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Fats

Fats are a necessary component of ones diet, in fact, the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K need dietary fat in order to be optimally used by the body.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids, meaning they are essential to human health but cannot be manufactured by the body and must be obtained from food. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development and Omega-6’s are generally necessary for stimulating skin and hair growth, maintaining bone health, regulating metabolism, and maintaining reproductive capability.

Deficiencies in EFAs can lead to reduced growth, a scaly rash called dermatitis, infertility, and lack of ability to fight infection and heal wounds.

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, other marine life such as algae and krill, certain plants (including purslane), and nut oils. Fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon are excellent sources of Omega-3’s, however because of concerns over mercury levels, it is advised that pregnant women, nursing mothers, young children, and women who might become pregnant not eat several types of fish, including swordfish, shark, and king mackerel. These individuals should also limit consumption of other fish, including albacore tuna, salmon, and herring. They can take omega-3 fatty acids in quality dietary supplements that are certified mercury-free.

Omega-6 fatty acids are also considered essential fatty acids (EFAs), however Lack of omega-6 fatty acids is extremely rare in diets of those living in certain Western countries, particularly the United States and Israel. In fact, North American and Israeli diets tend to have too much omega-6, particularly in relation to omega-3 fatty acids. This imbalance contributes to long-term diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, arthritis, and depression. A healthy diet should consist of roughly 2 – 4 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. The typical American diet tends to contain 14 – 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, and many researchers believe this imbalance is a significant factor in the rising rate of inflammatory disorders in the United States.

In contrast, a Mediterranean diet is made up of a healthier and more appropriate balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The Mediterranean diet includes a generous amount of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, and garlic; plus, there is little meat, which is high in omega-6 fatty acids.

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