What Are Omegas?

slicing fish on chopping board

Also known as unsaturated fats, omegas are dietary fats that contribute to a healthy lifestyle and proper body function when well-balanced in your diet. It is recommended that you balance all three types of omega fatty acids — omega-3s, omega-6s and omega-9s — in your diet to benefit your body effectively.

While omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats because of the multiple double bonds in their chemical structures, omega-9s are known as monounsaturated fats, containing only one double bond. The body produces monounsaturated fats like omega-9 fatty acids naturally, but still can be beneficial when incorporated into the diet. Polyunsaturated fats like omega-3s and omega-6s, however, are known as essential fats. The body does not naturally produce them, but they are crucial to specific body functions — so we must get them from the food we eat.

Each type of omega serves a different function for our bodies, has different variants, and comes from various sources. Together, experts agree that they contribute to proper function for almost every bodily system — including the organs, brain, circulatory system, skin, and respiratory systems. Make sure you read about each type of omega fatty acid, what role they play in your body, how much you need, and what foods to eat regularly to consume a balanced fatty acid intake.

1. Omega-3s

As polyunsaturated fats the body cannot produce itself, omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats you need to obtain from your diet. This type of omega gains its name from the position of its final double bond, which is three carbon atoms away from the "omega," located at the end of the molecular chain. While there are multiple types of omega-3s that differ in the size and shape of their chemical structures, the three most common omega-3 fats are as follows:

  • Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA): An 18-carbon fatty acid that can be converted into both EPA and DHA, ALA is essential for providing energy to the body.
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA): A 20-carbon fatty acid responsible for producing eicosanoid chemicals, EPA helps reduce inflammation and is beneficial in decreasing the symptoms of depression.
  • Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): Making up 8 percent of the brain's weight, this 22-carbon fatty acid assists in brain function and is essential to healthy brain development.

As a crucial part of cell membranes and cell receptor function, omega-3s also serve the following functions for your health and your body's processes, according to Healthline:

  • Bettering Mental Health: Omega-3s can help reduce the symptoms of conditions like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression, as well as reducing the risk of developing psychotic disorders.
  • Improving Heart Health: Omega-3s work to increase HDL levels — the "good" kind of cholesterol — lower triglycerides and blood pressure and prevent plaque from building up in the arteries. These functions help to better cardiovascular health and prevent heart attacks and strokes.
  • Controlling Weight and Reducing Waist Size: Omega-3s help control weight, aid in weight loss, and reduce waist circumference.
  • Fighting Inflammation: As anti-inflammatories, omega-3 fats help to reduce inflammation that leads to chronic diseases.
  • Supporting Brain Development: Essential to brain function, omega-3s are also crucial to proper infant brain development.
  • Bettering Bone Health: People with higher intake of omega-3 have better blood levels and higher bone mineral density.
  • Preventing Dementia: Omega-3 fats help slow brain function decline and boost memory in aging adults.
  • Supporting Liver Health: A diet rich in omega-3s helps decrease the fat stores in the body's liver.
  • Preventing Asthma: High intake of omega-3s can assist in reducing asthma symptoms, especially in children.

Healthline states that a deficiency in crucial omega-3s can result in conditions like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. In addition to eating at least two weekly servings of fatty fish like salmon, herring, tuna, and sardines, it is recommended you eat a healthy amount of the following foods:

  • Grains
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Mustard seeds
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Walnuts or walnut oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Canola oil

2. Omega-6s

Also polyunsaturated fats, omega-6 fatty acids are essential to energy levels. While you need more omega-6s than omega-3s, the typical American consumes far too many omega-6 fatty acids as a result of an overly high intake of processed foods, frozen foods, fast foods and too many snacks. Experts agree that eating too many omega-6s or too much from unhealthy sources can be detrimental to the health, but obtaining a balanced supply of these fatty acids from healthy foods is good for the body. Healthy doses of omega-6 fats can be found in foods like:

  • Green, leafy vegetables
  • Vegetable oils
  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Grapeseed
  • Other raw nuts and seeds

The most common type of omega-6 fatty acid is linoleic acid, which can also be converted into different types of omega-6s. Experts say that this type of omega is essential to immune function, providing an energy source, encouraging protective inflammation and reducing the severity of conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and even some cancers when consumed in the proper quantities.

3. Omega-9s

As monounsaturated fats located nine carbons from the omega end of their molecules, omega-9s technically are not essential fats — meaning the body is capable of producing them on its own when you have a healthy level of omega-3s and omega-6s in your system. However, experts recognize that eating foods rich in omega-9s is still highly beneficial to health.

Not only are omega-9s anti-inflammatory and beneficial for your immune system, but studies have shown that they can also reduce plasma triglyceridesreduce bad LDL cholesterolimprove insulin sensitivity and improve general cardiovascular health.

The most common type of omega-9 fatty acid is oleic acid, which is typically found in fatty fish and fish oil.

To increase your supply of omega-9 fatty acids, it is recommended that you eat foods like:

  • Almonds
  • Avocados
  • Pecans
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Chia seed oil
  • Olive oil and olives

Incorporating Oil in Your Diet to Support Omega Benefits

To support a healthy range of omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, it is recommended that you focus on a healthy, well-balanced diet full of the right kinds of protein, green vegetables, whole grains and nuts and seeds. Incorporating a range of healthy, all-natural oils like olive oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, canola oil, nut oils and vegetable oils into your cooking and eating habits is also an excellent idea — not only do cooking oils contain heart-healthy benefits, but they are wonderfully flavorful and add better textures and tastes to any dish.

When you need the healthiest, most natural artisan oils to add to your balanced, omega-rich diet, La Tourangelle's high-quality, handcrafted oils are unmatched. Choose from our delicious range of all-natural oils today.

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