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Essential Fatty Acids

As the name implies, essential fatty acids, or EFA's, are essential to us, they are necessary for our good health and well-being. The reason they are called 'essential' is because our bodies can't manufacture them through our own metabolic processes; therefore, we have to obtain our fatty acids from the food that we eat. So, it's important to know where to find trufix the right types of foods.

Flax seeds a good source of Fatty Acids

Fatty acids are the 'building blocks' which make up the fats and oils that our bodies need in order for them to carry out their various biological tasks, and to enable our bodies to function efficiently. So, contrary to popular belief, our bodies do actually need fat: however, it has got to be the right kind of fat! There are three major groups of fatty acids, and they are clearly identified for us; they're labelled as saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils, or fats; with the first one, saturated fat, being particulary bad for us.

Some of the fatty acids are referred to as polyunsaturates, or vitamin F; and, as previously mentioned, because our bodies can't make them, we have to get them from the food that we eat. So, logically, it's very important for us to know which foods contain these different essential nutrients, and what they, each, do for us.

EFA's have a huge variety of different, and very beneficial, effects on many of our bodily disorders.They improve our skin, and the condition of our hair; they are known to help to prevent arthritis, lower blood pressure and trigliceride levels: and, they reduce the risk of blood clots forming. Essential fatty acids are also known to be helpul to people who suffer from candidiasis, cardio vascular problems, and the skin disease, psoriasis.

Our brains contain very high concentraions of fatty acids, in fact around 60% of our brains consist of fatty acids. Therefore, because they assist in the transmision of the nerve impulses that are needed for the develeopment and function of our human brains; and if, at any stage in our lives, but particularly in the young, there is a deficiency of fatty acids, it can lead to an impaired ability to learn new things and recall information.


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid, and it is essential for proper functioning of the brain in both adults and infants. The DHA concentrations in a mothers breast milk range from 0.07-1.0% of total fatty acids contained in the milk: and are influenced by the amount of fatty fish contained in the mother's diet. In the United States, infant formula has been supplemented with DHA since 2001. Research has proven that DHA contributes to numerous nervous system functions such as increased visual acuity, neurogenesis and synaptogenesis It can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease: and, it is highly concentrated in the brain and eye.

Evening Primrose

The evening primrose plant; or, to give it its genus name, 'Oenothera bienis', has long been regarded as one of the 'panaceas' of the plant world, such is its versatility. The seeds of the Evening primrose, when mature, contain around ten percent of the rare fatty acid, gamma-linoleic acid. The oil from the seeds of this remarkable plant are comprised of almost seventy percent Linoleic Acid. Additionally, the young roots of the Evening Primrose plant can be eaten, just like a vegetable, and are said to have a slight peppery flavour.

Ever since the middle ages, Evening Primrose has been used to treat coughs and other chest diseases; some gastro intestinal disorders, and has been found to be very effective as a sedative and pain reliever. It used to be a widely accepted fact that bruises and wounds would respond, and heal quicker, if they were treated with poultices containing parts of the evening primrose plant. This plant is a really versatile source of essential fatty acids.

The oil obtained from the seeds of Evening Primrose is still in use today, as many women use it to ease the pains associated with their monthly periods, and for premenstrual tension. One of the old fashioned names for this plant was 'kings cure all', so effective was its use. Studies have also now been undertaken to assess its effectiveness in fighting breast cancer.

Fish and Fish Oils

The omega-3 group's EFA's contain alpha linoleic acid and ecosapentaenoic acid, and these are found, primarily, in deep cold water fish, and in fish oils, such as cod liver oil. Some fish oils are a very good source of Omega 3 EFA's. Particularly, oils from sources such as Herring, Salmon Mackerel and Sardines, these are termed as 'Fatty Fish'. These fish do have a higher fat content; and, therefore, they provide more Omega 3 factors than some others.

To illustrate this difference, a four ounce serving of Salmon contains up to 3,600 milligrams of Omega 3 fatty acids; whereas, a four ounce serving of Cod, which is a relatively low fat fish, would contain only 300 milligrams. So, although Cod liver oil, as a supplement, has always been the most widely publicized fish oil, there are much more effective and commercially availble alternatives, in the form of Salmon, krill and squid oil supplements.

Flax Seeds, And Other Seed Oils

The two best known fatty acids are the omega-3 and omega-6 EFA's, both of which are rich in linoleic acid, and also in gamma-linoleic acids. These EFA's are also found, in quite significant quantities, in the oil that is obtained from the seeds of the Flax flower, which is shown in the picture to the left of this text. it is also, found in canola oil, nuts, seeds, and unsaturated vegetable oils. Some other good sources include soybean oil; and, of course, evening primrose oil, sesame and grapeseed oil: and, another good source is walnut oil.

