For healthy living, we could not indiscriminately cut off all types of fats from our diets. Essential fatty acids are a group of fats that the body needs for performing several functions. Moreover, adequate amounts of essential fatty acid could help to prevent several diseases. However, the human body could not manufacture these fatty acids. We depend on external food sources for the supply of essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are divided into two main groups – omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). These fatty acids play an important role in brain function and promote a host of cellular activities. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are important constituents of the omega-3 fatty acids group. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to balance the lipid profile of the blood by increasing the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol, reducing the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol and decreasing the triglyceride level. Intake of omega-3 fatty acids could help to normalize the blood pressure level. These properties of omega-3 fatty acids make them the ideal food for preventing heart diseases, atherosclerosis and stroke. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially in the form of DHA and EPA, could help to normalize the blood sugar level. These essential fatty acids could also help to reduce inflammatory illnesses. They are beneficial for treating arthritis, asthma and inflammatory bowel syndrome. Omega-3 fatty acids could also help the bones to absorb calcium. To prevent osteoporosis, you should include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. These fatty acids could also prevent destruction of brain cells. Including these essential fatty acids in your diet could help to prevent depression, mental disorders and memory loss. Several types of cancers could be prevented with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids could be obtained from fish, whole grains, flax seeds, walnuts and green leafy vegetables.
Omega-6 fatty acids
The health benefits of omega-6 fatty acids are not as extensive as that of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are found in plant oils as linoleic acid. Gamma-linolenic acid is a popular form of omega-6 fatty acid, usually found in borage, black currant and evening primrose seeds. It can be easily absorbed by the body. When taken in moderation, along with omega-3 fatty acids, gamma-linolenic acid could prevent heat diseases, osteoporosis, arthritis and peripheral neuropathy.