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Vegan rice and garbanzo beans meals. Ella Olsson / Pexels

By Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)

One common concern about vegan diets is whether they provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs.

Many claim that a whole-food, plant-based diet easily meets all the daily nutrient requirements.

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Laura Schneider / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Freydis Hjalmarsdottir, MS

Omega-3 fatty acids have various benefits for your body and brain.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Char and sockeye salmon moving upstream. Salmon are high in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. Jonny Armstrong / USGS

By Bret Stetka

Glaciers continue to melt. Sea levels are on the rise. And now scientists believe the changing climate may put our brains at risk. A new analysis predicts that by 2100, increasing water temperatures brought on by a warming planet could result in 96 percent of the world's population not having access to an omega-3 fatty acid crucial to brain health and function.

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Marco Verch / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Freydis Hjalmarsdottir, MS

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that have numerous health benefits.

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Thu Thai Thanh / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Commonly consumed vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce, peppers, carrots, and cabbage, provide abundant nutrients and flavors. It's no wonder that they're among the most popular varieties worldwide.

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Marco Verch / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Rachael Link

Tahini is a common ingredient in popular foods around the globe, including hummus, halva and baba ghanoush.

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By Brianna Elliott, RD

Hunger is your body's natural cue that it needs more food.

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twomeows / Moment / Getty Images

By Atli Arnarson, PhD

Your eyesight is probably the most important of your five senses.

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Mila Araujo / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Makayla Meixner

Butter is a popular dairy product typically made from cow's milk.

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By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be good or bad depending on the situation.

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Ripple Foods

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Non-dairy milk is increasingly popular.

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By Ansley Hill, RD, LD

Floral centerpieces on the dinner table are a classic and timeless tradition, but flowers can sometimes show up on your dinner plate, too.

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Their sensitivity to changing environmental conditions make salmon susceptible to climate change, but it's also why scientists use salmon as an indicator species to gauge the health of the ecosystem. Illustration by Delphine Lee

By Shannan Lenke Stoll

Last year, for the first time, scientists surveying Pacific Northwest salmon came up with empty nets. They weren't all empty, but some were—and that's "really different than anything we have ever seen," David Huff of the NOAA survey team told The Seattle Times. It's a bit too early to identify a particular cause of these unusual salmon surveys, but it's not too early to be concerned.

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Pexels

When it comes to coffee and tea creamers, you may have to try a few before you find the perfect one for you. Some are creamier, some are sweeter, but there's something that all the best ones have in common: They don't harm cows by using their milk. Even if creamers tout a "dairy-free" label, you may find milk derivatives such as casein in the ingredients. Thankfully, there are so many delicious vegan creamers to choose from, and they're widely available in most grocery stores.

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By Jill Richardson

Is coconut oil:

  1. good for you
  2. bad for you
  3. neither good nor bad
  4. scientists don't know

The subject of this question is the source of a disagreement. Initially, the question was thought to be settled decades ago, when scientist Ancel Keys declared all saturated fats unhealthy. Coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, is a saturated fat.

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Did you know that 50 percent of media headlines about medical studies are dead wrong? And that many of these headlines don't accurately match the conclusions of the studies they cover? That's from a review published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

It makes me sad and furious at the same time that journalists don't do their homework and create firestorms of confusion because of their negligent work.

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By Kerri-Ann Jennings

Move over spirulina, there's a new algae in town—chlorella. This nutrient-dense algae has been receiving a lot of buzz for its health benefits.

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By Dr. Ruairi Robertson

Omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids are all important dietary fats.

Interestingly, each one has a number of health benefits for your body.

However, it's important to get the right balance of omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids in your diet. An imbalance may contribute to a number of chronic diseases.

Here is a guide to omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids, including what they are, why you need them and where you can get them.

What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, a type of fat your body can't make.

Their name comes from their chemical structure, as "poly" means many and "unsaturated" refers to double bonds. Together they mean that omega-3 fatty acids have many double bonds.

