Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, carry a slightly negative charge and spread out as a thin, even layer over surfaces. This makes cell membranes soft, fluid and flexible, allowing nutrients to flow in and wastes out. EFAs produce detectable bioelectrical currents, which make possible the vast number of chemical reactions in the body like nerve, muscle and membrane function. This living current is also a measurable difference between alive and dead tissue, and fact of interest in many fields of study, I would think.
EFAs absorb sunlight and attract oxygen; a plentiful supply of oxygen, carried by blood to our cells is fundamental for vitality, pain relief and healing - EFAs are able to hold onto this oxygen at the cells’ boundaries, making a barrier against viruses and bacteria. Beneficial bacteria are great in our digestive systems, which aren’t really considered to be inside our bodies, because they’re not sterile - we don’t want any bacteria crossing into our blood or cells, and because EFAs help prevent that they are vital for our immune systems. Because fats are the second most abundant substance in the body (water is first), high-quality EFAs are also important in countless and varied metabolic reactions in the body like fat burning, food absorption, mental health and growth , making them especially important for children. They can substantially shorten the time required for recovery of fatigued muscles after exercise or physical work. Eczema is a severe allergic inflammation, and through their partnership with oxygen, EFAs scavenge allergens from the blood, decreasing inflammation and bringing suppleness and a youthful appearance to the skin. Modern medicine is discovering more and more than many modern health problems are the result of inflammation, so an anti-inflammatory diet with plenty of EFAs is essential for health, especially as we age.
The absorption of sunlight is a curse, however, when the EFA is outside of the living seed. LNA (Alpha Linolenic Acid, an omega-3 EFA), for example, is about five times more reactive to light than LA (Linoleic Acid, an omega-6 EFA). Light increases LNA's ability to react with oxygen by a thousand times. The unsaturated fatty acids with more cis- bonds, like omega-3s, are extremely sensitive to light and will spoil rapidly when exposed to it. So the special nature of the EFAs that make them essential to life - the absorption of oxygen and transformation of solar energy - causes them to decompose when left exposed to air and light, like when seeds are ground and packaged as in the case of flours.
When EFAs and their highly unsaturated long-chain fatty acid cousins are open to the elements, free radical reactions start to take place. Just one photon of light can start a destructive game of telephone, breaking bonds down the line until it peters out around the 30,000 mark. The incomplete molecules join together forming new and toxic compounds. Nature to the rescue: protection from these free-radical toxins is supplied by the fat-soluble vitamins such as A and E, which trap these light-caused chain reactions before they get out of control (and become denatured themselves). These powerful anti-oxidants are always found in concert with EFAs in whole seeds, the perfect container for what might be the body’s most vital nutrients.
At best, the refining, bottling, cooking, shipping and storing of EFAs renders them unusable or non-existent, and they can quite easily become carcinogenic. By far the best way to include these vital nutrients in our diets is to sprout the troika of seeds high in EFAs: hemp, flax, and chia, which will offer them the 3-part protection of the seed’s shell, free-radical scavengers, and living tissues. It’s also (surprise, surprise) the cheapest way: 3 tablespoons of sprouted flaxseed contain 6 grams of omega-3s, the recommended daily allowance, for about 6 cents, in contrast to the 2 dollar shot of bottled EFAs from companies like Udo’s Choice and Barleans. Chia provides even more, and of course, both are whole seeds and therefore supply countless other benefits.
All three kinds of EFAs (omegas 3, 6, and 9) are necessary, but special care must be taken to get enough 3. Omegas 6 is quite plentiful, available pretty much wherever fats are sold, and we need very little of omega 9, so unless you’re eating one bite of celery a day so you can be a prima ballerina, chances are you’re fine. But as important as EFAs are to health, the really important thing is the ratio of EFAs to each other. The optimal proportion of the 3 and 6 EFAs is 1 omega-3 to 4 omega-6s, 1:4, but the standard modern diet is more often a ratio of 1 to 20 or more. This imbalance causes the body to make fat-soluble hormones called prostaglandins to deal with the excess 6’s, wasting valuable globular proteins and essentially creating toxins out of unusable fats. Adult acne is usually created, or at least exacerbated, by this imbalance. This I know from experience, breaking out like crazy when I (as I slowly discovered) ate foods with an over-abundance of omega-6's, avocados and cashews especially. This is why I try to steer raw food chefs away from these ingredients, which seem to be in just about every dish on raw food menus - more like a crutch than an opportunity to feel amazing and alive. Cashews are in fact not raw, but more importantly have little nutritional benefit and a few major drawbacks, such as the toxins and allergens they contain. One of these, urushiol, is the same irritant found in poison ivy, a relative of cashews.
Whenever you eat anything with an excess of omega-6 EFAs (also called oleic or linoleic acids), like cashews, peanuts, olives and oil, almonds, zucchini, or avocados, make sure to add some sprouted flax, chia, or hemp seed (or oil) to the meal to balance out the fats in a healthier ratio.