We all have a problem with fat. Actually, most of us have two problems with fat. I’m sure you are familiar with the first problem – that our bodies overproduce fat. Statistically speaking, most Americans just need to look down at the waistline to see how big the problem is for them. But, you probably don’t realize that you aren’t getting enough good fats in your diet.
I know what you are thinking – there is no such thing as good fat. We’ll there really is. This type of fat, actually called “Essential Fatty Acids” cannot be produced by your body. But, you absolutely need them to live. The only way to get them into your body is by ingesting them, yup ! that means eating them.
Essential fatty acids fall into two groups: omega-3 and omega-6. The 3 and 6 refer to the first carbon double bond position on the fatty acid chain. How can you tell the difference? Basically by understanding which foods contain omega-3 and which contain omega-6.
Omega-6 fatty acids are everywhere: corn oil, sunflower oil and soybean oil all contain them. Omega-3 fatty acids are harder to find. Things like flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, as are trout, tuna and salmon (and ModernMom has a great recipe from Brooke Burke on how to cook your salmon in the dishwasher!)
Why do you need essential fatty acids or good fats anyway? Because Essential Fatty Acids support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems. The human body needs the essential fatty acids to manufacture and repair cell membranes, enabling the cells to obtain optimum nutrition and expel harmful waste products. A primary function of good fats is the production of prostaglandins, which regulate body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility, conception, and play a role in immune function by regulating inflammation and encouraging the body to fight infection.
Essential Fatty Acids are also needed for proper growth in children, particularly for neural development and maturation of sensory systems, with male children having higher needs than females. Fetuses and breast-fed infants also require an adequate supply of essential fatty acids through the mother’s dietary intake. The best news is that you don’t need a lot of these EFA’S per day. A tablespoon or two every day will suffice.