The good fats

Essential

The good fats

Most of us get scared when we hear the word ‘fat’. But did you know that our body needs some good fats to function properly? Good fats are an inseparable part of our health and we need to ensure that we consume them daily in sufficient quantities.

Our body is an efficient machine, which can manufacture most of the fats it needs directly from our diet. However, it cannot synthesise essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 on its own. We have to depend on outside sources for their adequate supply. These are considered essential because their deficiency can trigger serious physical and mental health conditions, including depression, compromised immunity and abnormal functioning of liver and kidneys.

Omega-3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and they are of three types: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While EPA and DHA are found in fish, ALA is derived from plant-based foods like nuts and seeds. Some good sources of Omega-3 include fish, fish oil, cod liver oil and krill oil. Vegetarians can source it from dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseeds, soybeans, kidney beans, black beans, walnuts and canola oil.

Omega-3 fatty acid is essentially good for the health of the brain, heart and eyes. Scientists have found that Omega-3 fats enable critical body functions like clotting of blood, maintaining the fluidity of cell membranes and improving blood circulation and oxygen absorption. DHA regulates the amount of bad fat (triglycerides) circulating in the blood, reducing the risk of heart disease. EPA and DHP are known to curb stiffness and joint pain in patients of rheumatoid arthritis.

According to experts, omega-3 fats are beneficial for the heart and can substantially reduce your chances of stroke or heart failure. The American Heart Association recommends the regular intake of Omega-3 fats to maintain a healthy heart. It states that the Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of or who have cardiovascular disease. They are proven to benefit eye health, especially
infant vision development by helping the retinal function. According to researchers, infants fed DHA-supplement formula milk showed much better visual acuity.

Essential fatty acids are especially important for growth and development of children and maximise their intellectual potential. Omega-3 is a critical ingredient of brain health and its low levels in the body are associated with poorer reading and memory. Its regular intake can reduce the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.  Studies have also shown that societies which eat a diet rich in Omega-3 report much lower incidences of depression.

(The author is a fitness expert)

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