Vitamin F are the essential fatty acids – better known as the “omega” family, featuring the 3’s, 6’s, and 9’s. These are polyunsaturated fats and whenever we hear the word “essential” in nutrition it means that we must eat these nutrients, as our body does not manufacture them. We need all the essential fatty acids. The issue (like much of nutrition) is balance. For example, Omega 6’s are considered “pro-inflammatory” while Omega 3’s are “anti-inflammatory.” Our body needs inflammation to survive. It is part of its normal processes. However, too much inflammation is not good. While our body was designed to consume the Omega 3’s and 6’s in relatively equal amounts (you’ll see anywhere from 1:1 to 2:1 Omega 6’s to 3’s in the nutrition literature), the simple fact is that most Americans are in the 20:1 to 50:1 ratio. Why? Omega 6’s are found heavily in grains which we eat and feed to our animals. Omega 3’s are found in cold water wild fish, something not too prevalent in many diets.
An interesting side note here is about beef. Did you know a cow is supposed to eat grass? When a cow eats grass it manufactures Omega 3’s in its fat. When that cow eats what we are feeding it – wheat and corn and other grains – it makes Omega 6’s. Perhaps it is the Omega 6’s in the meat causing inflammation leading to heart disease? Just a wild thought!
The essential fatty acids are the precursors to prostaglandins – a form of hormones that support many functions including normal growth and the inflammatory response. They also assist in blood coagulation and circulatory functions.
Good sources of the essential fatty acids include: black current seed oil, evening primrose oil, flaxseed, lecithin, linseed oil, seafood (halibut, salmon, scallops, shrimp, snapper, and tuna), sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, wheat germ, and winter squash.
One more note here about flax seeds. Beware of the marketing hype! If the flax seed is whole your body can not break it down. We can only work with flax seed in the form of meal or oil. If you buy flax seeds grind them up in a coffee grinder and store them in the refrigerator. As a polyunsaturated fat they go rancid very quickly, so only grind up a small amount. The ground flax you get in the store likely has preservatives added to keep it “fresh”, but the oils are likely already rancid.
Vitamin F is more commonly known as a group of three EFAs, or essential fatty acids. Flaxseed is by far the most concentrated vegetable source of omega-3. Flaxseed provides alpha-linolenic acid, which our bodies convert into omega-3 fatty acids.