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Essential Fatty Acids Need to be Balanced for Optimum Health

By: Lana Hawkins

We've all heard that getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in our diet is healthy. But do you know why?

According to research, omega-3 fatty acids can lower inflamation in the body. Reduced inflammation is closely correlated with lower incidences of many chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and many more. These fatty acids are also concentrated in the brain and are very important for brain function including memory and behavior. While omega-3s tend to reduce inflammation and related disease, omega-6s increase inflammation. You need both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, in the correct quantities to maintain good health.

If you've been experiencing extreme tiredness, failing memory, heart issues, dry skin or eczema, moodiness or depression, there is a chance that your levels of essential fatty acids are way out of balance. See your doctor for a diagnosis.

Why the focus on omega-3s?

Omega-3s are essential fatty acids, meaning that they are critical to your health but your body does not manufacturer them. You need to eat food containing these nutrients to get your daily dosage. The body needs essential fatty acids (omega-3s, omega-6s and omega-9s) to make hormone like substances called prostaglandins, which regulate many critical body functions.

Too much of a good thing?

The North American diet has a very high concentration of omega-6s somewhat due to high meat consumption. What we're lacking are the omega-3s. That is why we need to pay attention to the food we eat, to get enough omega-3s. However, you can get too much of a good thing. Just because a certain amount of omega-3s are good for you, it can be overdone.

Omega-3s are most beneficial when correctly balanced with omega-6s. These fatty acids work with each other to sustain your health. Get them too badly out of balance and you could end up with health problems.

So what is a good balance and how much omega-3 do you need?

If you are consuming about three times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids you're in the ballpark. The typical American diet can contain about twenty times more, or higher, omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. It is thought that this out of balance condition is aggravating the increase in inflammatory diseases in the US. The omega-6s are found in meat so lowering your meat intake while increasing your whole grains, nut oils and fish intake can lead to a healthier balance.

Precautions.

Excessive amounts of omega-3s could cause bleeding if you take blood thinners, bruise easily, or have any type of bleeding disorders. In the worst case you could end up with a condition where blood vessels in the brain leak or rupture causing death. Your target is not to exceed 3 grams of omega-3s per day. Check with your doctor. Eating three or more servings of fish per day is not recommended. It might give you too much omega-3, leading to health problems.

Food sources of omega-3s.

Essential fatty acids are prone to break down in pure form if they are exposed to light or air, which is why getting them in the food you eat makes the most sense. Some foods containing omega-3s are albacore tuna, salmon, halibut, mackerel, lake trout, herring and sardines. It is also available in almonds, walnuts, whole seeds and grains. If you're adventurous, try eating sea algae and krill. Dark, leafy greens contain omega-3s but you need to eat quite a bit to get your daily requirement.

A diet without meat and incluing some wine, such as the Mediterranean diet tends to have a better omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. If you're an egg eater you can find eggs from chickens that have been fed a diet high in flaxseed which makes the eggs higher in omega-3s. Flaxseed itself is high in omega-3 but you need to crush the seeds to be able to get the nutrients out. And you must eat the crushed seed within 24 hours or the potency is lost.

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week. Pregnant, nursing women or children need to be cautions about eating fish due to that fact that some of it may contain mercury that can affect growing bodies.

Looking for more information on health and fitness? Fit, Healthy Self can show you how to add 20 minutes, 3 times a week of exercise to your life which meets the American Heart Association's recommendation for physical activity, no equipment required. Take a look. Go to: http://FitHealthySelf.com

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