Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Omega Fatty Acids

Omega Fatty Acids

You hear quite a bit these days about the power of Omega Fatty Acids. Flax seeds are being added to all kinds of things you'll find at health conscious food stores, such as Whole Foods. There's a large section in the vitamin and supplement areas dedicated to Omega Fatty Acids and for good reason. However, it is a bit more complicated than adding a shot of flax seed oil to your coffee in the AM. Is that weird? Well, that's what I used to do in the early 2000's. I was aware of the importance of Omega Fatty Acids and knew I could probably use a little extra here and there. Unfortunately I didn't quite understand that it's a bit more complicated than that.

This is another big one for my lovely vegan friends! I always have you in mind!

What the crap are Omega Fatty Acids?

There are 2 main types-Omega 3 and Omega 6. Oh, I forgot to mention they are not just regular old fatty acids, they are "ESSENTIAL" Fatty Acids. Specifically, polyunsaturated fats that we absolutely NEED to acquire through specific foods. Our bodies cannot construct them out of thin air.

Breakin' it down....

We need a healthy balance of both Omega 3 and Omega 6 in our diets as they each have different and opposing necessary properties.

Omega 3

How do I get it?

Real quick, Omega 3 can be broken down into 3 different forms: ALA, DHA, EPA (do you really want to know the long names? I didn't think so). Plant, nut and seed based sources of Omega 3s (such as flax, soybean oil, walnuts etc) are, for the most part ALA. DHA and EPA are far superior forms of Omega 3. However, ALA can be converted into DHA and EPA by your body, which is the form your body needs it in. BUT! Everyone's body is different. Some people more efficiently synthesize ALA into useful chains than others. Point being, it is smarter to not simply rely on ingesting Omega 3 in ALA form. Ideally you want Omega 3 in its more efficient forms, DHA and EPA, as well. So, that is what I'm focusing on below.

The main source of Omega 3 in EPA and DHA form is from the fat of cold water fish such as:

1. cod
2. salmon
3. herring
4. sardines (yum!)
5. herring
6. mackeral

The not so main source (pay attention vegans and non fish eaters!)

1. microalgae

What? You don't make microalgae every night? You can get it in supplement form. Spirulina is a good source, but there are other vegan friendly DHA and EPA supplements.


If you are deficient in Vitamin B12 your body will not be able to efficiently (or at all in more severe cases) convert Omega 3 in ALA form into DHA and EPA form. Yet another reason to make sure you are consuming foods and/or supplements that contain Omega 3 in its DHA and EPA form! Please read my post on B12 from April 22. Everything about your body physically and biochemically is a chain. If one aspect is messed up, it will negatively impact everything that comes in the chain after it. For instance, if you have a knee injury and you ignore it, you could very well end up with an ankle injury or some sort of muscle imbalance in your calf on the same side. Same thing with nutrition.

Why is it good for you?

DHA & EPA are the building blocks for the hormones that:
1. Control immune function
2. Reduce inflammation
3. Control blood clotting (prevents overclotting...not a word but it gets the point across)
4. Decrease cell reproduction
5. DHA & EPA are also essential components of cell membranes

Omega 6

Where do I get it?

Pretty much everywhere. Jesus. Omega 6 is found in all kinds of stuff that is found in all kinds of food people eat these days. So focus on Omega 3 a bit more and take a moment to reread the above paragraphs on it.

Why do I need it?

Omega 6 is the building block for the hormones that:
1. Increase inflammation (which is a good thing sometimes believe it or not)
2. Promote blood clotting
3. Promote cell reproduction

Basically, Omega 6 fatty acids are the building blocks for hormones that do the exact opposite of Omega 3 based hormones. I'm sure you now understand why it is super important that we get a good balance of the two in our diets. With the current state of affairs, people in general have a far higher intake of Omega 6 than Omega 3. Omega 6 is found in seeds, nuts and the oils extracted from them. It is all up in junk food and pretty much anything processed.

OK, that's enough for today. Recipe will be for tomorrow, as well as all of the health benefits of a diet full of omega 3! Really awesome stuff for your cardiovascular system (I'm looking at you, fellow crossfitters and athletes!), but beyond that you all are just going to have to wait.

Motivational kitten of the day says high five if you got your workout in today!!! (If not, then no high five for you)

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