As you probably know, consuming dietary fat is an important part of a fitness orientated lifestyle, and more importantly, overall health. Fats can be broken down into two basic groups, saturated and unsaturated. More importantly, fats can be labelled as essential and nonessential.
Essential fats must be consumed through one’s diet because the body cannot synthesise them.
In this article, we will answer:
- What are the essential fatty acids?
- What do essential fatty acids do?
- What happens if you do not get enough essential fatty acids?
- Sources of essential fatty acids?
So let’s get started!
The Essential Fatty Acids
Alpha-linolenic acid (LNA) (omega-3) which can be converted into:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) (omega-3)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (omega-3)
- Linoleic acid (LA) (omega-6) which can be converted into:
- Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) (omega-6)
- Dihomogamma linolenic acid (DGLA) (omega-6)
- Arachidonic acid (AA) (omega-6)
What Do They Do?
- Energy Production
- Diffusion of oxygen into the bloodstream
- Brain and nerve tissue development
- Control cell membrane fluids
- Stabilize insulin and blood sugar levels
- Anti-inflammatory effect
- Helpful in inflammatory conditions
- Strengthen immune system
- Reduce water retention, by assisting in sodium and water removal.
- Calming effect and regulates mood 
No doubt, essential fatty acids are of extreme importance. There is more to them though.
How Much Should You Be Getting?
We see the importance of essential fatty acids. Now how much do we need? The general recommendation is a ratio of LA to LNA of 4:1 or 3:1. The reason for this ratio is the fact that LNA is metabolised four times quicker than LA. So for every one gramme of LNA, you should consume three to four grammes of LA. Also, most diets get ample amounts of LA, but very low amounts of LNA. There is not an established RDA for essential fatty acids.
Choosing The Right “Supplement” For You
As you begin to look at essential fatty acids supplements, oils, or foods you will notice that just about all of them have more LNA than LA. You remember that you should be getting a ratio of LA to LNA of 3-4:1, but do not be alarmed. As mentioned, you get a good amount of LA in your diet already. But because you need LNA in your diet, most companiessupplements contain more LNA than LA.
Capsules Vs. Oil
One of the first things people look at when buying anything is the price. It is much more economical to buy an oil, such as flax seed, than to buy capsules. You get more EFAs this way. But, one thing you will notice is the oil’s taste. I for one actually like the way flax seed oil taste. It makes other people want to puke though. If you feel you do not want to taste your EFAs, I recommend buying capsules.
Capsules are also more convenient. Just throw one in your mouth and wash it down with water. You can also easily take capsules with you on the go. You have to figure out how much money you have to spend, the need for convenience, and your personal preference for taste.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you can get all your EFA needs through food. Here is a short list of some foods that contain EFAs.
Where They Are Naturally Found
- Omega 3:
- Flax Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Flax Seed Oil
- Hemp Seed Oil
- Soy Bean Oil
- Omega 6:
- Corn Oil
- Soy Bean Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Pumpkin Seeds
You can sprinkle flax seeds on your cereal or salads, eat fish, or grab a handful of walnuts to get your EFAs.
So what it comes down to is choosing what is best for you. The important thing is that you get those essential fatty acids and live a healthy life.