To stay healthy, it’s important to maintain a high-functioning immune system to guard against infections, bacteria, and viruses. Getting an adequate amount of rest each night and reducing stress levels are necessary for immune health, but what is most important is hitting all of your nutritional requirements. Recent studies have shown that essential fatty acids play a huge role in elevating the immune system. Incorporating healthy fats into your diet will keep you feeling your best all year long.

1. Role of Fatty Acids in the Immune System

Found within cells of the immune system are nutrient-sensing receptors referred to as G protein-coupled receptors, free fatty acid receptors, and metabolite-sensing receptors. In recent studies, scientists have been analyzing the effects of fatty acids and their reactions to these receptors in the immune system. These researchers found that the ingestion of fatty acids, such as omega-3s, signaled the free fatty acids receptors (FFARs) regulating not only the immune and metabolic system but the control of inflammatory responses.

Fatty acids respond not only to FFARs in the immune system but also increase the number of T-cells, white blood cells responsible for fighting off pathogens. When participants received healthy amounts of foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids derived from plant-based sources, scientists found it stimulated the proliferation of T-cells.

The functionality of T-cells is vital to our immune health because they scan for cellular abnormalities, kill cells infected by bacteria, eradicate cancer cells, activate other immunity cells, and protect our bodies against autoimmune diseases.

Because many autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis, are very prevalent in our world today, the possibility of controlling inflammation and improving immune health with a dietary intake of fatty acids is very exciting.

2. Healthy Sources of Fat

It is important to note that the consumption of saturated fatty acids is not going to affect the immune system positively. It is vital to consume healthy fats to receive positive advantages to our immune health. So what are healthy sources of unsaturated fatty acids?

Our bodies are capable of producing all the fatty acids we need, except for linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). To maintain a high-functioning immune system capable of boosting T-cells, we must incorporate omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids into our diet.

For optimal health, it is suggested to consume a lower ratio of omega-6/to omega-3s to protect your body from chronic diseases.

Plant-based foods that are rich in linoleic and alpha-linoleic acid with an optimal omega-3/omega-6 ratio are:

  1. Hemp Seeds have a fat content of 30%, with 80% consisting of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They are also rich in protein, magnesium, and potassium.
  2. Walnuts are rich in omega-6 fatty acids with a healthy percentage of omega-3s as well. Walnuts are also high in antioxidants which significantly aid the immune system.
  3. Chia Seeds contain 2,282 mg of omega-3 and 752 mg of omega-6 fatty acids in just one tablespoon!
  4. Dark Leafy Greens are low in fat but possess a favorable omega-3 ratio. The best sources of dark leafy greens in this category are spinach, arugula, and romaine.
  5. Flax Seeds have 3,600 mg of omega-3s in 2 tablespoons!
  6. Beans, especially mung beans have a very favorable ratio with omega-3s weighing in at 15x the amount of omega-6s.
  7. Cabbageespecially cauliflower delivers 208 mg of omega-3 to 62 mg of omega-6 in just one cup.
  8. Winter Squashes, especially butternut squash, acorn squash, and pumpkins, are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
  9. Acai Berries are richer in polyunsaturated fatty acids than certain types of fish. This superfood is also filled with antioxidants which do amazing things for the immune system.
  10. Seaweed like wakame contains 52 mg of omega-3 fatty acids in just 1 ounce and is an excellent source of iodine.

3. Incorporating Fatty Acids into your Diet

blender muffins

Walnut Hemp Blender Muffins/One Green Planet

Incorporating omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids into your diet does not have to be a chore and is rather easy when you have a plethora of delicious plant-based recipes to choose from.

If you are looking for recipes filled with essential fatty acids, try this Miracle Bread, Chia Pudding with Blueberries, Mung Bean Burger with Mushroom and Kale, Roasted Pumpkin Coconut Curry with Crispy Tofu, Edamame Seaweed Salad, or this Raw Walnut Taco Meat!

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