Essential Fatty Acids

You need to eat some fat! In our low-fat, no-fat crazed environment, this would seem like an absurd idea for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Like carbohydrates, fats are often seen in a negative light. So why would anyone NEED to eat fat?

Many people associate all of the fat we take in from dietary sources as the type that packs flab onto our hips and midsection. We often lose sight of the fact that fats (or lipids) serve numerous physiological purposes. They are used in signal pathways, have a role in inflammation, can turn genes on and off, and are a part of the phospholipid membrane that surrounds all our cells.

Essential Fatty Acids, or EFAs, are particularly important because the human body cannot produce them. You can only get them through dietary intake. EFAs fall into two classes: long and short chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). The body can use short chain PUFAs like Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) to create the long chain PUFAs Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (EPA), but only in limited amounts. For that reason, it's best to get both types of these Omega-3 PUFAs from diet.

Omega-3 EFAs can be found in salmon and other cold water fish, shellfish, flaxseed, hemp oil, canola oil, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, among other sources. Plant sources lack some of the long chain PUFAs, which is why animal sources are considered a more concentrated source of EFAs. Because some people don't like the taste of fish or any of the various oils, manufacturers have produced a variety of supplemental EFA sources.

Optimum Nutrition's new easy-to-swallow Norwegian-sourced Salmon Oil Softgels contain the long chain PUFAs in the Omega-3 family. ON's Flaxseed Oil Softgels are made with ALA, the short chain PUFA in the Omega-3 family and one of the primary precursors for additional EFA production.

EFAs serve many important processes in the body, most of which we don't think too much about since it's done at the molecular level. So, whether you're working fish and pumpkin seeds into your diet regimen or simply taking supplements to boost your EFAs, remember that you're delivering an essential component to a healthy lifestyle.

Kristina Lum
2007 Washington State Ironman Fitness Champion
ON Athlete
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