Dietary fat has been plagued with a bad reputation for decades, as reduced-fat products hit the shelves and low-fat diets became the focus.
But wait a minute, how did scientists miss the fact that dietary fat as well as essential fatty acids are two critical components for good health, including nervous system health and brain function?
Fat plays a role in just about every aspect of health, right down to the very cells that make up your body. Fortunately, it’s easy to get the fat that you need, and your body is even able to create its own fatty acids to prevent deficiency.
There are certain types of fatty acids, however, that you must get through your diet as your body is not able to produce them. That’s exactly why these are known as ‘essential fatty acids’! Getting enough of these healthy fats in your diet is crucial for maintaining optimal heath and preventing deficiency.
What Are Essential Fatty Acids?
No doubt you’ve heard of terms such as ‘saturated fat’ or ‘mono-unsaturated fat’ . . . but what are ‘fatty acids’ exactly, and why do we need them?
There are many types of fatty acids, and your body needs these different types of fatty acids to provide energy, make up the cell membranes, help absorb certain vitamins and minerals, and even produce important hormones.
Your body is able to make most of the fatty acids it needs from other fats. However, there are two types of fatty acids that your body is unable to synthesise: linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid).
Alpha-linolenic acid is converted in the body to the active forms of omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). EPA and DHA have been linked to promising results in disease prevention, weight management, and cognitive function.
Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are considered essential fatty acids because you need to obtain them through your diet since your body can’t create them.
What do Essential Fatty Acids do for Me?
Essential fatty acids affect many aspects of health. They are involved in your immunity, cell signalling, your mood and brain health, plus they help keep inflammation in the body under control.
Some research shows that increasing your intake of essential fatty acids could enhance mental and physical performance, help treat some diseases, promote mental health, and improve your body composition.
What might a deficiency of essential fatty acids look like?
Symptoms such as the following can indicate your diet and supplement regime is low in fatty acids:
- Dry skin
- Scaly skin
- Brittle fingernails
- Dry mouth
- Dull, patchy skin
- Excessive thirst
- Cracked fingertips or heels
Any of those sound familiar? Not to worry – change you diet and begin supplementation and these symptoms could be a thing of the past!
The above symptoms may lead you to believe that the benefits of essential fatty acids are only ‘skin deep’. Not so!
Some ‘Deeper’ Benefits of Essential Fatty Acids
Promote Heart Health
Essential fatty acids are well-known for their role in preventing heart disease by reducing risk factors and keeping your heart healthy and strong. In fact, a higher intake of essential fatty acids has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
Protect Your Brain
Some promising research has found a link between essential fatty acid intake and brain health, showing that it may help improve cognition and could even prevent certain neurological disorders.
In addition to keeping your brain healthy, essential fatty acids can also positively affect your mental health as well. One analysis of clinical trials looked at 19 studies on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on depression and showed that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids was effective at treating symptoms of depression.
Inflammation is a normal immune response. Chronic inflammation, however, has been linked to problems such as heart disease, cancer and autoimmune problems.
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce harmful inflammation.
Reduce Joint Discomfort
Essential fatty acids have been shown to aid in the treatment of arthritis by alleviating joint pain.
Essential Fatty Acids vs. Non-Essential
Alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid are just two of the many types of fatty acids that your body needs. However, these two stand out because they are the only fatty acids that your body can’t produce on its own using other fats or materials.
DHA and EPA, for example, are ‘fatty acids’ that are just as important and carry the same health benefits as alpha-linolenic acid. However, because your body CAN convert alpha-linolenic acid into DHA and EPA, they are considered ‘non-essential’ fatty acids. (Yet they are SUPER powerful for your health!)
The problem here is that research shows that conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to EPA & DHA is severely restricted in humans, especially with a diet high in commercially produced inflammatory seeds oils that are mostly omega-6 oils.
The answer? You can also include a few servings of fatty fish into your diet each week or supplement with fish oil and krill oil to increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake with DHA and EPA.
Here in the Savvy Team, we highly encourage supplementation with EPA & DHA fatty acids. We tend to use blends that include other antioxidant rich ingredients.
Here are 5 Power-Packed Oils We Use!
1. Krill Oil
Some key points on Krill as a source:
- Bioavailability: First up, the composition of krill oil is somewhat different to that of fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids in krill oil attach to phospholipids as opposed to triglycerides, which in simple terms makes the omega-3 easier to absorb. As such, a lower dose of krill oil is required to gain the same benefit as a higher dose of standard fish oil.
- Taste Tolerance: Fish oils are often notorious for presenting a rather unfortunate aftertaste which can perpetuate somewhat tenaciously. By contrast, because krill oil is rapidly absorbed by the body and has a high antioxidant content, fishy burping and aftertaste are never a problem. The much smaller gel tablets that krill oil is supplied in are both easy to swallow and present little to no aftertaste whatsoever.
