Omega-3 (Linolenic Acid)
Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA) is the principal Omega-3 fatty acid, which a healthy human will convert into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and later into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and the GLA synthesized from linoleic (Omega-6) acid are later converted into hormone-like compounds known as eicosanoids, which aid in many bodily functions including vital organ function and intracellular activity.
Omega-3s are used in the formation of cell walls, making them supple and flexible, and improving circulation and oxygen uptake with proper red blood cell flexibility and function.
Omega-3 deficiencies are linked to decreased memory and mental abilities, tingling sensation of the nerves, poor vision, increased tendency to form blood clots, diminished immune function, increased triglycerides and "bad" cholesterol (LDL) levels, impaired membrane function, hypertension, irregular heart beat, learning disorders, menopausal discomfort, and growth retardation in infants, children, and pregnant women.
Found in foods:
Flaxseed oil (flaxseed oil has the highest linolenic content of any food), flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, hempseed oil, hempseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds, avocados, some dark leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, purslane, mustard greens, collards, etc.), canola oil (cold-pressed and unrefined), soybean oil, wheat germ oil, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, albacore tuna, and others.
One tablespoon per day of flaxseed oil should provide the recommended daily adult portion of linolenic acid, although "time-released" effects of consuming nuts and other linolenic-rich foods is being studied, and considered more beneficial than a once-daily oil intake.
Flaxseed oil used for dietary supplementation should be kept in the refrigerator or freezer, and purchased from a supplier who refrigerates the liquid as well.
Canola oil is often used as a cheaper alternative to the healthier virgin olive and grapeseed oils. Although Canola has at least some linolenic content, supermarket varieties of canola oil are often refined and processed with chemicals and heat, which destroy much of its linolenic acid.
Cold-pressed, unrefined Canola oil is a healthier type of Canola (sometimes pricier than virgin olive oil), and found primarily in health food stores and specialty markets. The word "canola" is derived from "Canadian oil", as Canola was developed in Canada from the rape plant. Rape is a plant in the mustard family, and its rapeseed oil has at times been illegally blended with olive oil, particularly in Europe, to cheapen olive oil production costs. Although rapeseed oil is high in linolenic acid, it can make humans seriously ill if enough is consumed, and olive oil cheapened with rapeseed oil has a history of severely sickening its consumers. (Every feel itchy after eating commercial brands of peanut butter? Check the label -- it probably contains rapeseed oil.) Canola was developed to eliminate chemicals toxic to humans in rapeseed oil, thus creating an inexpensive oil with linolenic acid. Unlike olive and flaxseed oil, both known to the ancients and used as mankind evolved, Canola is a recent oil, and its long-term effects on humans are not yet known.
Unripe flaxseeds contain a natural form of cyanide, and home gardeners should be cautious if trying to grow flax. The seeds must be ripe before harvesting. If attempting to grow flax at home, consult an experienced grower.
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