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What are Fatty Acids?

This will be the first periodic post of a our Core 4 Nutrition Education Series. In these posts, which will all be found at Core 4 Nutrition BlogI will be discussing in detail the what, how and why of the four critical factors that we have found time and time again that people need to optimize in order to look, feel and perform at their best.  These factors include vitamin Domega 3 fatty acids, whole-food derived antioxidantsincluding nitric oxide and whole-food derived micronutrients.  

So let’s get started with our topic for today, what is a fatty acid and maybe more important, why should you care? 

For many years, fats have had a bad reputation because of incomplete or incorrect information. The reality is that fats are essential for life and we should not be afraid of them. To better understand how fats contribute to your good health, it is essential to understand that there are two very different kinds of fats—the good fats that our bodies need and the bad fats that cause degenerative disease....

Good fats include the health-enhancing essential fatty acids. Because your body needs them but cannot make them, they are an essential part of any diet. They are also essential for life—we simply couldn’t survive without them. These fats are all-natural and unprocessed. They are found most abundantly in certain varieties of nuts and seeds; avocados, olives and coconut; grass-fed or naturally-pastured animals, and wild fish. 
 
Bad fats include those found in corn, soy, canola, safflower and cottonseed oils and those derived from commercially-raised, grain-fed animals. Eating these types of fats will wreak havoc on your overall health and well-being; they can also cause a variety of metabolic problems that may eventually lead to cancer, diabetes, arthritis and/or heart disease. And to make matters worse, commercial processing can make even a good fat turn bad. When an essential fat is extracted from its naturally-protective whole food source, it becomes unstable and easily damaged by light, heat and oxygen.


So what are fatty acids? 

In very simple terms, they are the key to your optimal health! This is because essential fatty acids serve both as the primary, structural component of every cellular membrane in the body and the master in command of the intracellular messengers controlling all cellular activity.  Without adequate essential fatty acids, no cell, tissue, gland or organ would function as it should.
 
Essential fatty acids are classified into omega 3 and omega 6 (their names reflect the nature of how each is chemically structured).  Omega 3 fats are high in foods such as cold-temperature oils which are found in wild fish; hemp, chia and pumpkin seeds; and green foods including chlorella, spirulina, super-blue green algae and sea-vegetables. Omega 6 fats are high in warmer-temperature foods such as grain and vegetable oils (corn, soy, cottonseed, safflower, canola and peanut).
 
Symptoms of an essential fatty acid deficiency are so numerous they are often difficult to identify. But here are a few plausible examples: 
 
If an essential fatty acid imbalance is affecting your intestinal tract, you may experience bloating, constipation, indigestion; you may suffer from inflammatory bowel disease or have food allergies. If it’s affecting your nervous system, you may be apathetic, depressed or forgetful. And if it’s affecting your cardiovascular system, you may have difficulty with blood clots, vascular spasms and become insulin resistant.  An essential fatty acid deficiency can even cause external, cosmetic symptoms such as dry skin, lifeless hair and cracked nails. And forget about the incorrect notion that you need to avoid eating fat in order to lose body fat. Essential fatty acids actually increase thermogenesis (the body’s ability to burn fat), stop the body from storing excess fat and prevent the exercise-induced breakdown of muscle tissue.
 
EFA’s also influence the body’s ability to use oxygen (by relaxing the blood vessels, allowing more blood to reach the muscle cells) and are necessary for red blood cell production. And according to several recent studies, athletes who have optimized their EFA levels recover more quickly because their muscle cells are more easily supplied with the oxygen (and nutrients) they need to recover.     
 
For the person looking to improve their day to day well-being and performance, it is important to know that besides reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and immune disorders, optimal and balanced levels of essential fatty acids will also contribute to:
 
-Gains in strength, stamina and endurance
-Better hormonal health (they naturally support testosterone and growth hormone production)
-Reduced pain and inflammation in the joints, bones and muscles
-Greater motivation and a more positive outlook on life
-Improved concentration
-Deeper sleep

In order to reap the full benefits of what essential fatty acids have to offer, we need to consume an equal amount of unprocessed omega 6 to omega 3 fats. Unfortunately, omega 3 fats started to disappear from the American diet about 75 years ago.  Instead of a 1:1 (or at least a 3:1) ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats, the average American consumes a 15:1 ratio! With an EFA imbalance this severe, the body is forced to use damaged oils to create and repair cell membranes. Inflammation, fatigue, chronic pain and low energy are just a few of the unavoidable results. 
 
In order to improve your omega 6 to omega 3 ratio, you will have to reduce your excessive amounts of omega 6 and increase your omega 3 intake. And while there are a number of foods with moderate amounts of omega 3 content, unless you are able or plan to consume at least 8oz of wild salmon, sardines or mackerel three to four times weekly, you will need to supplement your diet with an omega 3 rich fish oil supplement
 
But you just can’t take just any fish oil supplement.  You must rely on a product that that you know has been carefully processed and preserved because most—if not all—conventional fish oil products have been heated or treated with chemicals, both of which can destroy the integrity and reduce the effectiveness of omega 3 fats. We all know what bad fish smells like; the smell is created when the oil in the fish becomes rancid. The same thing can happen to fish oil supplements that have not been prepared and preserved properly. The use of these products can actually do your body more harm than good!
 
Rest assured!  Just Peachy and the Pharmax fish oil in Daily Dose get the job done. Omega 3 Assessments on hundreds of people and are the proof. 

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