It may seem strange that an essential fatty acid is necessary for weight loss. After all, weight loss efforts are usually focused on eliminating our body’s fat stores. Truth is, there are different types of fat. Some fats are needed and perform very important body functions. Others, are well- very undesirable. Indeed, a vital part of the best weight loss systems is reducing fat stores. However, with a bit of an ironic twist, essential fatty acids are needed to build health and lose weight. Essential fatty acids are the building blocks of many of our body’s tissues and hormones. They also serve as an important part of the make up of our endocrine, digestive, nervous and cardiovascular systems. In short, most of our body’s cells benefit from essential fatty acids.
Omega 3’s & 6’s!
The most talked about essential fatty acids belong in two categories- omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. The difference between the two groups is in their chemical make up. Let’s start with the omega 3. Like the omega 6’s, omega 3’s are unsaturated fatty acids. Omega 3’s are of great interest when it comes to improving our health. Increasing the amount of omega 3 fatty acids in our foods and supplementing with certain omega 3’s will provide enormous health benefits and will certainly benefit the best weight loss plans. The most common omega 3 fatty acids are ALA (alpha linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentoenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid). Foods such as nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans) avocados, fish, seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower, flax and the super fruits such as blueberry, goji berry, ligonberry and kiwi are all great nutritional sources of omega 3’s.
Surely, you could not help but notice that the sources of the omega 3’s are all nutrient dense foods that have many health benefits!! The claim to fame for omega 3 fatty acid is that they seem to do just about everything right!! They are found in most of the body’s tissues and are involved in some way in many of the body’s chemical reactions. Research suggests that the omega 3’s can reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, decrease cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, improve psychiatric disorders such as mood, anxiety and depression, improve digestive disorders, reduce fatigue, improve sleep, improve the musculoskeletal system and hormonal imbalances.
Many of these systems are negatively impacted by weight gain and inactivity. Now onto the omega 6’s. The most common omega 6’s are linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. These fatty acids are also essential and needed by the body but cannot be produced. Most of the omega 6’s are found in meat products such as poultry and red meat. The typical American diet is not by any means deficient in omega 6’s. In fact excessive levels of omega 6 fatty acids have been linked to cardiovascular disease and depression. Omega 6 fatty acids are definitely a situation of too much of a good thing can be dangerous!
The true importance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids is the balance or the ratio of the two in the body. The optimal ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids is 4 to 1. The typical modern diet contains a ratio of 10 to 1. The excess omega 6’s will compete with the omega 3’s and interfere with the optimal function of many cellular processes. Omega 6’s are a little funny- they are absolutely essential in that they are needed for normal tissue function but in too large of a quantity can actually be detrimental.
What to do about the omegas???
In diets that contain fish, poultry and or meat supplementing with omega 6 fatty acids is not required. In fact, it is not usual to supplement with the omega 6’s. The omega 3’s are a different story. Foods rich in omega 3’s should be plentiful in everyday menus. Supplementing with the omega 3’s is also quite essential! Supplementing with 1200 -2000 mg of omega 3’s (usually EPA and DHA in a high quality fish oil) is recommended for weight loss and overall health building. Health issues or existing health risks may require additional supplementation. The best weight loss plans will include foods rich in omega 3’s and an additional fish oil/omega 3 fatty acid supplement.
Fish oil supplements
Omega 3 fatty acids and fish oil supplements are not all created equal. Choosing a high quality fish oil supplement is important. The better quality supplements will use fish such as tuna, raised specifically for supplements. These supplements not only use better quality fish oil, they also closely monitor the mercury and nickel levels in their stock to assure a clean, pure product. Many supplements found in retail stores use a variety of fish oils and do not monitor the purity of the products. Regardless of the supplement you choose, adding 2000mg of fish oil supplement to your weight loss plan will produce great results!