Remember learning in school that people really once thought the earth was flat? Aw. It's kind of cute how naïve that misconception was. Our perception of food—especially fats—has also been kind of like that. No, the earth is not flat (except for you, Kansas), and no, all fats are not bad for you. In fact, most of them are rather crucial to our health.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are essential because our bodies cannot make them on their own. We need to get them all—DHA, Omega-3s and Omega-6s—from foods such as avocados, olive and coconut oil, chia, flax and hemp seeds, and walnuts. And although fish do contain EFAs, they can also contain high levels of toxins, so it's important we eat a well-balanced diet to get EFAs from a number of foods. Here are just a few reasons why:
Brain Health: Our brains are more than two-thirds fat, and brain cell membranes are made of EFAs, which they need to function properly. EFAs are critical for cognitive ability and help crucial brain development in utero.
Immune Response: Diets high in EFAs have shown a connection with a reduced risk for certain types of cancer and increased immune reactivity and response to common colds and flu.
Skinny Belly: Eating Omega-3s at every meal has been linked to a lower percentage of belly fat and an overall healthier body weight. Excess belly fat in particular has been linked to diabetes, among other ailments.
Reduced Inflammation: Analysis of 17 clinical trials looked at the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplements in people with chronic pain from arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease or painful menstruation. The results suggest that EFAs may help relieve joint pain associated with these conditions.
Boosts Mood: Studies have found that people who took omega-3 fatty acids in addition to prescription antidepressants had a greater improvement in symptoms than those who only took antidepressants.
Healthy Hair and Skin: In one study, people with sun sensitivity showed less reaction to UV rays after taking fish oil supplements. Another study showed people with psoriasis who took EFAs with their prescription medications did better than those who did not.
Balanced Cholesterol: Diets rich in healthy EFAs, such as the Mediterranean Diet, are linked to higher levels of HDL (healthy) cholesterol and lower levels of LDL (lousy) cholesterol.
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