Know Your Omega 3,6,7 and 9
It can be confusing at times I admit when it comes to knowing your fatty acids like Omega 3, 6, 7, 9. To me as long as it has the word ‘Omega’ as a prefix, it should be somewhat healthy.
True that. But to know which fatty acid to take, where to get it and why to take it, it’s important for us to get more intimate with the ‘Big O’ here.
First of all, this article isn’t gonna go all heavy on you with scientific terms and the periodic table. Wiki or Webmd might suit you better if reading the medical journal is your cup of tea.
I start thinking about potato chips when the article gets too technical so what I hope to achieve is to make the content easy to understand. So the next time someone asks you ‘What’s a fatty acid’, you know they won’t be thinking about chips.
What Are Fatty Acids
Scientifically speaking, fatty acids are carboxylic acid with a long aliphatic chain that our body breaks down from the food that we eat as well as produce internally. These are then absorbed into the bloodstream and used for various bodily functions.
It is also a secondary form of energy that our body uses with sugar (glucose) being the main source.
Not all fats are made equal though.
Fatty acids can be broken down into two categories: Saturated and Unsaturated Fat.
Most scientists would call this fat the not so healthy of the two. It’s mainly fat that is solid at room temperature. Good thing about is that it can be derived easily in many of the foods that we eat like fatty meat, dairy products and yummy snacks.
The bad thing is too much of this fat can lead to health issues like high cholesterol, heart diseases and weight gain.
However, this does not mean that you should totally eradicate saturated fat completely from your diet. It should form about 6% of your total daily calorie intake.
Let’s work it out with a little math.
Assuming you need 1800 calories daily.
6% of that would be about 110 calories.
A gram of fat has 9 calories.
This would mean that your total saturated fat content should not be more than 11-12 grams.
One easy way to know how much saturated fat your taking in is by reading the ingredient label.
Let’s take my favourite chips brand, Kettle.
There’s 8g of saturated fat per serving, about 13 chips. So in order not to go above your daily limit, you should not consume more than 20 chips, which is the number I can eat every minute.
Let’s move on to the healthier kind of fat. This is fat that is in liquid form at room temperature and can be found in foods like nuts, fatty fishes (cod, salmon), plant oils and avocado.
Unsaturated fat should form the main bulk of your daily fat intake which as you can see requires you to consume rather healthy stuff.
This type of fat also does good things to your body like help to lower cholesterol levels, reduce heart disease and stroke.
Why Are Fatty Acids Important
Whether you are on a diet or not, you should not ignore the importance of fatty acids in your daily food intake. It should form about 20% of your total daily calories.
Here are some important functions of fatty acids:
- Development of healthy cell membranes
- Good hair and skin
- Production of hormones
- For our brain and nervous system to function properly
- Lower cholesterol
- Immune function
The list goes on but you get my drift. You don’t want to be lacking in any of the above.
Thankfully, our body can manufacture most of the fatty acids that we require. There are 2 types that require us to get it from food sources. Omega 3 and 6.
This is like the granddaddy for fatty acids. One that you should not skim on and making sure you have enough of it.
This fat is good for lowering heart ailments, inflammation, infant development, depression, asthma and even mental cognitive issues like ADHD and Alzheimer.
Nature has made it easy for us to get this fatty acid via food sources.
If you’re a seafood lover, you’re in luck. Many of the fishes that we consume are good sources in Omega 3.
You might have read about high levels of mercury in certain fishes. There are certain industries like smelting, waste incineration that releases large amounts of mercury particles into the atmosphere which then gets mixed into the lake and seawater.
This is then absorbed by the fishes and further absorbed by fishes that eat fishes already containing mercury.
A ‘fish-eat-fish’ world has it’s drawbacks too.
This chart which shows the mercury levels in fishes will come in handy when you’re doing your grocery shopping.
Another good way to prevent yourself from turning into a walking thermometer is to diversify your Omega 3 sources.
Nuts and plant-based oil is also rich in this fatty acid but go easy on it as it’s easy to consume these sources in large quantities which can lead to you putting on unwanted pounds.
Omega 6 is another fatty acid that you need to get via food source as your body can’t produce it naturally. It is easily found in many popular foods like meat, fast food, dairy, eggs and vegetable oil.
When eaten in moderation, it can bring about a number of benefits like it’s good for your heart, allergy control, reduces the risk of diabetes.
On the flip side, due to Omega 6 is found in many of our daily food sources, there is a chance that some of us are over-loading on this. Especially if you’re a fast food fan.
Too much Omega 6 can lead to stroke, blood clots, water retention and other not so good stuff.
Hence it is important for us to watch our intake and maintain a healthy 1:1 or 4:1 Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio.
This is another unsaturated fat that is commonly found in vegetable and animal fats. This fatty acid can be produced by our body.
However, if you want to be more health conscious, you can replace some of your saturated fat intake with Omega 9.
Some benefits that we can derive from Omega 9:
- Reduce stroke and heart diseases
- Better energy and mood
- Improve immune system
- Aid in Alzheimer’s
Omega 7 is fairly unheard of fatty acid until recently where it has been shown to help effectively with weight loss and a whole lot of other benefits like:
- Younger-looking skin with the reduction of fine lines
- Acne reduces in severity and begins to clear
- Helps to soothe the gut and eases digestive issues such as IBS
- Helps to curb the appetite and keep calorie intake in control
- Lowers cholesterol (LDL) levels
- Improves the strength and appearance of hair, skin and nails
- Boost collagen levels leaving the skin looking radiant and plump
- Blood sugar levels improve
- Reduces inflammation
- Energy levels improve
- Quality of sleep improves
Omega 7 is pretty rare and it’s usually found in fatty fishes and vegetable oil. Rich sources of this fatty acid can be derived from macadamia nuts and the sea buckthorn plant which has the highest concentration of Omega 7.
Another good source of is from the weight loss supplement Ultra Omega Burn. Its main ingredient is Omega 7 which allows you to enjoy the above benefits.
It can be mind-boggling with it comes to getting the correct and proper quantity of fatty acids for our body. Eating can become a chore if we need to always second guess and calculate our nutritional intake.
What you can do is at least be aware of what foods contain the above fatty acids and you can more or less do a rough estimation during meal time.
Consider yourself an expert on Omega 3,6,7 and 9 now.