- Stability: Krill oil contains astaxanthin – a powerful antioxidant that keeps the compound stable and prevents it from spoiling both in your stomach and in your cupboard. And of course, the benefits of antioxidants for the human body are equally well-documented.
- Purity: While many fish oils contain detectable levels of toxins like mercury, krill oil does not. This is due to the position of krill in the marine food chain as these tiny creatures feed only on phytoplankton which do not contain mercury. In fact, omega-3 sourced from krill is considered to be the purest on the planet.
- Sustainability: There is approximately 500 million tons of krill inhabiting northern seas, which amounts to the world’s largest single biomass. Each year, less than 1% of the world’s total krill are taken and utilised for oil extraction and research purposes, resulting in a uniquely abundant and sustainable source of omega-3.
So Why Does Krill get so Much Attention?
Unfortunately we no longer live in a perfect world and one can no longer find good, clean, healthy fish growing naturally in our oceans. Studies show that eating large ocean grown fish can potentially expose you to a high degree of contamination with industrial pollutants and toxins like mercury, PCBs, heavy metals and radioactive poisons, due to the many decades of pouring pollutants into the oceans. In fact, the FDA and EPA have put out health advisories warning against certain fish consumption for young children, women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, and nursing mothers.
But now we have easy access to even better nutrient value without these dangerous side effects, in the form of krill oil. Like fish oil, krill oil is a great source of omega-3 fats with some extra unique properties. Fish oil’s omega-3 fatty acids are in the triglyceride form, whereas in krill oil, they are in double chain phospholipid structure. In humans, omega-3 fats are in phospholipid form as well, which is why you get much more benefit from taking krill oil supplements compared to fish oil, and you can do it with much less. This marine oil helps solve the solution dilemma by uniquely and synergistically combining antioxidants and omega-3s in a sustainable, natural form.
Of all the essential fats, krill oil is especially powerful in it’s ability to support high prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals derived from fatty acids that have a number of different roles in the body. They help promote smooth muscle contraction and blood vessel dilation. They also aid in inflammatory processes in the body – causing swelling, stiffness, warmth and pain. The key with a correct balance of prostaglandins, is to enable your body to produce more of the anti-inflammatory and less of the inflammatory prostaglandins. And that is exactly what this unique formulation does, because the synergistic benefits far outweigh the individual properties of each ingredient.
We are still fans of fish oil, but it’s important that you trust the source.
2. Chia Seed Oil
Like flaxseeds, chia seeds are very high in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, chia seeds contain more omega-3s than salmon, gram for gram. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the omega-3s in chia oil are mostly ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which needs to be converted into the active forms eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) before your body can use it. As mentioned earlier, humans are inefficient at converting ALA into the active forms. So Chia seed oil or chia seeds themselves are a terrific source of ALA and antioxidants – it’s best as an added bonus rather than the ‘main course’ for your omega 3 supplementation.
3. Cranberry Seed Oil
Cranberry Seed Oil has a unique combination fatty acids, antioxidants and phospholipids. A uniquely balanced profile of omega 3,6 and 9 (tocopherols, tocotrienols, phosphatidylserine, beta-sitosterol). It’s helpful in strengthening hair and nails, and improves skin. Plus it is potentially beneficial for a diversity of health-condition support (heart, breast, brain/cognition, skin, anti-ageing)
Cranberry seed oil contains high levels of vitamin A, vitamin E, carotenoids, phytosterols and phospholipids. It contains zeaxanthin, a carotenoid valued for eye health, and it can help stabilise other fragile oils in formulations.
4. Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil has proven to be a valuable treatment choice for people suffering from skin conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
Research shows that people with eczema don’t have the normal ability to process fatty acids; this results in a deficiency of gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA. GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that the body can convert to substances that reduce inflammation and cell growth. Studies prove that evening primrose oil is remarkably effective in relieving many symptoms of eczema, including itching, redness, and swelling.
In addition, this oil can prevent your nails from cracking and keeps them healthy. Plus it also nourishes the scalp and treats many other hair problems. The essential fatty acid, GLA (Gamma-linoleic acid) from evening primrose oil, can be highly effective in the fight against hair loss with results noticed in as little as six to eight weeks!
5. Flaxseed Oil
Flaxseed oil is loaded with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Again, flaxseed oil contains the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a form of omega-3 fatty acid that is only converted in small amounts to active forms of omega-3, like EPA and DHA. It is a helpful addition to an oil formula. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to health and have been associated with benefits like reduced inflammation, improved heart health and protection for the brain against ageing.
These 5 Power-Packed oils are in a blend we use and recommend here in the Savvy Team!
Are you ready to make changes? Have questions?
If you’d like to try the blend of these oils we use, it is available in the Australia / New Zealand region and we will hook you up with a $10 credit towards your first order. If you have a Savvy Team Wellness Guide already – please ask them.
Request a free ‘How Can We Help’ Discovery Session, and one of our Wellness Guides will hep you uncover 3 key action areas for you to reach the next level of wellness!