Essential Fatty Acids - Flax Seed Omega
3 Oils For Healthy Fats
Essential Fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that cannot
be made by the body. They must be obtained from food sources. Polyunsaturated
fats are liquid at room temperature and when chilled. Molecularly speaking, polyunsaturated
fats are fatty acids that have more than one double-bonded (unsaturated) carbon
in the molecule. To compare, saturated fats have no double bonded carbons and
are consequently solid at room temperature.
Polyunsaturated fats can have
a beneficial effect on your health when consumed in moderation and when used to
replace less heart healthy saturated fats or trans fats. Polyunsaturated fats
can help reduce cholesterol levels in your blood and lower your risk of heart
There are only two essential fatty acids in human nutrition: omega-6
and omega-3. Omega-6 and omega-3 play a crucial role in brain function and in
the normal growth and development of your body.
Omega-6 fatty acids are
also known as linoleic acid (LA). It can break down into arachadonic acid. Omega-6
has inflammatory properties and is the precursor for pro-inflammatory agents called
eicosanoids. The eicosanoid family includes prostaglandins, thromboxanes, prostacyclins
and leukotrienes. Your body can easily metabolize and use these compounds when
eaten in moderation. Omega-6 fatty acids help with skin and renal function, but
if you ingest too much, detrimental effects may result. Studies have shown that
asthma, arthritis, and lupus may have a connection to the inflammatory response.
Dietary sources include nuts, cereals, whole grain breads, most vegetable
oils (corn, safflower, sunflower, palm, and peanut), eggs and poultry.
fatty acids are also known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It can be broken down
into Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3 has anti-inflammatory
properties and may lower the risk for heart disease and certain cancers.
can also be made from omega-3 fats, but often have opposing functions to those
made from omega-6 fats (anti-inflammatory rather than inflammatory). If both omega-3
and omega-6 are present in the body, they will compete to be used, so the ratio
of omega-3:omega-6 directly affects the type of eicosanoids that are produced.
The best thing to do would be to consume more omega-3 and fewer omega-6 fatty
Dietary sources include flaxseed, walnuts, cold water oily fish (wild
salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines), eggs and meat from grass fed
animals. Grass fed animals tend to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than
grain fed animals.
Flax is a good source of
omega-3 fatty acids, especially ALA. Flaxseed contains approximately three times
as much omega-3 as omega-6 fatty acids which is a good ratio.
In North America,
we use the term flax when it is eaten by humans and the term linseed when it is
used for industrial purposes. Linseed oil is flax's vegetable oil. It is okay
for human consumption if it is fresh, refrigerated and unprocessed.
are two types of flaxseed: yellow and brown. Brown has been found to be higher
in omega-3 fatty acids. Yellow flax can be broken down into solin and a new product
developed for the food industry called 'Omega'. The 'Omega' flax is as high in
omega-3's as brown, while solin is very low in omega-3 fatty acids.
both brown and yellow flaxseed (except for solin) provide the same nutritional
benefits. Flaxseeds contain vitamins C, E, thiamine, riboflavin and carotene.
The seeds also contain iron, zinc, and trace amounts of potassium, magnesium,
phosphorus and calcium. Its other benefits include phytochemicals, lignans, fiber
Lignans are plant compounds that act as antioxidants. Lignans
aid in ridding the body of excess estrogen which in turn may lower the risk for
estrogen related diseases like breast cancer.
Flaxseeds are more nutritious
than their oil, yet, most consumers prefer simply using the oil for its omega-3
fatty acids and not having to bother with grinding the seeds.
By Amy Lowy