Essential Fatty Acids: Needful yet Underrated Nutrition

Know Essential Fatty Acids’ needs, functions, excess or deficiency effects, and EFA-rich food sources containing omega-3 and omega-6 which possess many health benefits!
Essential Fatty Acids: Needful yet underrated fat nutrition rich foods illustration by sneha: EFA rich food sources like flaxseed, chiaseed, hempseed, sunflower seed, starflower seed
Essential fatty acid-rich food sources: Flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, starflower seeds
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Essential Fatty Acids Need: Excess or Deficiency Effects

All about Essential Fatty Acids


Are you also one of them who are on a weight-loss mission and find fat an enemy? Fat is a nutrient that is associated with more minuses than pluses, but does it mean we should ignore it in our diet completely? A big 'No'. We indeed can’t because there is a type of fat which is essential for our body and can’t be manufactured by the body itself. It is known as Essential Fatty Acid or EFA. As its name suggests, we can’t ignore essential fatty acids' needs because we can’t afford their deficiency. Plus, as they belong to the fat nutrient family, we can’t take them in excess too.

A balanced, healthy diet should ideally give you proper nutrition with a maintained weight. Here the balance between getting all the nutrients and desired weight is vital. But the question is how to manage both simultaneously?

The way is easier and simpler. All foods do not contain the same type of fats. Some contain good fat and some bad fat. You just need a little awareness of which fats are good and which are bad. Below you will know about the essential fatty acids which need your attention if you have been avoiding fat nutrient while eating food for attaining your weight loss goals.

Which Fatty Acids are Essential? What Does Essential Fatty Acids Mean?

Essential Fatty Acids, Abbreviated as EFAs, are those polyunsaturated fatty acids that can’t be synthesized by our body, and so rely on external food sources for this type of fat nutrition. EFA is essential for our normal body dynamics and is found in two groups: linolenic acid and alpha-linolenic acid or omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

So, prime dietary PUFAs (Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids) are omega-3 fats and omega-6 fats.

Types of Essential Fatty Acid

Essential Fatty acids can be further divided into:

  1. Arachidonic acid
  2. Linolenic acid.

Which Vegetable Oils or Foods Contain Essential Fatty Acids?

Introduce flax products and leafy vegetables to your diet.

Include omega-6 high oils, such as corn oil and sunflower oil as they do not interrupt the making of DHA and EPA.

Monounsaturated fat high foods or oils such as canola oil and olive oil are not very useful to the body.

Best Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acid Sources

Below are some amazing food sources of omega EFA.

  1. Flaxseed
  2. Chia seed
  3. Hempseed

Best Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acid Sources

Below are some good options for supplying omega-6 to the body.

  1. Sunflower seeds
  2. Starflower seeds

Other Sources of Essential Fatty Acids

  1. Fish
  2. Flaxseed oil
  3. Shellfish
  4. Olive oil
  5. Canola oil
  6. Soya oil
  7. Pumpkin seeds
  8. Walnuts also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, yet are comparatively poor EFA sources.

Essential Fatty Acids Need: What Does EFA Do in Body?

Fats are beneficial too. In fact, we can’t neglect them because of their health benefits and support in several adverse health conditions. Below are the major essential fatty acid benefits and uses in various functions. Know them to clear doubts about essential fatty acids need to our healthy body.

Manage Inflammation

Omega-3 and Omega-6, that is, Essential fatty acids intimately manage the inflammation in parts of the body. They work as the basic units for making prostaglandins agents that are responsible for increasing or decreasing the inflammation of the body. Inflammation protects us from trauma and infections, and essential fatty acids help in increasing defense capabilities.

Vital Nutrient for Infants

Essential fatty acids are vital fat nutrients for the proper growth and development of newly born babies. They support visual functions, help in neurological and cognitive growth and development.

Prevent Heart Diseases

Some essential fatty acids-rich oils or supplements help to maintain the blood fat when it elevates. Decreasing the rate of high blood fat minimizes the risk of heart-related diseases.

Uptake Oxygen

EFA helps in the uptake of oxygen and thus improves circulation.

Uplift Mood, Minimizing Depression and Anxiety

The antidepressant effects of essential fatty acid-rich food sources control depression and anxiety-related symptoms.

Making of Cells

Essential fatty acids significantly contribute to the making process of cell-walls and play a key role in the existence or demise of cardiac cells.

Help in Arthritis

Essential fatty acids relieve Rheumatoid Arthritis related problems like stiffness and joint pain.

Support in Health Conditions Like Asthma, ADHD, and Alzheimer's

As EFA plays a key role in lowering inflammation that is one of the prime factors in asthma, EFA is beneficial for Asthmatic people.

Especially in children, it is observed that those who intake fish oil, which is an amazing source of omega-3 essential fatty acid, such kids are less prone to the risk of ADHD.

EFAs are also suggested to help slow memory loss in old age. They help in the case of Alzheimer's.

Studies suggest that essential fatty acids help in Asthma, ADHS, and Alzheimer's, yet more research is needed to be done in this field.

Health Benefits of Essential Fatty Acids

If we intake an adequate amount of essential fatty acids, it results in several health benefits, such as atherosclerosis prevention, decreased probability of stroke or other heart-related diseases, relief in ulcerative colitis related symptoms, joint pain, and menstrual pain.

Essential fatty acids are also associated with decreased risk of breast cancer.

Whether you want to promote your heart health, relieve pain, or want to ensure the cognitive and body growth and development of a child, essential fatty acids help you in these all.

What Happens to Body in Deficiency of Essential Fatty Acids?

If our body does not get the necessary amount of fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6, this deficiency leads to many symptoms, abnormalities, and disorders, such as the improper functioning of kidneys and liver, dryness in skin, reduction in growth rate, depression, and low immune function.

What Happens When We Eat Essential Fatty Acids in Excess?

Too much amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids shows adverse effects on health by contributing to chronic inflammation, which causes health issues in the long-term. Inflammation plays a major role in chronic diseases; it indeed acts as their source.

What is the Right Amount of Essential Fatty Acids Intake for Daily Diet?

More than your intake of essential fatty acids, how much you consume is important. The right amount or proper ratio of these fatty acids in your diet is vital.

Why You Need to Watch How Much Fatty Acids You Intake?

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids need to be taken in proper ratio because they compete in our bodies for getting used. When we intake omega-6 fatty acids excessively, it can prevent omega-3s from doing its job or it also might slow down the processes related to omega-3. So for preventing omega-6 from inhibiting omega-3, we need to maintain the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Are You Taking a Western Diet?

The inclusion of processed foods and processed oils have become common in the Western diet, which causes the imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

If your food plate is also incorporating the processed oils and foods, intake a low-fat diet with minimizing the use of processed food items. It depends on naturally occurring fatty acids.

Use these fatty acids in the lower ratio of omega-6 and omega-3. This will reduce the danger of chronic diseases.


Over the century, in the U.S., the consumption amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids has reached from around 13 grams every day to about 40 grams every day.

The trend of processed things in western foods has increased the amount of omega-6 in the diet.

Most of the American diets supply omega-6: omega-3 in 10:1 to 25:1 ratio. Such a huge imbalance in the ratio of both fatty acids disallows you to make the most of omega-3s, keeping you deprived of reaping its benefits.

How Much Omega 6 and Omega 3 is Enough for Daily Diet? What is the Right Amount and Ratio?

The ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 should be approximately between 4:1 ratios to 1:1 ratio for adults.

For fulfilling the body needs, men are suggested to intake about 1.6 grams of omega-3 per day and women are recommended to intake about 1.1 grams omega-3 per day.

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