Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are some of the most highly recommended nutrients and you can get them through food and supplements. But what is the recommended daily amount? Like all nutrients, there are many factors to consider in determining how many EFAs you should be aiming for.
What Are EFAs?
Essential fatty acids are a type of fat that cannot be synthesized, or made by the body. This means they have to be ingested through the food we eat. These EFAs are linolenic and linoleic acid, which helps form omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which you're probably more familiar with.
Benefits of EFAs
Fats are an important component of every diet and one many people are too quick to dismiss, with good intentions. Cut them all out to try and lose weight or improve health in other ways and you can actually have the opposite result.
EFAs are needed by the body for several reasons, including:
Recommended Daily Intake of EFAs
- Tissue Health -- This includes the skin and hair as well as the muscles and other vital organs. These fats help keep the skin supple and moisturized and all the tissues more resilient.
- Cardiovascular Wellness -- To echo the first benefit, the heart is a muscle and EFAs help keep it healthy and functioning properly. They may also help lower your risk for heart disease, heart attack, atherosclerosis and other issues. Lastly, they may help you manage your cholesterol.
- Cognitive Function -- EFAs, particularly omega-3, also support the health of the brain. Ongoing research shows the positive effects of omega-3 on the brain, helping keep the memory sharp and possibly reducing your risk for dementia.
- Joint Mobility -- EFAs can have anti-inflammatory benefits, improving joint flexibility by reducing swelling, stiffness and pain.
EFAs can be found in plant sources like flax seeds, avocados, chia seeds and nuts like walnuts. You can also obtain omega-3s from animal sources like oily fish including salmon and mackerel as well as krill. There are also supplements available. But how much should you take?
The important thing to know is that we tend to consume more omega-6 EFAs than omega-3s in our daily diets. These two fats compete with each other in the body, so it's important to pay attention to your intake so you're getting the full benefits.
First, let's look at omega-3. There are three main types -- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Mayo Clinic
, a healthy adult should consume between 300 and 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day and 800 to 1,100 mg of ALA per day.
Now for omega-6, the American Heart Association
recommends making five to 10 percent of the calories you consume on a daily basis from omega-6 fatty acids. The ideal number of calories for you is based on factors like your height, weight, gender and age.
Your doctor can help you determine an exact dosage to suit your needs and any deficiencies, if you have them.
You can find a variety of EFA supplements at eVitamins from both plant and animal sources to suit your dietary preferences. Check back for more of the latest health news and information. Stay well!