Get the Omega on Omega Fatty Acids
June 19, 2012


By Denise K. Livotti –, the cooking school for kids and families.

What are omega fatty acids?

Contrary to many people’s beliefs, fat has important biological functions for our health and wellness, from making up basic structures of our cells to storing energy.  Some fats are good for us, while others are not.  Saturated fats come from animal sources.  An excess of saturated fats is bad for us as they raise our LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein), clog our arteries and cause heart attacks and strokes.

Unsaturated fats, which include monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are generally considered healthier.  Omega fatty acids refer to a whole family of PUFA’s:  omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids (the numbers refer to the fatty acid’s chemical makeup).  When we cook at Petits Chefs Academy we talk to our students about omega fatty acids and touch upon the ‘science’ of cooking.   We find omega-6 in almost every product we buy, we already get too much of this fatty acid and therefore, do not need to worry to incorporate or supplement this in our diet.  Our body naturally makes omega-9 so again, no need to worry or supplement.  It’s the omega-3s that we need to ensure to supplement and or increase within our diet and is truly of benefit.

Trans fats

Trans fats, incidentally, are unsaturated fats that have been partially hydrogenated.  This is a manmade compound and is found in deep-fried foods and other products such as margarine and is as artery-clogging as saturated fats.  Would you eat something that is one chemical compound away from being considered plastic?  I didn’t think so, so, please read the ingredients list and the nutritional labels.

Where do omega fatty acids come from?

Nature provides a bounty of sources of fatty acids.  Here’s a short list:

  • Omega-3:  flaxseed, fish oils
  • Omega-6:  vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower, soybean, evening primerose, and borage and blackcurrant seed oils
  • Omega-9:  olive oil

A diet rich in omega’s

There is some controversy over the benefits and even safety of omega-6 given that the typical North American diet is saturated with it (no pun intended).  There is no magic ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, consuming more omega-3 helps balance the tipping scale and children need to get more of it in their diet, particularly children suffering from ADD or ADHD.  I know this first hand.

In general, people who consume higher amounts of omega-3s are healthier because they have fewer problems with a variety of maladies, including plaque in their arteries, heart attacks, high blood pressure, menopausal symptoms, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and some type of infections.  It also helps greatly with brain function and concentration.  But increasing your intake of omega-3 by eating more fish can potentially expose you to some of the toxins found in the fish, such as mercury, PCB’s and dioxin, but other quality ingredients can be added to your diet such as sprinkling ground flax seed into your smoothies and using a certified natural product of fish oil in your salads.

For more information on Omega Fatty Acids just ask Dr. William Sears, the #1 pediatric and family health doctor in North America

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