Essential fatty acids(EFA’s) are considered essential to the human body as we ourselves are unable to produce or build them within us, but need them in our diet to maintain our health. Therefore, without an adequate consumption of essential fatty acids, some unpleasant health conditions can develop. The discovery of essential fatty acids was founded in 1923. At the time they were termed a vitamin and were called: vitamin F. They are still sometimes referred to this today, but are more commonly called essential fatty acids or EFA’s.
On a general note when essential fatty acids are included in the diet at an optimal level they greatly improve one’s appearance and health, especially the quality of of one’s hair and skin. This was demonstrated with research studies several times. For example, in the 1950’s infants that were fed just skim milk developed a deficiency in essential fatty acids. This resulted in the infants increasing their food intake, but still having poor growth and scaly skin. This was easily fixed when corn oil(an essential fatty acid) was added to their diet. On another occasion a group of adults developed symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiencies in a study in the 1970’s. These adults were being fed by intravenous and had no supply of fats. Before to long they too developed symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiency that mainly showed up on their skin. This too was easily reversed once sunflower oil was applied topically to the skin and fats were added to their diet. Eating the appropriate amount of good fats will also reduce one’s blood pressure, help to prevent arthritis, lower cholesterol in an individual as well as triglyceride levels and reduce the risk of blood clots. Consuming them in one’s diet essentially helps improve any condition or disease. Essentially fatty acids help prevent cardiovascular diseases and help to clear up skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis.
Over the years the term “fat” has somehow gotten a bad name for itself in the areas of food and nutrition. This basic concept of fat being bad is slowly evolving as people are beginning to realize that there are good fats and bad fats. The good fats are for the most part polyunsaturated fats, and many of these come under the category of “essential fatty acids”. Essential fatty acids fall into two basic categories: Omega 3 Fatty Acids which includes alpha-linolenic ad eicospent aenoic acid(EPA). They can be found in fresh deep water fish and certain vegetable oils such as canola, flaxseed and walnut oil. The other type of essential fatty acid is: Omega 6 fatty acid which includes linoleic and gamma linoleic acids and unsaturated vegetable oils such as: borage oil, grapeseed oil, primrose oil, grapeseed oil, soybean and sesame oil.
These two fats are very important for us to eat daily and keep in both our diets and even to use in our skin care products. Eating essential fatty acids pretty much affects almost ever cell in our bodies. Essential fatty acids are important also for our mental development and our learning and processing. Without proper consumption of them we become less clear in our thinking and our memory starts to deteriorate as well. When babies and young children do not have enough healthy essential fatty acids in their diet they can have permanent damage in their mental development.
One thing one must remember when eating, storing or buying essential fatty acids is that they can be damaged by both heat and light and therefore they must be kept in a cool dark place. Damaged essential fats can develop free radicals which can actually cause sickness as opposed to healing. For example Margarine is a fat that has been heated and processed into a trans fatty acid and it is therefore no longer a healthy fat and is not good for the body. The following is a list of some fats to include in your diet and some can be used for skin care as well.
Walnuts, pistachios, brazil nuts
Many nuts are excellent sources of essential fatty acids. Walnuts and walnut oil are both particularly good sources of omega 3 fatty acids or rather the linolenic acid. It is good to enjoy fresh nuts as a snack on their own or on top of salads and desserts such as yogurt or ice cream. Many of the other nuts such as pine nuts and pistashios are good forms of the Omega 6 essential fatty acids. One can also include these in their cooking as well as a snack.
Primrose oil is sometimes called evening primrose oil. It is another good source of an Omega 6 essential fatty acid. It is sometimes taken in a supplement form and is also frequently added to creams for the skin. It is beneficial in reducing inflammation and preventing the hardening of the arteries. It also has an effect on the hormones estrogen and testosterone. It can aid in premenstrual symptoms as well as with unpleasant menopause symptoms. However, it should not be taken if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer as it effects the estrogen receptors.
Sun flower seeds and seed oil
When it comes to getting the best benefit out of sunflower seeds, they are best consumed raw right from the shell. They are a good form of the Omega 6 essential fatty acids which does bennefit the skin, especially eaten straight from the shell. Often sunflower seed oil is too refined when it is commercially sold to get the best benefits from the seed’s oil. Still, in one study from the 1970’s sunflower seed oil was topically applied to the participants skin to successfully help repair their dermal skin symptoms from the lack of essential fatty acids in their diet.
Olives and Olive oil
Olive oil is a particularly good source of the Omega 6 fatty acids as are olives themselves. Olive oil and olives make great dressings and additives for salads. Using virgin or extra virgin olive oil is the best source of the oil. Olive oil is one of the best oils to use for cooking food and vegetables as it can withstand high levels of heat before it goes bad. Still, it is best not to cook food at high heat temperatures but rather simmer them on medium heat. Just one tablespoon of olive oil a day will give you your adequate amount of the Omega 6 fatty acids necessary. It also makes an excellent bread dip as a substitute for the less healthy butter and the even more unhealthy hydrogenated margarine.
Flaxseed oil and seeds
Flaxseed is also sometimes referred to as linden seed. It is an excellent source of the Omega 3 fatty acids and also contains: magnesium, potassium and fiber. It is similar to olive oil in that just one tablespoon of the oil a day will give you your adequate amount of the Omega 3 fatty acids required. However, it is still recommended to eat essential fatty acids a little at a time throughout the day for the best effects. Flaxseeds are low in saturated fats, calories and cholesterol. Ground flaxseeds have a nutty pleasant taste that can be easily added to your baked goods or vegetables. If you opt for the flaxseed oil, make sure you store it in the fridge and buy it at a shop that stores the oil in the fridge. It can easily become oxidized so it needs to stay cool and away from the light. Flaxseed oil helps to reduce pain and inflammation. It also lowers cholesterol and reduces arthritis.
Salmon is one of the fish that has a high fat content and contains more of the Omega 3 essential fatty acids than many other fish available. To be exact 4 ounces of salmon contains 3, 600 milligrams of Omega 3 fatty acids. While cod fish on the other had contains only 300 milligrams of Omega 3 fats for 4 ounces. Just make sure that when you are buying your salmon for consumption that it is Wild salmon, not the less organic farmed salmon.
Hemp seed and Hemp seed oil
Hemp seeds and hemp seed oil are both good forms of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. They come from the cannibos plant, and the seeds can be found in baked goods. Other seed oils that have become popular as forms of Omega 3 fatty acids are Chia seeds and sesame seeds. They add flavour as well as essential fatty acids and other nutrients to the food.
Sardines are another fresh water fish like salmon that have a lot of the omega 3 fatty acids. Fish is best fresh but the less expensive and more common canned sardines also contain a good dose of essential fatty acids. Other fish to try besides salmon and sardines are: mackerel, herring, and some types of tuna. Fish oil can also be taken as a supplemnet which noticably helps to improve the quality of the skin. However, it is not recommended that diabetics take fish oil supplements due to their high fat content. They are better off consumming the fish itself.