You’ve probably heard a lot about the harmful effects of cholesterol and partially hydrogenated fats. In fact, it’s a good idea to read labels when you go food shopping to avoid partially hydrogenated or fractionated fats. These fats are found in many processed foods including cookies, sweets and processed carbohydrates. These fats contribute to arterial inflammation and plaque that can lead to heart disease and strokes.
It is important to try and avoid foods that have been deep fried in fat such as French fries and fast food. When fats are heated to high temperatures there is more health risk. It is also good to avoid too much saturated fat. Minimize your use of whole milk, ice cream and foods with whole butter and cream in the ingredients. Choose low fat frozen yogurts and ice cream when possible. In general, you want to minimize your total intake of saturated fat to less than 15% of your total calories.
Your Body Needs Healthy Fat
Your body uses certain fats for many functions including: making hormones, regulatory proteins, and phospholipids that line your cells and aid in cell to cell communication and general health. Some fats are called essential fatty acids (EFA). Your body cannot make them and thus must consume them. Getting enough EFA enables your cells and entire body to function normally.
Omega-6 fatty acids are found in plant and animal foods such as grains, meat and eggs. We usually eat too much from this group. Your body can also benefit from monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, olives, macadamia nuts and avocado. Omega-3 fats can be useful in decreasing inflammation and in decreasing your risk of heart and blood vessel diseases in your body. Omega-3 fats are found in cold water fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, cod liver oil and anchovies), grass-fed range animals, certain eggs, flax oil, hemp products and walnuts.
Practical Oil Tips
To get a variety of beneficial fat in your diet use more monounsaturated and omega-3 fats.
• Use extra virgin olive oil for cooking and on salads;
• Use flax oil or add a tablespoon of flax oil for salads and as a garnish on vegetables, or add to a smoothie;
• For a flax dressing or garnish for vegetables use four parts flax, two parts olive oil. Consider adding some walnut or toasted sesame oil and spices for flavor;
• Use avocado for dips and salads;
• For snacks try dry roasted or raw nuts including macadamia and walnuts (consider adding pumpkin seeds to this mix);
• Eat sources high in omega-3 fats regularly or take supplements of fish oil. The best food sources are in cold water ocean source fish such as salmon and sardines. Farm raised salmon may have less benefits and may have more pollutants. Pregnant and lactating women should avoid fish because of the mercury content.
Supplementing with Omega 3 fats
You can supplement directly with DHA and EPA. For certain situations it is best to supplement with fish oils because our bodies may not be able to convert enough of the flax or other oils to the EPA and DHA. This is because the enzymes in your cells that do this are relatively inefficient. Supplementing directly with the EPA/DHA capsules or liquid bypasses the enzyme.
DHA is very important for pregnant and nursing mothers, babies, children (especially with ADHD) and teenagers. Adults can benefit from it as well. It is found in certain formulas, certain eggs and in supplements. For nursing or pregnant women I recommend 200-400mg per day of DHA, for babies 100mg and for children and teenagers 200mg per day.
EPA is best known for its role in decreasing heart disease risk, for improving mood and for decreasing inflammation associated with arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. You can take cod liver oil or fish oil supplements with EPA if you want to prevent heart disease or strokes. For prevention, take one gram of fish oil per day. For treatment take two grams per day. For arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease take 2-4 grams of fish oil per day. For mood enhancement and decreasing depression take one gram of fish oil per day.
When taking a supplement you will need to verify that it is high quality and low in heavy metals. The label should indicate that it has been tested or purified for PCBs, mercury and pesticides. The dose is dependent on whether you are treating a problem or simply trying to stay healthy. Try TrueOMEGA, for an excellent fish oil supplement.