As discussed in our previous articles on healthy fat, getting enough of this macronutrient is essential to good health. But what happens to our health when we don't get enough essential fatty acids and what are the signs?
Essential fatty acids are fats vital to our good health, but that must come from food because our bodies can't make them, even though they play so many important roles in our bodies. Essential fatty acids aid the development of new cells and help to maintain a strong and well-functioning cell membrane around every cell in our bodies. One particularly significant benefit of increased consumption of essential fatty acids is their effect on the brain. These essential fats help with brain development and functioning. Deficiencies of essential fatty acids such as omega-3 have been strongly linked with mental issues such as depression, ADD/ADHD, bipolar disorder, and other such problems.
Additionally, these fats ensure the proper function of our nervous system. Our nerves are the “circuits,” or “wiring,” of our bodies and each wire must be properly insulated to efficiently send and receive signals. This insulation over each of our nerve cells is made up of essential fatty acids. Getting enough dietary essential fatty acids is essential in maintaining a healthily functioning nervous system.
Essential fatty acids assist in producing hormone-like substances called Eicosanoids that help to regulate blood pressure, blood viscosity, and immune and inflammatory reactions. It has been found that they also help the body block tumor formation. As the incidence of cancer is continually on the rise, this is a very important benefit of increasing essential fatty acid intake.
Other benefits and functions of essential fatty acids include regulation of the thyroid and adrenal glands, thinning of the blood to prevent blood clots that can cause heart attack and stroke, anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent disease and pain, regulation of blood pressure, increased immunity, improved liver functioning, breaking down of excess cholesterol, reduction of skin problems such as eczema or dandruff, prevention of brittle hair or nails, and support with weight loss and/or weight management.
As you can see, this is quite an extensive list! And it makes sense when you realize that these essential fatty acids are important to every single cell in our body and how well that cell functions. So, naturally, the list of benefits is likely to be large.
But what can happen if there aren't enough essential fatty acids in your diet? A deficiency of these fats has been linked to a number of problems: mood swings, memory loss, weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cravings (especially sugar cravings), dementia, Alzheimers, depression, vision problems, hair and skin problems, arthritis, heart disease, and problems with concentration.
Some of the best foods for increasing your intake of these essential fats include:
- nuts and nut products, preferably raw
- seeds, preferably raw (especially flax seed, chia seed, and hemp seed)
- coconut oil
In summary, one major missing link to optimal health in the lives of many is the adequate consumption of essential fatty acids. A simple way of improving many aspects of your health is by eating more of the foods that contain these essential fatty acids!
For a simple and delicious recipe full of healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids, try Raw Chocolate Chia Pudding