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Q: What are omega-9 fatty acids?

A: You have probably heard of omega-3 fatty acids and possibly even omega-6 fatty acids, but have you heard of omega-9 fatty acids? Their lack of mention in current day nutrition news does not reflect their importance in our bodies but rather the ease that our bodies have in obtaining them.

Unlike omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that need to be obtained through diet, omega-9 fatty acids are considered non-essential fatty acids because our body can synthesize them from other foods. Additionally there is no need for oral supplementation.

Unlike omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are polyunsaturated, omega-9 fatty acids are monounsaturated fatty acids, meaning they have just one double bond. The most common omega-9 fatty acid is called oleic acid and it can be found in vegetable, seed and nut oils like olive oil, canola oil, avocado oil, peanut oil and sunflower oil.

Monounsaturated fatty acids have been shown to lower risk of heart attack and stroke by lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol. There is also evidence that monounsaturated fatty acids can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.

Q: I've heard that keeping a food diary can be helpful. What are some ways to put this into practice?

A: Dietitians and other practitioners regularly encourage patients to utilize a very simple, yet often very effective, tool in their path towards their individual health goals: keeping a food diary (or journal). Food diaries can be used in weight management, tracking blood sugars, or in working to identify potential food allergens and this process can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be. If you're just starting out, here are some of EN's favorite tracking tips:

--Make a plan (and stick to it). Try to write out your meals and snacks before eating them to see how each eating occasion will fit into your daily goals.

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--Note the small details. What time did you eat? Where was the meal or snack consumed? Can you identify any specific moods or feelings before, during or afterwards? This type of tracking can help draw attention to potential patterns and triggers of behavior.

--Be consistent. Keep your food diary for at least a week and try not to skip the tracking of any meals or snacks.

(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384.

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