All About Omegas: are you getting yours?
You may have heard about the importance of having fatty acids in your diet. But sometimes the information out there is a little confusing, from how many chains each one contains to how much we need of each type. Here we’ll go through the 5 different types of fatty acids, Omega-3, 5, 6, 7 and 9. Omega-3s and Omega-6s are known as the essential fatty acids as they are not produced by the body and therefore we need to get them from our diet. The non-essential fatty acids are Omega-5, 7 and 9 and although we need them to function, our bodies can produce them without getting them directly from food.
Omega-3s are poly-unsaturated fatty acids and are probably the most popular of the fatty acids. There are 3 types of Omega-3 fatty acids:
ALA (a-linolenic acid ) a short-chain fatty acid usually found in plant oils.
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) both long chain fatty acids found in fish and algae.
They are all important for metabolism and can be found in foods like salmon, sardines, mackerel, grass-fed beef, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and nuts. The benefits of having Omega-3s in our diet include;
Lowered cholesterol, blood pressure and risk of heart disease
Helping to prevent diabetes and cancer
Reducing the symptoms of arthritis and PMS
Supporting eye, skin and joint health
Helping with mental health including anxiety
Omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated, essential fatty acids. They are typically found in sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, safflower seeds and grape seeds. They can help with things like eczema symptoms, rheumatoid arthritis, nerve pain, inflammation, bone health and can lower blood pressure and risk of heart disease. It’s important to balance your intake of Omega-3s and Omega-6s as they are metabolised by the same enzymes. It’s recommended to have a ratio of 1:2 but in some modern diets with lots of processed vegetable oils in food, the ratio has become much in favour of Omega-6s and this can take away from the effectiveness of the rich Omega-3s, among other problems.
Omegas 5, 7 and 9
These are the non-essential fatty acids that our bodies need to function, but can be produced by them. Omega-5s come from macadamia nuts and pomegranate seeds and have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-7s are found in sea buckthorn berries and have been found to fight inflammation, help tissue healing and liver and oral health. Omega-9s are found in olives, avocado, almonds and cashews and can help with lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
How much do we need?
The jury is out on how much of each Omega we actually need, but a good guide is between 250-500mg of EPA and DHA (found in Omega-3s) as these are the most useful. Or in other words, having fatty fish 2-3 times a week, or adding lots of nuts and seeds to your diet. Other ways to get your Omegas is through a supplement like fish oil or a plant-based omega blend like this one.
The main thing is to have a clean diet rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fatty fish and limit your intake of processed food. This will have you on your way to having a good balance of Omegas in your diet.