Fats and Oils
Fats are an essential part of our health and wellbeing. However, the wrong type of fat and too much fat in our diet can lead to many problems including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer. It is important to understand which types of fats are beneficial, how much of the good fats to have in one serving and all those fats to avoid.
Each group of fats behaves differently inside the body. Dietary fat can be classified into four groups:
Cholesterol is manufactured in the body. It also comes from animal products. Cholesterol is an essential component of our overall health. It is found in many parts of the body and has many functions e.g. it is used in the production of hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. Cholesterol becomes a problem when there is an excess of it in the body. Chronically elevated blood cholesterol leads to heart disease and high blood pressure.
Fish oils as well as flax seeds, grains, spirulina, brazil nuts, hempseed oil, mustard seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, wheat germ, green leafy vegetables, raw walnuts offer high concentrations of polyunsaturated fats called omega-3-fatty acids. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid) are the two primary examples of omega 3 fatty acids and are plentiful in fish. Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be synthesized by the body. It is therefore very important to ensure that adequate sources either from diet or supplementation are consumed. While all fish contain these fats, coldwater fish e.g. salmon, sea bass, tuna, trout, mackerel, are particularly rich sources of EPA and DHA because of their diet – plankton - which is packed with omega-3’s.
EPA and DHA are important ingredients in our overall wellbeing:
This is anessential fatty acids it cannot be produced by our bodies. A healthy diet contains a balance of omega 6 and 3 which is 2:1. Omega six tends to promote inflammation and omega 3 tends to reduce inflammation so it is important not to consume an excess of omega 6. These can be found in olive oil, sesame oil, pumpkin seeds. Also, fast foods, canola oil. It is important to note though, that fast foods as well as canola oil are highly processed foods and are not recommended in order to achieve optimal health.
This is a non-essential fatty acid as it is produced by the body found in avocadoes, almonds, pecans, cashew nuts
Best oils to use:
1. Very, very low temperature cooking or baking – Extra virgin olive oil. This is also great sprinkled over salad for a high antioxidant meal. A combination of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lemon juice makes for a delicious and healthy salad dressing.
2. High temperature cooking - butter or coconut oil (or use a little water). Use coconut oil for Asian style foods e.g. stir fries, which require high temperatures as it is highly heat resistant and does not go rancid. Besides being delicious and adding a great flavor to the food, coconut oil has many benefits including assisting with weight loss and rebalancing intestinal flora or gut bacteria.
3. Sunflower oil and safflower oils – these oils are polyunsaturated, however are not stable when subjected to heat and many of the healthy nutrients are lost at high temperatures. These oils are best used cold as a salad dressing. However, they are high in omega 6 and so, when used in excess can be inflammatory.
In modern day living, the trend is for us to eat too high a proportion of omega 6 polyunsaturates (found in many vegetable oils such as canola oil, sunflower oil and safflower oil as well as processed foods) and not enough omega 3 polyunsaturates (found in oily fish, some nuts, seeds and a select few vegetable oils such as flaxseed oil). The healthy ratio for omega 6:omega 3 is about 6:1 respectively. At the moment, the estimated ratio is 10-20:1.
You need to be aware of your fat intake and which fats are healthier with health benefits rather than health risks.
1. Healing with Whole Foods 3rd Edition (Book). Paul Pitchford
Disclaimer: The material provided is for information purposes only and should not be used as medical advice. Do not use the information as a substitute for medical care.
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