When the hype hits you, you'll know it. It starts with a news headline, usually reading something like, "New Study Proves Old Study False!" Which, in a nutshell, is the nature of virtually all studies you'll hear about on the news from now until the end of time (or the reign of medical licensing). Some things they report on are blatant lies, made true by inadequately performed "studies" where they test the biological responses of rats or the elderly and then pretend it has some sort of bearing on the general public.
But every now and then, the truth peeks it's head out and insists on being seen, even by the controlled media. The importance of essential fatty acids in the diet is one of those things, but unfortunately, it too has suffered much of the hype that tend to make the public wary of natural and effective nutritional supplements. Manufacturers make elaborate claims and the media make sensational headlines that made people wonder just how effective and necessary these things could be if they've lived this long without them.
After careful study, I am of the opinion that daily consumption of essential fatty acids is not only a good idea, it is a good prevention. EFAs, commonly known as omega fats, LA and ALA, and other terms that denote what I'll refer to as omega 3 and omega 6, are two fatty acids that are called essential because your body cannot make them within itself.
I know that there's been a lot of talk about needing omega 3, even though there are a couple of these (omega 3, 6, and 9) and the first two are essential. Even in the Standard American Diet, which we'll refer to as the SAD diet (haha), omega 6 and 9 are really easy to get. In fact, you probably get too much, just like you get far too much protein, fat, and other things in the SAD diet. We'll stick to the omegas right now and assure you that there is not nearly as much need to supplement 6 and 9 as there is 3. Omega 3 is also easy to obtain, but not in the SAD diet. And that's the crucial factor behind everyone freaking the hell out over omega 3. You actually need more omega 3, much more than 6 or 9, and getting too little can offset your body and allow for inflammation to occur. Supplementing omega 3 in much higher amounts than 6 and 9, at least in a ration of 4 to 1 or higher, is not only ideal, it's essential to achieving optimal health. Isn't that our goal?
A few of the nice things omega 3 can help you with:
Maintain triglycerides and HDL cholesterol
Cell membrane structure
Fertility and menstrual problems
It is essential. You can try to run your body without it, but eventually crap is going to start to fall apart, and it won't be pretty. You might as well give in to nature and give it what it wants.
Fortunately, omega 3 is really simple to get into your system. You can eat foods that are rich in omegas, or you can take supplements, or you can do both and be super cool (and broke). Don't go for cheap when taking supplements, and I suggest staying away from fish. We'll steer clear of the facts about the effects of animal fat and animal protein on your body and look at the dangers of consuming fish and fish supplements.
Dude, fish is dyed. Pink salmon = pink food coloring. You want organic, wild salmon? You'll be paying for it, and paying dearly. Safety concerns about fish and fish oils include bacterial and viral contamination, parasites, and the most hyped of them all, toxins. Wild organic pacific salmon contains the lowest levels of toxins, but it still contains toxins. Any other fish or fish oil contains more. What toxins? I'm referring to mercury, methyl mercury, PCBs, dioxins, and other environmental pollutants. And in order to get a good amount of omega 3 from fish alone, you'll either have to supplement fish oil every single day and receive a nice daily dose of toxins, or you'll have to eat fish a few times a week. And unless eating raw fish that often is an option for you, consider other, safer and non heated sources of omega 3. Fats can't take much heat, and the higher the temperature the oil is exposed to, the less chance you have of it being at all useful to your body.
There are plenty of organic, non toxic, unheated and fresh sources of omega 3 that you can take every day without worry about consuming enough chemicals to develop an annoying superpower. For everyone reading this that offends the public while wearing spandex, I give you the baddest list ever of omega rich foods that are good for you. Period.
If you use an oil, such as hemp oil, use it cold and buy it cold pressed. Algae supplements are a snap to find in any health food store or online vitamin shop. Chia seeds are amazing, and don't need to be ground. Hemp is a nutritional powerhouse, combining an amazing omega 3-6-9 balance and loads of amino acids. Later on, I'll take you through some other "superfoods" one by one and slay the hype monster once and for all. For now, go sprinkle some fresh ground flaxseeds into your cereal, pour some hemp oil into your smoothie and have an omega day. Oh, wait, that would be like, your last day ever.
(Some more awesome info like this can be found in "The New Optimum Nutrition Bible" by Patrick Holford, and "Fish Oil, Omega 3, and Essential Fatty Acids" by Barbara Wexler, MPH. Reading is nice for your head. It kills the dumb.)