Negosentro.com | Best Natural Sources Fatty Acids in Your Diet |What is your body made up of? Skin, bones, and tissues, right? Go deeper. You’d probably end up with cells. A little deeper than that and you have three fundamental building blocks, what your body is made up of; Fats, Carbohydrates, and Proteins.
Out of the three, fats have usually been implicated as being bad for your health and well-being. Ironically so, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While an unhealthy lifestyle is categorized as being rich in fats, fats themselves aren’t responsible for being unhealthy.
To put it simply, fats are essential for the normal functioning of the human body. Without them, we’d probably feel lethargic and fatigued all of the time. Out of the three building blocks mentioned, fats contain the highest metabolic stores for functioning. In effect, the fact that we’re walking, talking, and living is because of fats in our diets.
Now, this isn’t to take away from the fact that an unhealthy amount of fats in our diet will lead to diseases. This is why it’s important to understand the difference between good and bad fats.
Good Fats vs. Bad Fats
You might need to recall Chemistry 101 for this.
Fatty acids are hydrocarbon chains with a methyl and a carboxyl group. Fats can either be saturated or unsaturated depending on the types of bonds the carbon atom shares. A single bond on all four-terminal (valance) electrons of a carbon atom means that it’s saturated i.e, it’s reached its complete capacity.
A double bond means that the carbon atom is sharing an electron, but holds the capacity to break said bond thus being unsaturated and not reaching its complete capacity. Unsaturated fats are usually vegetable fatty acids while saturated ones are animal fatty acids.
The ‘good’ fats are unsaturated, because:
- Low in calories
- More metabolic output
- Decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Increased production of mood boosters
- Help in the inflammatory cascade
- Used in the treatment of numerous ailments
The ‘bad’ fats are saturated, because:
- High in calories
- Less metabolic output
- Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases
- May cause numerous ailments
Other important terms to differentiate between are essential and non-essential. While both are required for the normal and healthy functioning of the human body, essential fatty acids are those that the body can not produce on its own. Therefore, humans need to regularly take in these fatty acids from external sources to meet their needs.
Essential Fatty Acids
An essential fatty acid has to be ingested de novo because the body can not synthesize it on its own. These fatty acids are polyunsaturated; omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
The terms omega-3 and omega-6 mean that the double bond is on the omega sixth carbon atom from the terminal carbon atom. Since they’re polyunsaturated, this is just the first double bond in the entire fatty acid chain.
The human body can not produce double bonds ahead of carbon atoms 9 and 13 making them essential.
Sources For Essential Fatty Acids
- Vegetable Oils (soybean, canola, etc).
- Nuts (walnuts, flaxseeds)
- Animal sources, primarily fish sources
- Fish oils (Vitamin E)
- Fatty Acid Supplement
Uses of Essential Fatty Acids
- Treatment of cancers and inflammatory conditions (namely arthritis)
- Used to improve mental health (they aid in producing endocabinnoids or mood boosters)
- Decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases
It is important to have a healthy and balanced meal containing fatty acids given their importance for the human body. Essential fatty acids are those that the body can not produce on its own and there therefore needs to be an external source for them. Primary sources include vegetables, fish, and nuts.