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We’ve all heard about the benefits of the well-known omega-3 fatty acid. It’s found in foods such as fish, walnuts, and spinach, and experts love to extol its virtues—it has benefits for almost every part of the body. Omega-3s tend to get all the attention, so many people might not even be aware of the other fatty acids: omegas 6, 7, and 9. How are they different? Are they as beneficial as omega-3? Many fatty acids are not naturally produced by the body, and so we must ingest them in the form of foods or supplements. So here’s a quick, informative list of essential fatty acids—now you’ll know where to find them and how they help your body.
What are omega-3 fatty acids? Everyone has heard of them, but what do you actually know about them? Luckily, this one is well-researched and easy to learn about. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids are excellent for heart health. They improve blood lipids, which helps extend the life of a heart. Omega-3s are also great for the brain. They’ve been shown to boost cognitive sharpness in seniors, improving their memory and other problems that typically arise with age. Their benefits for the brain also extend to mental health, helping to level out mood swings and regulate emotions. And they are vital for a healthy pregnancy, promoting fetal brain development, healthy eyes, and an ideal birth weight. They can be found in foods such as walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, and other nuts; seaweed; spinach; and many types of fish--tuna, mackerel, cod, and salmon (especially wild-caught).
Omega-6 primarily promotes brain health, by supporting normal brain functioning and keeping the body’s growth and development on track. Besides the brain, omega-6 is also great for the hair and skin, supports healthy bones and reproductive system, and helps to regulate the metabolism. It could be argued that omega-6 is just as beneficial as omega-3, but there is one big difference—omega-6 is found in so many common foods, such as vegetable oils, grain-fed meats, and nuts. As a result, it’s hard to be deficient in it, but relatively easy to have an excess of it. You want to be careful of this, because while omega-3 helps to reduce inflammation, omega-6 does the opposite.
This fatty acid is excellent for hydrating your entire body from the inside. This includes lubricating the numerous mucous membranes in the body, helping with dry eyes and vaginal dryness commonly experienced by postmenopausal women. Thanks to this hydration, your skin is also improved, promoting elasticity and preventing wrinkles. It can also ease stomach issues such as ulcers, indigestion, and heartburn--the lubricated mucous membranes protect the stomach lining as well. Omega-7 is also good for your heart, reducing your risk of heart disease by regulating cholesterol. You can find omega-7 in avocado, sea buckthorn oil, macadamia nuts, grass-fed meat, and dairy.
Omega-9 is great for reducing inflammation, promoting healthy joints and healing, and protecting against disease. Our bodies produce omega-9 on their own, so most people don’t have to worry about being deficient. But olive oil is a good source of it, as well as macadamia nuts, seeds, and salmon. Making omega fatty acids a regular part of your diet will lead to a happier, healthier you.
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