EFA - Essential Fatty Acids

Our body has to have oil to survive. EFAs are good oils. Oil and cholesterol are necessary for our brain to function and our body to work. 

In fact, research indicates that including these oils in our diet will actually assist in lowering cholesterol. In other words, eating foods high in these oils or taking Omega-3 supplements will actually lead you to have better health and a better life. 

What else can good oils help you do? Essential Fatty Acids can actually assist you in losing weight, relieve constipation (remember castor oil), relieve eczema and PMS. They are critical to growth and development in addition to the prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease, hypertension, type II diabetes, arthritis and other immune and inflammatory disorders. They are found in seeds, nuts, grains and legumes.

Why are they called essential? They are essential because without them our bodies do not function properly.

Foods that have EFAs

  • Avocado
  • Almonds
  • Black current oil
  • Borage oil
  • Canola
  • Cashews
  • Dark green leaves
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Filberts (hazelnuts)
  • Flax seed
  • Flax Oil
  • Flax Meal
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Olives
  • Peanuts and peanut oil
  • Pecans
  • Pumpkin oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Salmon 
  • Sardines
  • Sesame seeds
  • Sesame oil
  • Soybeans
  • Sunflower seeds/oil
  • Tuna
  • Walnuts

Personal Note: I give both my children 1-2 tablespoons of flax oil daily - a great EFA supplement. It helps with keeping their bowels moving and their bodies working right. My daughter, loves to chew on the flax seeds. The oil is pretty potent tasting and the kids don't care for it. But Brianna loves the seeds. In fact, I have to stop her from getting too many, her stools will get too lose will all that fiber.I will give her about two teaspoons a day--she weighs about 40 pounds. I give my son, just under two tablespoons a day of this EFA - essential fatty acid and he weighs about 55 pounds. I even eat the seeds when I want something to eat and can't figure out what. I take a heaping tablespoonful and chew well. It seems to take the hunger away with all the chewing.

I previously took Evening Primrose Oil. This really helped relieve my PMS symptoms. I would take two 500 mg gel caps twice a day. Efamol is my preferred brand.

Updated Guidelines for Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently published new recommendations for healthy people on dietary consumption of omega-3 EFA. 

The report, published in the AHA's journal Circulation, reviews the heart health benefits of these fatty acids, which include thinning the blood to prevent formation of clots that could block coronary arteries and protecting against irregular heartbeats that can cause sudden cardiac arrest.

Since 2000, the AHA has recommended that healthy individuals consume at least two servings per week of fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines and others rich in two omega-3 fatty acids - eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (EPA and DHA). Plant sources such as tofu, walnuts and flaxseed contain a third, but less potent, form of omega-3s called alpha-linolenic acid. The AHA also suggested that people who have elevated triglycerides may need as much as two to four grams of EPA and DHA per day provided as a supplement as most people are unable to consume this much through their diets, and noted that even the one gram per day dose recommended for patients with existing cardiovascular disease may be more than can readily be achieved through diet alone.

Fish Oils and Depression

Supplementing your diet with fish or fish oil which naturally contains omega-3 fatty acid, one of the needed essential fatty acids may help with the symptoms of depression, even for those who haven't responded well to traditional antidepressant medications.

In the issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry (October 2002?) A group of researchers from the Swallownest Court Hospital in Sheffield, England found that if 1 gram of omega-3 were added to the daily diet for 12 weeks, patients were found to experience a decline in their symptoms including anxiety, sadness and sleeping problems.

These patients had tried other traditional forms of depression medication before becoming part of this study. Research previous to this also had found the people who suffer from depression had low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their brain. Also fish oil and omega-3 supplements are a natural way to  alleviate the symptoms of other psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and manic depression.


Research by Adelaide scientists suggests that fish oil could be as effective at treating hyperactive children as conventional medicines.

A University of South Australia study gave more than 130 children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder a combination of fish oil and evening primrose oil for up to seven months. At the end of the trial almost half the children showed a reduction in their symptoms. 

The head scientist, Natalie Sinn, says the results suggest that an inadequate diet could cause ADHD. "[It] could be deficient diet, could be an inherited metabolic problem that is making them deficient in the omega-3 fatty acids and hence creating a greater requirement for supplementation," she said.

Ms Sinn says supplements should be considered in the treatment of ADHD patients. "I think parents who want to look into this should make their doctor aware perhaps of this research so that they can make an informed decision about it," she said. "There's a paper about to be published in an international journal that they can access to find out more about it." http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200606/s1668130.htm

Articles and Information

The Health Benefits of Nuts
Benefit of Flax Seed and Flax Oil
Healthy Foods and Nutrition
Attention Deficit Disorder

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