Yes, believe it or not, our bodies need fat. Most of the fats we need are produced inside our bodies by our bodies. But there are two important fats that we cannot produce for ourselves and we need to take in directly from our food.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
These two fatty acids are important to the health of the tissues in our bodies. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s factsheet on essential fatty acids, without the right amount of these fatty acids, we may suffer from various symptoms like depression, poor immune function, dry or scaly skin, or abnormalities in the kidney or liver.
Getting enough omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids helps to reduce joint pain and menstrual pain, and prevent atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke.
Are you getting what you need?
Most people have no problem getting enough omega-6 because processed foods and oils have high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.
On the other hand, we need to be more careful about our intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetarians need to be sure to include some omega-3 in their diet every day. People are often advised to take supplements or fish oil in order to ensure their intake is sufficient. However, there are plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
What plant-based foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids?
- Ground flax seeds (flax meal)
- Mungo beans (urid)
Yes, everybody, you can find flax seeds, walnuts, and soybeans here in Egypt. We’re sure you all are familiar with walnuts and we will discuss soybeans another time. As for mungo beans, we are still searching. However, we’d like to spend a little time on flax seeds.
The fun in flax
You can flax seeds at a spice vendor. They look like this.
As with any whole food, you’ll probably need to pick through the seeds and remove any dirt or stones. The omega-3 fatty acids in the flax seeds are best absorbed by our bodies when the seeds are either ground or in oil form. (We have not yet found the oil in Egypt.) You can easily grind these in a coffee/spice grinder.
Once the seeds are ground, it is important to keep them refrigerated or frozen to preserve the nutrients. Just keep a jar in the fridge and every day you can add it to your foods.
About a teaspoon a day is enough to give us what we need.
Ideas for adding ground flax seeds to your diet.
- Add to your salad.
- Add to your soup.
- Add to a smoothie.
- Add to your breakfast cereal or oatmeal.
- Mix 1 tablespoon with 1/4 cup of water to make a ‘flax egg’ to substitute for chickens’ eggs in your baking.
- When you make vegetable stews like zucchini, peas and carrots, okra, etc., you can add a teaspoon.
So, yes, some fats are essential in our diet! And it is absolutely possible to get what you need from plant-based sources!
Stay tuned for our upcoming recipe for banana peanut butter smoothies (with flax seeds) for breakfast!!!