The Health Benefits of Fat

Written By: Jason Peters, General Manager, O2 Fitness Chatham

How does this sound?

Smoother skin, less stiffness in your joints, better eye sight, lower cholesterol, improved mental focus and improved heart health.

The addition of a simple substance in your diet has the potential to provide all of these benefits.  The stars of this show are known as essential oils; sometimes referred to as omega 3 or 6 fatty acids.


Why are they “essential”?

These are the two fatty acids that the body cannot produce on it’s own and need to be supplied by diet or supplementation.  They are involved in all of the bodily functions mentioned above and have the potential to be incredibly beneficial to your overall health.

Let’s break them down a little more

Omega 3’s (Alpha-linolenic Acid)

…are fatty acids that are recommended by the American Heart Association and found naturally in fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines and tuna; and also in other sources like pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, flax seeds, canola oil and chia seeds. There is also research to support omega 3’s being beneficial for asthma, diabetes, arthritis, attention disorders and high cholesterol…just to name a few.

Omega 6’s (Linoleic Acid)

…are fatty acids found typically in nuts and grains like pumpkin seeds, pistachios, olive oil, sunflower seeds and many other raw nuts and seeds.

The Ideal Ratio

When supplied to the diet in combination, these two fatty acids work to provide many of these health benefits. However, you do want to pay attention to the ratio of each of these you consume.  It is generally recommended to use a 2-1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3.  This isn’t something to completely go overboard trying to maintain as a ratio, but just keep this as a general guideline when it comes to your intake.

In our bodies, these fatty acids convert to EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are the usable forms they break down into. If you are vegetarian, or know you do not get enough of these fatty acids from your diet, there are supplements that you can take that can provide EPA and DHA directly.

One last thing to point out

Don’t fear these because they are called ‘fatty’ acids.  These are good sources of fat…the fat our body needs called unsaturated fats.  Consuming these good fats have been linked in studies to improved vision and brain function in infants, so don’t be afraid to see fat mentioned on the labels.  There actually is a difference in what type you are consuming.

To sum this all up, if you’re looking for an easy addition to your diet or supplementation regimen that has the potential to improve many bodily functions, consider adding foods that contain these omega 3’s and 6’s or visiting your local nutrition store and pick up a bottle of EPA or DHA.

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