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You’re eating wild salmon and walnuts because of the health benefits from omega 3’s. But are you eating enough omega 9 foods in your diet?
If you’re into natural health, you probably know that adequate omega 3 is critical for healthy brain function and preventing inflammation and other metabolic disorders.. Most people take a high-quality fish oil or algae oil supplements. Some prefer eating the fat found in cold water oily fish such as salmon.
You’re also aware that omega 6 fatty acids offer health benefits, including skin and hair growth, maintaining bone health, and regulating metabolism. But you also know there’s a catch to omega 6’s: these polyunsaturated fatty acids can promote inflammation if you eat too many of them, especially from vegetable oils and seed oils.
You also learned what the exact healthy ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids is here. But how much do you know about other fatty acids. Did you even know there are other fatty acids besides omega 3’s and 6’s?
There’s also omega 5’s, omega 7’s and omega 9’s. Both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are considered essential. That means you must get them from the diet or supplementation in order to stay healthy.
Omega 9’s are a different story. Your body produces omega 9 fatty acids on its own. Therefore, it’s considered a non-essential fatty acid.
Benefits of Omega 9 Fatty Acids
If your body makes omega 9, does that mean you shouldn’t be concerned about eating omega 9 foods or taking supplements? The benefits of omega 9’s are definitely worth knowing about if you’re interested in natural health and nutrition.
One example of an omega 9-rich food is olive oil. Olive oil, of course, is considered a staple of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. One of the cardiovascular-protective components of olive oil is oleic acid. Oleic acid is one of the six omega 9 fatty acids.
The benefits of omega 9 fatty acids, especially oleic acid, has been proven to:
- Reduce blood pressure
- Increases gene expression involved in fat burning
- Prevents ulcerative colitis
- Reduce inflammation
- Help improve type 2 diabetes
- Prevent cellular damage from oxidation, compared to omega-6 fatty acids
- Prevents depression and memory loss/cognitive impairment
- Create myelin, which protects nerves in the brain
- Regulate cholesterol
Oleic acid may just be one of the most important fatty acids. It’s one of the primary fats in human breast milk. Most of the health benefits of olive oil may be attributed to this omega 9 fatty acid.
Although omega 9 fatty acids are considered non-essential, for some people, they are a matter of life and death. A rare genetic disease called ALD, which typically affects young boys, is caused by the inability to metabolize omega 9 fatty acids. As depicted in the film, Lorenzo’s Oil, a father of a young boy with ALD was instrumental in finding a cure for the disease, which is a mixture of oleic acid and another omega 9 fatty acid called erucic acid.
Omega 9 Foods
Because omega 9 fatty acids are naturally produced in the body (found in fat cells), you may not need to worry about getting them in your diet. Nonetheless, it’s worth mentioning omega 9 foods just in case your intuition tells you that although omega 9’s are non-essential, it can’t hurt consuming healthy sources of it in your diet.
You already know olive oil is rich in oleic acid. So, too, is macadamia oil and other healthy oils such as avocado and almond. Foods rich in erucic acid are rapeseed (aka Canola oil), and mustard seed. But take caution with Canola oil. If you want to cook with it, make sure you lightly sautee at most (don’t cook with it at a high temperature) and make sure the Canola oil is non-GMO and cold-pressed.
In general, nut and seed oils are the best omega 9 foods. But to make sure the beneficial compounds don’t spoil, avoid cooking with them, especially seed and vegetable oils, since they are prone to spoilage when heated. Whole raw nuts and seeds (not the oil), which also contain omega 9 fatty acids, can also spoil easily. That’s why it’s smart to store them in the freezer.
Omega 9 side effects
As mentioned above, mustard oil is one of the omega 9 foods, specifically erucic acid. Mustard oil is a natural solution for skin, hair, teeth and general health. It can be used in therapeutically to stimulate appetite, fight bacteria, and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatic arthritis, and more.
Despite its use for centuries, though, there’s been some controversy when using mustard oil, at least internally. This is because of concern of erucic acid toxicity. In fact, mustard oil is banned for edible consumption in the U.S. (also in Europe and Canada). The FDA requires all mustard oil to be labelled “For External Use Only”.
Erucic acid toxicity may cause the following omega 9 side effects: elevated cardiovascular triglyceride levels accompanied by lesions; an increase in lung cancer risk as well as anaemia.
But as The Times of India reports, some researchers believe consuming mustard oil (i.e. eating it or cooking with it) is in fact very beneficial for heart health. The article suggests that the researchers contend refined oils are the true problem. Despite the Indian researcher’s support for mustard oil, it remains banned in the west.
Is Omega 9 good or bad?
Considering all the health benefits associated with unspoiled monounsaturated fats, omega 9 fatty acids, when consumed, may contribute to overall wellness.
This study suggests oleic acid has the potential to kill tumors. Omega 9 fatty acids have shown to be promising in the treatment of Alzheimer’s. The cardio-protective properties of omega 9’s may help prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke. Because they are stored in our fat cells, they can be very efficient in providing and increasing energy.
Kids with hyperactivity disorders have even shown improvement, especially in mood, as a result of fatty acid supplementation, including omega 9’s. And in this study, oleic acid was compared with MCT fat in improving cholesterol levels. The researchers concluded that oleic acid was far superior in positively affecting lipid profiles. (MCT has become a household phrase because of “Bulletproof Coffee.”)
Omega 9 supplements
Should you take an omega 9 supplement if you aren’t consuming enough omega 9 foods? Since your body can make these fats when it needs them, you’re probably better off saving your money. And if you’re eating good-quality virgin or extra virgin olive oil, you definitely don’t need to take an omega 9 supplement.
A more important supplement to take if you’re not eating enough wild salmon is omega 3 fatty acids. Some omega 3 supplements also contain omega 9’s.
There are two ways at looking at fatty acid supplements that contain both omega 3’s and 9’s (and 6’s). Chances are high you already get enough 6’s in your diet, since most Americans consume 15 to 20 times more 6’s than 3’s. So it’s unnecessary to consume an omega 3 supplement that also has 6’s.
Since your body makes omega 9’s, you don’t need it. But then again, if your diet is unbalanced, maybe at the very least, taking a supplement with omega 9 fatty acids couldn’t hurt.