Are Omegas Essential for Your Health?
Many people have heard of omega-3, some may have even heard about omega-6, but did you know there is also an omega-9? Omega-9 is a monounsaturated fatty acid. In addition to being healthy for your heart, monounsaturated fats may help manage blood sugar levels for individuals with type 2 diabetes.
You may ask yourself if all three (omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9) are healthy unsaturated fats, what makes omega-9 so unique? Unlike omega-3 and omega-6, our bodies can manufacture omega-9. When we consume omega-9 from food sources, it aids in removing plaque buildup in our arteries and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Omega-6 is an essential fatty acid, which means the body cannot make it. Therefore, we must obtain it from food sources such as meat, poultry, eggs and vegetable oils. However, large amounts of linolenic acid (a type of omega-6) have been shown to decrease HDL cholesterol (the good kind), promote inflammation and contribute to heart disease, cancer, asthma, depression and arthritis. On the other hand, omega-9 (oleic acid is a common example) has been shown to increase HDL levels and lower LDL (the bad kind of cholesterol) and triglyceride levels when saturated fatty acids are replaced with monounsaturated fatty acids.
Fortunately, you don't have to spend an extravagant amount of money looking for foods or supplements to get your daily intake of omega-9. For those of you who like to read the nutritional labels, you might not see omega-9 listed; however, it is found in olive oil, macadamia oil, rapeseed oil, canola oil, peanut oil and sunflower oil. Foods such as almonds and avocados contain omega-9's as well.
According to the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines, total calories per day from fat should not exceed 35 percent. To maximize the health benefits from fat, replace your saturated fats (e.g., butter, lard, chicken fat and palm oil) with monounsaturated fats like almond oil, olive oil and tahini oil.
Written by: Nadine Brooks, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern.