Fats are crucial for human life and health. Healthy fats nourish the body, delight our taste buds and make us full and happy. As we eat the healthy essential fatty acids we build and strengthen our bodies. Know your healthy omega-3s and omega-6s and EAT with pure enjoyment. Real food tastes great. Healthy can actually be tasty.
Our bodies require healthy fat for survival; proper neurological and brain function, cell membrane maintenance, mood regulation, muscle growth and hormone production, just to name a few.
Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids. Our bodies do not make them on their own and we need to obtain them from our diet. Both are polyunsaturated fatty acids that differ from each other.
In general, hormones derived from the two classes of essential fatty acids have opposite effects. Omega-6 fatty acids tend to increase inflammation (an important component of the immune response), blood clotting, and cell proliferation. Omega-3 fatty acids decrease those functions. The body constructs hormones from omega-6 fatty acids. Both families of hormones must be in balance to maintain optimum health, so there are some omega-6 benefits.
Humans, before relying heavily on processed foods, ate roughly equal parts omega-3 and omega-6. Now with our processed foods so high in unhealthy omega-6 fatty acids, our health, in general, is declining. To explain this over-simplified: eating the wrong omega-6s can contribute to inflammation in our bodies which can contribute to illness and disease.
Brain Food – Omega-3 fatty acids are found in concentrated amounts in the brain, and can play an important role in improving cognition and memory. Approximately 60% of the brain is fat. We need healthy fat to feed our brains.
As a certified health coach, focused on mind & body wellness, I do not recommend counting much of anything. Instead of tracking and counting, I focus on enjoying healthy food and life. It is a lifestyle change to incorporate healthy fats into our diet. Here is a list of both omega-3 and omega-6 healthy essential fatty acids. By focusing on getting more of these into our diet, the unhealthy omega-6s will fade away because we will feel full, satisfied and nourished from the healthy essential fatty acids.
To gain the greatest benefits, include dietary fats that are from organic, unprocessed and non-GMO whole foods.
“Abstract: All fats, including saturated fatty acids, have important roles in the body. However, the most important fats are those that the body cannot make and thus must come from the food we eat. These essential fatty acids (EFAs) are based on linoleic acid (omega-6 group) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 group). We need both groups of essential fatty acids to survive. For various reasons EFA deficiency is common in the general population, as is a disproportionate intake of omega-6 fatty acids over omega-3 fatty acids. As such, it is important to eat the right foods to make sure that you’re taking in enough and the right kinds of the essential fatty acids. However, there is much more to the story. Studies have shown that increasing the intake of certain essential fatty acids, either alone or in combination with other fats and compounds, can increase health, help in treating certain diseases, and even improve body composition, mental and physical performance.” ~ NCBI ~ The essentials of essential fatty acids
Healthy Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (Linolenic Acid)
Keep in mind that farm-raised fish is inferior to wild-caught fish, due to its level of contamination and also its nutrient and omega-3 content. Purchase wild-caught fish.
- Salmon (low-mercury fatty fish like sockeye salmon)
- Black Cod
- Egg yolk
- Grass-fed butter
- Grass-fed Meat
Nuts & Seeds
- Flaxseeds – ground
- Chia seeds
- Hemp Seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Brazil nuts
Vegetables highest in omega-3
- Brussels sprouts
- Dark green leafy vegetables, including kale, spinach, purslane, mustard greens, and collards
- Sea vegetables (technically algae – most popular are Arame, Dulse, Hijiki, Kelp, Kombu, Nori and Wakame)
Oils (Any oil that has gone rancid can cause inflammation. Cooking at high heats, microwaving, or frying will oxidize the fats, not good.)
- Mustard oil
- Walnut oil
- Hemp oil
- Flaxseed oil (which has the highest linolenic content of any food)
- Fish oil
- Cod liver oil (use gel caps if you do not like the taste)
Healthy Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids (Linolenic Acid)
- Meat, eggs, dairy products
- Hemp seeds
Nuts & Seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds – raw
- Pignolia (pine) nuts
Oils – healthy oils are in liquid form to be used as a food, or many of them can be consumed as a supplement in a pill form. (Any oil that has gone rancid can cause inflammation, throw them away. Cooking at high heats, microwaving, or frying will oxidize the fats, not good.)
- Evening primrose oil
- Borage oil
- Black currant seed oil
- Sunflower oil
- Poppyseed oil
- Cottonseed oil
- Sesame oil
- Walnut oil
- Rice bran oil
Healthy Omega-9 Essential Fatty Acids (Oleic Acid)
Omega-9 technically is not classified as an essential fatty acid since our bodies can manufacture it. However, foods rich in oleic acid are still recommended because of the role it plays in cancer protection, and decreasing the risk of heart attacks and arteriosclerosis.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Nuts such as almonds, peanuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, and macadamia nuts
- Sesame oil
- Acai berry – read more about açaí berries
Did you notice that I did not include peanut, corn and soy products in my lists?
“Foods containing trans fat sell because the American public is afraid of the alternative—saturated fats found in tallow, lard, butter, palm and coconut oil, fats traditionally used for frying and baking. Yet the scientific literature delineates a number of vital roles for dietary saturated fats—they enhance the immune system, are necessary for healthy bones, provide energy and structural integrity to the cells, protect the liver and enhance the body’s use of essential fatty acids. Stearic acid, found in beef tallow and butter, has cholesterol lowering properties and is a preferred food for the heart. As saturated fats are stable, they do not become rancid easily, do not call upon the body’s reserves of antioxidants, do not initiate cancer, do not irritate the artery walls.” ~ The Oiling of America
Are you eating your healthy fats and enjoying them?
Maribeth Baxter, MBEC (Certified Mind-Body Eating Coach)
Donations accepted to serve others on their chronic illness journey. Maribeth Baxter, MBEC provides voluntary certified health coaching services to the financially limited during their time of crisis.