Grape Seed Oil

The fatty acids in grape seed oil contain one of the the highest levels of Linoleic acids obtained from all the various natural sources of fatty acids: and also one of the lowest in saturated fats. Additionally, grape seed oil contains no trans fatty acids whatsoever, and no cholesterol or sodium. It's popularity as a food item is likely to be because it has a slightly nutty flavour to it, and it brings out the flavours in many other foods.

This source of EFA's, unlike most other oils, can be heated to temperatures of over 450 degrees Farenheit without producing the dangerous, and possibly cancer causing, 'Free radicals' that we have discussed previously.

It is because of this unusual property that grape seed oil is widely used as a cooking oil in millions of homes all over the world. However, paradoxically, health specialists recommend that we should only use 'cold pressed' grape seed oils that contains no preservatives.

Sea Buckthorn

This coarse, spikey, plant is a remarkably rich source of essential fatty acids. It is an, untidy, shrubby type of bush that grows in the more remote and desolate areas of Asia, Russia and also in parts of Europe. It can usually be found growing in the most unlikely of places, and can even be found growing in many coastal areas of sand dunes in Europe.

There are some varieties of Sea Buckthorn that grow much taller than shrub or bush height. The sea buckthorn seed oil contains an amazing amount of different nutrients. Omega 6 (linoleic acid), omega 3 (linolenic acid), omega 9 (oleic acid), 22 essential fatty acids, vitamin E, alpha-tocopherols and Carotenoids: 106 of 190 bioactive components are found in the oil, vitamin C, amino acids, flavonoids and beta-sistosterols. This is a remarkbly rich source of nutrients all found in the one place.

Benefits and Uses

Sea buckthorn is one of nature's most nutrient dense foods; and, until recently it seems to have taken a backseat to other, so called, super foods. Sea buckthorn has a multiplicity of uses; it can be used for acne, weight loss and digestion. The seed oil of the plant contains a rich, and highly concentrated, mixture of antioxidants; such as, vitamin E and omega-6, -7, and -9. It is now commonly used for: Anti-microbial activities Anti-inflammation and pain relief Wound healing due it its ability to repair cells Skin complexions and skin disorders Lowering cholesterol and increasing cardiovascular health and liver protection,

There are billions of cells in a human body, and every one of them requires a supply of essential fatty acids. This is because EFA's are needed for helping to rebuild damaged cells, and to produce new ones. EFA's are also used by our bodies to produce 'prostaglandins', these are hormone like substances that act as the chemical messengers inside our bodies. They carry impulses and information and they regulate various different body processes, and they cannot function without a supply of fatty acids..

However, for the body to benefit from the fatty acids contained in all of these oils, it is imperative that the oils be ingested in pure liquid form, and not subjected to any form of heat; whether this be in the extraction process or if they are used in cooking. The reason for this, is that any form of heat will destroy the essential fatty acids; and, of course, subjecting most fats or oils to heating can create those nasty little invaders we talked about previously; free radicals!

Trans Fats

Unfortunately, in todays modern food industry it is common practice to introdce hydrogen into oils and fats in the production of margarine, lard, and certtain other spreads. This process transforms the fat or oil from its natural state, of being 'liquid at room temperature'; and, it hardens them, which enables us to spread them over bread.

Fatty Piza

This practice is used right throughout the entire food industry and, in the hydrogenation process, the essential fatty acids are then converted into trans-fatty acids. Trans fats are bad for us, and are known to play a big part in raising blood LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, and lowering our HDL (good cholesterol) levels.

Trans fat has absolutely none of the benefits of unsaturated fats, and all of the drawbacks of a saturated fat. However, it definitely has a plus side for the food industry, it has a longer shelf life than regular vegetable fat because it remains solid at room temperature. The really major negative is that trans fat tends to raise the "bad" LDL- cholesterol and lower our "good" HDL-cholesterol, in us human beings: (not quite as much as saturated fat does, but enough to make it really unhealthy!).

Hydrogenated fats are unnatural fats that have been blasted with hydrogen atoms, in a 'hardening' process, and they are detrimental to your health, so don't eat them!

Ultimate Oil

Ultimate oil is a commercial supplement preparation, which is available in some health food stores, that contains a unique blend of cold pressed organic oils which offers an excellent balance of both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. It is a purely vegetable based oil that, as well as all the above, contains extra virgin flax seed oil, blackcurrant seed oil, lecithin, pumpkin seed oils and safflower seed oil: and is an ideal source of a fatty acid complex: more details available on request.

So, as you can see, essential fatty acids are just that, they are essential to our good health. Just like the esential amino acids, our bodies cannot manufacture them; and, without them we could not exist. So, it's important that we know which foods contain EFA's, and were we should look to find them.

If you have enjoyed reading this article, and would like to discuss it; or, if you would like to ask any questions, please drop me a line in the comments box provided below, and I will get back to you with an answer, as soon as possible.

This entry was posted in Nutrition and tagged essential fatty acids., fatty acids, monounsaturated, Omega-3, Omega-6, polyunsaturated and saturated fats by Ian. Bookmark the permalink.