What’s The Deal With Healthy Fats?
his week is Brain Awareness week – a global campaign promoting public interest in neuroscience research – so we thought it would be fitting to talk about “healthy fats”, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, which are extremely important for keeping your brain happy and health!
Recently you may have been hearing a lot about “healthy fats”. This may seem like a new concept to you since for years we have been told that a low fat diet was good for us, and even to avoid fats altogether! Well, the jury has ruled and its official… healthy fats are important, and they can actually be VERY helpful for our brains and our mood!
SO, which fats fall into this “healthy fats” category? How do we get more healthy fats into our diets? Is there still such thing as unhealthy fats? How do healthy fats affect our brains?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. This means that we need to get them from our diet (or through a supplement) because our bodies are unable to produce them on their own. Our Western diets tend to contain a high level of a different type of fatty acid – omega-6. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in vegetable oils, and are a staple in the American diet. Now the most important part about fats is their balance; since our intake of omega-6s is so high, we require more omega-3s in order to keep the two fats in balance. When the ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s is out of balance, inflammation in the body increases, and this can lead to chronic illness, pain, depression, anxiety, hormonal issues, cardiovascular (heart) issues, etc. – the list goes on and on.
While omega-3 fatty acids are a dietary necessity, they have also been well researched and documents as treatments for cardiovascular disease, inflammation reduction, autoimmune diseases, cancers, but of most interest to us – especially during brain awareness week – as a benefit to the central nervous system (our brain), and a variety of mental disorders.
Our brains are highly concentrated with omega-3 fatty acids, and if deficient, our brain begins to have trouble sending messages. As a result, the different regions of the brain have trouble communicating with each other, and this can lead to a number of different mental health issues. Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids can help to improve this signalling, and we also know that omega-3s help to protect serotonin and dopamine levels. This explains why omega-3 fatty acids can be so helpful in treating depression and anxiety.
So, how can you supplement your diet to optimize your level of Omega 3 fatty acids?
- Seafood: Fish is by far the best natural source omega-3 fatty acids – specifically long-chain omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are most important for brain health. Salmon, sardines, herring, trout, and canned tuna are options that provide the highest concentrations of omega-3s.
- Omega-3 Supplement: These essential fatty acids are also commonly available as a vitamin supplement. When buying an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, it is important to ensure you are getting a very high quality product. Check the package to ensure that there is a statement of purity, which will state the capsules have been processed to remove any harmful substances.
While there are additional sources of omega-3 fatty acids – certain nuts, oils, fruits and vegetables – these serve solely as a source of omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body generally uses for energy and very limited conversion into long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA (the ones that are so important to your brain’s health!). It should also be noted that omega-3s are natural blood thinners. As a result, patients taking high doses of aspirin or prescription blood thinners should always consult their naturopathic or medical doctor before use.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at anytime. We offer free consultations and we would love to meet you!