"Omega-3" refers to the position of the final double bond in the chemical structure, which is three carbon atoms from the "omega" or tail end of the molecular chain.

Since the human body can't produce omega-3s, these fats are referred to as "essential fats," meaning that you have to get them from your diet.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating at least two portions of oily fish per week, which is rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA (1).

There are many types of omega-3 fats, which differ based on their chemical shape and size. Here are the three most common:

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): This 20-carbon fatty acid's main function is to produce chemicals called eicosanoids, which help reduce inflammation. EPA also helps reduce symptoms of depression (2, 3).
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): A 22-carbon fatty acid, DHA makes up about 8 percent of brain weight and is extremely important for normal brain development and function (4).
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): This 18-carbon fatty acid can be converted into EPA and DHA, although the process is not very efficient. ALA is mainly used by the body for energy (5).

Omega-3 fats are a crucial part of human cell membranes. They also have a number of other important functions, including:

  • Improving heart health: Omega-3 fatty acids can increase "good" HDL cholesterol. They can also reduce triglycerides, blood pressure and the formation of arterial plaques (6, 7, 8, 9, 10).
  • Supporting mental health: Taking omega-3s can reduce symptoms of depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It can also reduce the risk of psychotic disorders for those who are at risk (11, 12, 13, 14, 15).
  • Reducing weight and waist size: Omega-3 fats play an important role in weight management and can help reduce waist circumference (16, 17).
  • Decreasing liver fat: Consuming omega-3s in your diet can help decrease the amount of fat in your liver (18, 19, 20).
  • Supporting infant brain development: Omega-3s are extremely important for brain development in babies (4, 21).
  • Fighting inflammation: Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory, meaning they can reduce the inflammation in your body that can contribute to a number of chronic diseases (22, 23, 24).
  • Preventing dementia: People who eat more fish, which is high in omega-3 fats, tend to have a slower decline in brain function in old age. Omega-3s may also help improve memory in older people (25, 26).
  • Promoting bone health: People with higher omega-3 intake and blood levels tend to have better bone mineral density (27, 28).
  • Preventing asthma: Omega-3 intake can help reduce symptoms of asthma, especially in early life (29, 30, 31).

Unfortunately, the Western diet does not contain enough omega-3s. A deficiency may contribute to chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease (32).

Summary: Omega-3 fats are essential fats that you must get from your diet. They have important benefits for your heart, brain and metabolism.

What Are Omega-6 Fatty Acids?

Like omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The only difference is that the last double bond is six carbons from the omega end of the fatty acid molecule.

Omega-6 fatty acids are also essential, so you need to obtain them from your diet.

These fats are primarily used for energy. The most common omega-6 fat is linoleic acid, which can be converted into longer omega-6 fats such as arachidonic acid (ARA) (33).

Like EPA, ARA is used to produce eicosanoids. However, the eicosanoids produced by ARA are more pro-inflammatory (34, 35).

Pro-inflammatory eicosanoids are important chemicals in the immune system. However, when too many of them are produced, they can increase inflammation and inflammatory disease (36).

Although omega-6 fats are essential, the modern Western diet contains far more omega-6 fatty acids than necessary (37).

The recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is 4:1 or less. However, the Western diet has a ratio between 10:1 and 50:1.

Therefore, although omega-6 fats are essential in the right quantities, most people in the developed world should aim to reduce their omega-6 intake (37).

Nevertheless, some omega-6 fatty acids have shown benefits in treating symptoms of chronic disease.

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid found in certain oils, such as evening primrose oil and borage oil. When consumed, much of it is converted to another fatty acid called dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA).

One study showed that taking a high dose of GLA supplements significantly reduced a number of symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (38).

Another interesting study found that taking GLA supplements in addition to a breast cancer drug was more effective at treating breast cancer than the drug alone (39).

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is another form of omega-6 fat that has some health benefits. For example, one large study found that taking 3.2 grams of CLA supplements per day effectively reduced body fat mass in humans (40).

Summary: Omega-6 fats are essential fats that are an important source of energy for the body. However, the Western diet contains too many.