However, many people aren't aware of what the "good fats" are and in what foods you can find them. Further, you must realize that it is imperative that you do not over consume fat thinking that it is good for you despite the intake amounts. This is certainly not the case seeing as how 1 gram of fat is equivalent to 9 calories. Just like all foods, you need to take in fats with moderation.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA's)
Today, we know that essential (you must get it from dietary intake) fatty acids (EFAs) control or modulate an amazing number of cellular processes. Each EFA plays a specific role in the body. Just like other essential vitamins and minerals, all are necessary for good health. Furthermore, a diet rich in EFAs can be helpful for preventing and dealing with many diseases.
Research with EFA supplementation has shown promise in a number of areas including: high body fat, cardiovascular health (high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high blood triglycerides), diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, mental disorders and brain function, and infant development.
Below is a list of EFAs that are very common and that deserve some attention. While there are other EFAs, I have decided to focus only on the ones listed. Remember, EFAs are essential, which means that your body cannot make them. Note that I didn't include conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). I wrote an entire article on this EFA, and if you want to learn more about it, check out "Scientific Proof That CLA Has Fat-Burning Properties"!
Four Essential Fats:
Alpha Linolenic Acid
- High blood cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Immune system function.
Note: LNA and ALA (Alpha Lipoic Acid) are not the same thing. LNA is an EFA, and ALA is an antioxident.
Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA)
The richest natural source of GLA is borage (also known as Starflower) oil. GLA is found in most supplemental EFA formulas and evening primrose oil. GLA is popularly used by women suffering from PMS. GLA, however, has been clinically indicated to have therapeutic benefits with many other health conditions, including:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.
Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid (EPA and DHA)
These two difficult-to-pronounce fatty acids are responsible for the beneficial effects of fish oils. Research demonstrates that fish oils containing EPA and DHA have therapeutic benefits in areas that include:
- High blood triglycerides (a risk factor for heart attacks)
- High blood pressure
- Cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heart beat, which may lead to death if it occurs during a heart attack)
- Infant brain development.
Essential fats: LNA, GLA, EPA, & DHA
Recommended use: Effective dosages for lowering blood cholesterol levels are in the range of 1 to 4 grams of borage oil per day. Effective dosages for reducing stress-related blood pressure are in the range of 5-6 grams of fish oil daily. In addition, 1-2 grams of flax seed oil daily may increase the chances of survival in the event of a heart attack. Blood pressure should be monitored regularly during EFA supplementation to ensure that it remains in a healthy range.
The idea that fish and seafood consumption could help prevent coronary heart disease originated from studies of Greenland Inuit in the 1970s. It was observed that Inuit had a much lower rate of coronary heart disease than Danes also living in Greenland even though the Inuit consumed a far greater amount of fat. The answer to this paradox rested with the Inuit's high marine fat diet.
The Inuit diet contained high levels of EPA and DHA. In the last two decades, we have learned that both
Mental Disorders and Brain Function
Recommended fat: DHA
Recommended oils: Cod, Halibut, Salmon Oils, or EFA's
Recommended use: Although very large quantities of DHA (up to 20 grams of Fish Oil) are required for therapeutic benefit in the case of serious mental illness, everyone should take a basic amount of DHA (2-3 grams of Fish Oil daily) for the maintenance of healthy brain function.
Researchers at the Harvard Medical School in Boston have shown that fish oil improves bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic depression. Other research demonstrates that low levels of EPA/DHA are also commonly found in patients that suffer from: ADD/ADHD, Parkinson's Disease, aggression, Alzheimer's Disease, and depression.
Your body needs EFAs just like it needs other essential Vitamins and Minerals. The average person does get some EFAs through diet but not enough to meet recommended daily amounts. Daily supplementation is the best way to ensure that you get the health-protecting benefits of EFAs.
A practical solution is to look for a blended oil product that combines a balance of these essential fats in one convenient capsule, like a supplemental EFA formula. People with specific diseased conditions should follow the recommended dose for the individual fatty acids as described above for a therapeutic effect. Regular supplementation with these good fats is an important part of a balanced diet. Once again, that's why they call them "essential" fatty acids.
In addition to these health benefits, EFAs have been shown to:
- Improve metabolism
- Support and protect liver function
- Improve insulin action
- Increase growth hormone secretion
- Increased nitrogen retention
- Improve testosterone production
- Improved energy production of cells
Again, listen up because this is the last time I will say it. Stay away from saturated fats; they are like poison to a bodybuilder. Stick with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. If you're not next to a textbook, remember that at room temperature, saturated fats are solids and unsaturated fats are liquid. In order to incorporate some of these fats, for example monounsaturated fats, without supplementation, try drizzling some olive oil on your food.
You can try this with all types of oils! In fact Chik-Fil-A prepares their fried foods in peanut oil, which is a good oil. I don't even consider that I am cheating on my diet if I eat their fried food either.
Just make sure that you do your homework before supplementing and cooking with oils because you don't want to limit yourself to taking in only one class of fats like the omega-3 fatty acids only. A diverse and moderate intake of fats is the way to go!