Healthy fats, often referred to as Omega Fatty Acids or Omega-3 or Omega-6, are extremely important for a healthy diet. It is very confusing because we are instructed to limit fats in our diet, but we are told to include healthy fats… what?!
Here’s some information to help demystify healthy fats. We’ll discuss what healthy fats are, why they are important / beneficial, and how to include them in your diet.
Healthy fats include omega-3 and omega-6, sometimes combined and called Omega Fatty Acids. You may have heard of these supplements (sometimes called Fish Oil) or seen food packages that specify increased omega-3. Omega-3 and omega-6 are provided by the foods we eat. Omega-6 is essential for health, and isn’t made by the body. Maintaining a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 is important. Most people typically get too much omega-6 and probably not enough omega-3.
Studies done on healthy fats claim benefits ranging from the prevention of heart disease, stroke, and cancer (specifically breast, prostate and colorectal), to the control of lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis. In one study, the rate of sudden cardiac death was reduced by 50 percent among heart attack survivors who took omega-3 supplements daily for three years. Other important benefits are increased brain function (specifically improved mental focus and long-term cognitive function), improved eye health, and improved infant brain/eye development and reduce incidence of childhood disorders when taken by pregnant mothers. Another very important benefit is that the body cannot burn fat without omega-3/6. If you are trying to lose weight, including healthy fats in your diet will help you maintain optimal fat metabolism or fat burn.
Omega-3 is used in your body during blood clotting, digestion, muscle contraction, making arterial walls pliable, and guarding against inflammation. It has been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood vessel function, and lower triglycerides. The combination of omega-3/6 helps with skin and hair growth, as well as bone healing.
Obviously, we include healthy fats in our diet by eating foods that contain omega-3 and omega-6. Good sources of omega-3 include:
Good sources of omega-6 include:
There are also supplements that you can take if you are not eating the foods above. Healthy fat supplements are sometimes called Fish Oil, or Omega Fatty Acids, or Omegas, etc. If you decide to take supplements, they should include DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) in the nutrition label (most only include DHA). However, in high doses, omega-3s may interfere with blood thinners and medicines used to treat hypertension, so check with your doctor before taking a supplement.
Don’t be afraid to include healthy fats in your diet! Since fats, even healthy fats, are higher in calories, you’ll still need to stick to a healthy calorie count. This will help not “over-do it” with the healthy fats.
As always, if you have questions, please feel free to contact me. Healthy, happy eating!