The body can produce its own fatty acids except for alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6). These must be provided in the diet and are therefore called essential fatty acids (EFAs).
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS:
This group of fatty acids has 18, 20, or 22 carbons in the chain and three or more double bonds starting on the third carbon from the end of the chain (called the omega end).
PLANT SOURCES FISH SOURCES
- GROUND FLAX SEED - SARDINES
- PUMPKIN SEEDS - SALMON
- CHIA SEEDS - MACKERAL
- HEMP SEEDS - HERRING
- FLAX SEED OIL - OMEGA 3 FISH OIL
OMEGA-6 FATTY ACIDS
This group of fatty acids has 18 or 20 carbons in the chain and two or more double bonds starting on the sixth carbon from the omega end.
Plant foods like corn and sunflower seeds are high in the lower chain omega-6 fatty acids.
THE CHEMISTRY OF EFAS
As mentioned, there are two essential fatty acids in the human diet: alpha-linolenic acid and linolenic acid. All other fatty acids in the body can be created from these two and are thus considered nonessential. EFAs play a role in many biological processes including:
In general, the optimal omega-6 : omega-3 ratio in the diet is believed to be at least 4:1. Most North Amercians consume 10-20 times more omega-6 than omega-3. Obviously, getting enough omega-6s is not a problem. It is the omega-3s that need to be supplemented daily either through food or supplementation.
With proper intake of Omega-3s, the following serious conditions may be avoided: