The Instagram logo

Oiling the works

Omegas and healthy oils you should be having every day to combat inflammation

The natural products industry is driven by the need to improve what we offer," says Gerald Colfer from health store Only Natural in Wexford. "Purer, more effective, more absorbable, cleaner, these are what our ever-more discriminating and informed customers judge us on. Other buzzwords are lyposomal, methylated and food-sourced nutrients, products without unnecessary fillers and guarantees of purity and effectiveness. We want to be known for selling products with real potential for improving our customers' health, especially in the area of essential oils which can lead to improvements in joint, skin and heart health, mood balance and cognitive function."

What are omegas?

"Omega oils are polyunsaturated fats, also known as essential fatty acids (EFAs) and 'good fats'," says Frederika Le Cain from Loop de Loop, in Castletownbere, Co Cork. "These are essential nutrients that the body uses for a host of functions. Countries where populations consume high quantities of omega oils in their diet, such as Japan, Greece and Italy, have been found to have a low incidence of heart disease and stroke occurrence when compared to countries with a lower omega intake."

Which are the best?

"Omega-3 is the most important fat to consume as the human body cannot make it, so we rely on a dietary intake," says Frederika Le Cain. "Omega-6 is hugely beneficial, particularly for women. Its main forms are GLA found in evening primrose and borage. GLA helps with PMS symptoms and breast tenderness.

"Omega-7 is useful for maintaining moisture in the body and for cellular health. It is very beneficial for those suffering with dry eyes .Consuming foods high in omega-9 can be beneficial for those with inflammation due to arthritic conditions or those with insulin resistance."

"Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are polyunsaturates, but they differ slightly in structure and function," says Gerald Colfer. "Omega-3 oils are thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. For example, an omega-3 supplement containing a higher concentration of EPA is generally recommended for anyone suffering from inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and joint pain. Omega-6 fats are more common in the average diet and are thought to be more 'pro inflammatory' if we consume an excess of them.

"Both omega-3 and omega-6 are considered essential, however the western diet contains high levels of omega-6 and very little omega-3," says Olive Curran, a Galway based nutritional therapist who works with PPC.

What are the best food sources?

"To get your omegas through food, eat oily fish a few times a week, and use a high quality cold pressed olive oil in dressings," says Gerald Colfer. "Avoid cooking with processed vegetable and seed oils. The best omega-3 food sources include salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, prawns, trout, flax and chia seeds and walnuts. Try this in combination with a quality fish oil.

"The best source of omega-3 is oily fish (sardines, salmon, anchovies, fresh tuna and mackerel)," says Olive Curran. "Oily fish provides the most beneficial and active fatty acids, commonly referred to as EPA and DHA."

"Fish carries an abundant source of EPA and DHA," says Frederika Le Cain. "Concentrate on oily fish such as mackerel, anchovies, trout, sprats and sardines. ALA is found in nuts and seeds, especially flaxseeds and leafy vegetables. Chlorella is high in omega-3 and also provides a range of vitamins and iron. Chia seeds are high in omega-3 and are a good source of calcium."

"Omega-6 fats are found in corn, grape seed and sesame oils, sunflower seeds and in fried foods in general," says Gerald Colfer.

"Omega-6 can be found in cashew nuts, soy beans, almonds, sunflower seeds and other nuts," says Frederika Le Cain. "Omega-7 is found in salmon, macadamia nuts, olive oil, sea buckthorn and avocadoes. Omega-9 sources include hemp seeds, nuts, vegetables and seed oils such as avocado, olive and peanut."

What are the health benefits?

"Omegas 3, 6, 7 and 9 are shown to improve heart health, increase circulation and blood flow," says Frederika Le Cain. "They reduce inflammation in the body, help preserve eyesight and slow macular degeneration, support infant brain development and increase memory and cognitive function in teenagers, adults and older citizens."

"Boost your omega-3 intake to combat inflammation," says Gerald Colfer. "Omega-3s can improve eye health, brain function, blood pressure, triglyceride levels, improve hormonal problems and help with joint pain and various autoimmune conditions."

"Omega-3s play an important role in thinning the blood and reducing inflammation throughout the body – in the blood vessels, the joints and elsewhere," says Olive Curran. "They are essential for good brain and eye health. People who don't get enough omega-3s in their diet can become demotivated, disinterested, forgetful and may experience low mood.

"There is more scientific evidence behind the cardiovascular benefits of fish oil than any other nutritional supplement. Thousands of clinical studies have shown that increased intake of EPA and DHA enhance overall cardiovascular function. Omega-3s help to reduce blood pressure, reduce triglycerides and improve blood circulation."

Who should take omega oils?

"Omegas are vitally important for the older individual and developing children alike, but should be in everybody's diet," says Frederika Le Cain. "Supplementing omegas is hugely beneficial, but check in with your local health store to discuss which form is the most beneficial to you, and mention if you are taking prescribed medication.

"Pregnant women should supplement their diet with a high quality omega-3 to support their own health through pregnancy and the developing baby. "Anyone with a family history of degenerating eyesight should supplement with a high potency omega complex. Those suffering from skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis report a marked improvement in their skin following omega supplementation."

Articles from our latest issue...