The health benefits of nutritional oils
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are considered "essential" because the human body cannot survive without them. Our bodies are unable to produce these essential fatty acids, so they must be obtained from dietary sources.
If omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids are lacking in your diet, nutritional oils can help restore a healthful balance.
Types of nutritional oils
Nutritional oils have beneficial properties that are best when unrefined, raw and unheated. After opening, keep them refrigerated and use within three to four months. Many are available in liquid or capsule form.
Fish Oils are an important source of omega-3 essential fatty acids and often are called the "thinker's oil" because they're rich in DHA, a fatty acid important for brain and eye health. Fish oils also contain EPA, another omega-3 that helps reduce inflammation and blood pressure, and improve blood flow. Choose a brand that's labeled to show the oils have been tested and do not contain mercury, heavy metals or other contaminants.
Flax oil is one of the richest vegetarian sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 essential fatty acid. Our bodies can convert ALA into EPA and DHA to some degree.
Supplementing your diet with flax oil may improve the balance of blood fats and help reduce inflammation. A healthy balance also may strengthen energy and immunity, encourage hormonal balance, and support smoother skin.
Flax oil is available at PCC with added ground flax seed or flax lignans (the fiber in flaxseeds), which exhibit antioxidant properties.
Chia seed oil and hemp seed oil also provide ALA and can be used as a dietary source of omega-3s.
Oils for GLA
Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid, but functions more like an omega-3 — reducing inflammation, easing arthritis, and supporting healthy skin and hormone function (e.g. PMS and menopause).
Borage, evening primrose, black currant and hemp oils are excellent sources of gamma linolenic acid (GLA). Each has a slightly different amount of GLA, so dosage can vary.
PCC offers a selection of nutritional oil blends, formulated for people who prefer one product with a combination of essential fatty acids. An example would be a blend containing flax, evening primrose and borage oils.
The right balance
There's debate about how much omega-3 fatty acids people should consume daily. Most nutritionists instead focus on a healthy balance between omega-3s and omega-6s, recommending a ratio between 1:2 and 1:5. (The typical American diet is estimated at 1:20.) Supplementing with fish and/or flax oil can help improve your ratio.
Historically, wild game provided people a greater variety of fats and oils. Today's corn-fed livestock are considerably lower in omega-3 fats, so people aren't getting the same nutrients from meat that they once did. A shift from fresh foods to more processed foods, made with refined oils high in omega-6, further interferes with a healthy balance of fats.
Salmon, sardines, tuna, grass-fed meats, fish oil, flax oil and walnuts all are good sources of omega-3. Good-quality omega-6 oils are found in seeds and unrefined oils.
Balanced consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 oils can benefit the cardiovascular system, skin, joints, hormonal balance and emotional health.
Please consult your health practitioner for a personal assessment to determine which nutritional oils are best for you.