFA’s into your diet are: 

  • flaxseeds
  • flaxseed meal
  • hempseed oil
  • hempseeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • avocados
  • kale
  • spinach
  • mustard greens
  • canola oil
  • wheat germ oil
  • black currant seed oil 
  • evening primrose oil

In addition to food sources, you can incorporate EFA’s into your diet through vitamin supplements.  Fish oil supplements are a very popular and currently available source of essential fatty acids.


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