You’ve certainly heard about essential fatty acids, and all the benefits associated with them, but what are they? The most popular fatty acid is the omega-3 fatty acid. This particular group of fatty acids has several members including; alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosalhexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is composed of eighteen carbon atoms and three high energy double bonds. EPA contains twenty carbon atoms and five high energy double bonds. DHA is a twenty-two carbon chain with six high energy double bonds.

Omega-3 is a reference to where these double bonds begin. In the omega-3 fatty acids, these double bonds begin three links down the chain of carbon atoms. Omega-6 fatty acids begin the high energy bonds six links down. Omega-9 fatty acids begin the double bonds nine links down the chain of carbon atoms. ALA is primarily found in seeds and nuts like flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. EPA and DHA are primarily found in fish oils. It is worth noting that both EPA and DHA are not considered essential because the body can manufacture them from alpha-linolenic acid, ALA.

Unfortunately, it’s no joke that the modern American diet contains an abundance of omega-6 fatty acids and not nearly enough of the omega-3 fatty acids. Don’t worry too much about the omega-9’s as they are not essential to your health (a great source of omega-9 is olive oil).

So, what are the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids? In addition to benefitting the heart and circulation, omega-3’s are highly beneficial to the brain, and the entire nervous system – omega-3 fatty acids help to rebuilt and repair the myelin sheath which is the protective covering surrounding nerve cells (omega-3 are extremely beneficial to MS patients), as well as relieving inflammation. And guess what causes inflammation! An abundance of omega-6’s…I am not saying omega-6 fatty acids are bad, they are essential to our health, just nowhere near the amount consumed by the average American.

It is always a good idea to include nuts and seeds in one’s diet…ground flaxseeds are great sprinkled on some organic yoghurt. I also highly recommend eating plenty of coldwater fish, like salmon. There are certain kinds of salmon which can actually do more harm than good, so please be sure to eat the right kind of salmon. In addition to the omega-3 fatty acids; salmon is also rich in certain minerals, vitamins, and more protein than beef.

Usually, the larger the fish, the more heavy metals in its flesh. Tuna is fairly safe: not as safe, or a nutrient-dense as salmon, but it’s certainly better than some of the larger fish out there. Tuna is best eaten with ginger which is anti-parasitic: tuna is known for its parasites.

Personally, I haven’t eaten swordfish in about five years, as it is loaded with heavy metals like mercury. Swordfish is a large, carnivorous fish which is usually a good indicator of its heavy metal contamination…I do not recommend eating swordfish.

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