Overview of Fats
By Ken Bendor
With the low carbohydrate craze, many people have turned their attention to fats. They eat more of it & think its fine. Depending on what kind of fat you're consuming & how much of it you take
in, fats can be beneficial or detrimental to your health.
There are 3 main types
- trans fats
Saturated fats come mainly from animal sources such as meat & dairy. At room
temperature, saturated fats are solid.
Unsaturated fats come mainly from plant sources such as olives & nuts & contain
no cholesterol. They're liquid (oil) at room temperature.
Unsaturated fats are broken down further in monounsaturated
(one double bond) & polyunsaturated
(more than one double bond).
be asking yourself what a fat is saturated or unsaturated with. A fat molecule (without getting into too much chemistry) is
made up of carbon atoms that have hydrogen atoms attached to them.
fats, all carbon atoms have a single bond to another carbon atom & are also bonded
to hydrogen atoms. In unsaturated fats, not all carbons are saturated with hydrogens so
double bonds form between carbons. Depending on what carbon the double bond is formed determines the fat's
Trans fat is man made
fat. It's made by taking an unsaturated fat & putting hydrogen thru it
in a process called hydrogenation.
Trans fat is very bad for your health. Whole saturated
fat increases LDL (bad) cholesterol & very slightly increases HDL (good) cholesterol,
trans fats increases LDL cholesterol & decreases HDL cholesterol.
Fat Doesn't Make You Fat
English can be a complicated
thing. If it isn't your first language you know this all too well & if you have a friend from another country, you've
probably heard them complain. If you look up fat in the dictionary you'll find out it can
be used as an adjective (he is fat) or a noun
(that food contains a lot of fat).
these two meanings get confused & lead people to believe that eating the noun will make you the adjective.
We need fat to survive. Without it, our bodies can't function correctly. Eating it doesn't necessarily
make you fat. What can make you fat is if you eat too much of it. This is true for fat, carbohydrates & even protein. A way to stay healthy & get the delicious flavor that fat adds
to food is to differentiate between the good fats & the bad ones.
There are 3 main
types of fat:
is found mostly in animal products (meat, poultry & dairy) while unsaturated fat comes mainly from plant sources (nuts & oils). Trans fat is a man made fat that can be found in a wide variety of foods (margarine,
baked goods & snacks). While you can eat a food that is primarily made up of one kind of fat, usually foods contain a mixture of saturated & unsaturated fats.
(healthy) fats are the ones that come from plant sources. Most oils, nuts, avocados & other plants are rich in these. Fish are also high in unsaturated fats.
Saturated (bad) fats come from animal products such as
dairy (milk, cheese, creams) & meat (beef, pork).
(worst kind of fat) fat
comes in anything that contains hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Sources include margarine, baked goods & junk food. These aren't the only sources so be sure to read the ingredients.
All sources of
fat contain the same amount of calories (9 calories per gram) so even eating excessive
healthy fats can cause weight gain. Choosing the healthy ones won't make you skinnier but will make you healthier.
You commonly hear about two kinds of fats:
Vegetable oils are the best examples of unsaturated fats, while lard & shortening
(along w/the animal fat you see in raw meat) are saturated fats. However,
contain a mixture.
e.g., above you see the label
from a bottle of olive oil. It contains both saturated & unsaturated fats, but the saturated fats are dissolved in the
To separate them, you can
put olive oil in the refrigerator.
The saturated fats will solidify &
the unsaturated fats will remain liquid. You can see that the olive oil bottler
even chose to further distinguish the unsaturated fats between polyunsaturated & monounsaturated.
Unsaturated fats are currently thought to be more healthy than saturated fats & monounsaturated fats (as found in olive oil & peanut oil) are thought to be healthier than polyunsaturated
Fats that you eat enter the digestive system & meet with an enzyme
Lipase breaks the fat into its parts:
These components are then reassembled into triglycerides
for transport in the bloodstream. Muscle cells & fat
(adipose) cells absorb the triglycerides either to store them or to burn them as fuel.
You need to eat fat for several reasons:
- Certain vitamins are fat soluble.
The only way to get these vitamins is to eat fat.
- In the same way that there are essential amino acids, there
are essential fatty acids (e.g., linoleic acid is used to build cell membranes). You must
obtain these fatty acids from food you eat because your body has no way to make them.
- Fat turns out to be
a good source of energy. Fat contains twice as many calories per gram as do carbohydrates or proteins. Your body can burn fat as fuel when necessary.
You'll be wondering why there are underlined link words on this page that aren't nutrition based words! Why are they here?
Belief systems leading to false thinking - lack of appreciation for the resources in our food systems that are good for us, taste good and are good for our body & mind - all of these reasons come together when one is trying to transition into a better state of well being!
Good Fats, Bad Fats
Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. There's more & more evidence that many fats are good for us &
actually reduce the risk of heart attack & stroke.
They also help our sugar
& insulin metabolism & therefore contribute to our goals of long-term weight loss & weight maintenance.
Because good fats make foods taste better, they help us enjoy the journey to a healthier lifestyle. But not all fats are created equal, there are good fats & bad
"Good" fats include monounsaturated fats, found in:
- olive & canola oils
- peanuts & other nuts
- peanut butter
Monounsaturated fats lower
total & "bad" LDL cholesterol, which accumulates in & clogs artery walls, while
maintaining levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, which carries cholesterol from artery walls
& delivers it to the liver for disposal.
Omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats
- coldwater fish
- canola oil
- macadamia nuts
also count as good fat. Recent
studies have shown that populations that eat more omega-3's, such as Eskimos (whose diets are heavy on fish), have fewer serious health problems such as heart disease & diabetes.
There's evidence that omega-3 oils help prevent or treat:
You'll eat both monounsaturated fats & omega-3's in abundance in all 3 phases of the diet.
"Bad" fats include saturated fats, the heart-clogging kind found in:
- fatty red meats
- full-fat dairy products
"Very bad" fats are the man made trans fats. Trans
fats, which are created when hydrogen gas reacts with oil, are found in many packaged foods, including:
Trans fats are worse
than saturated fats; they're bad for our blood vessels, nervous systems & waistline.
Olive Oil: A Weight Loss Blessing
Connie Peraglie Guttersen, R.D., Ph.D.
In Sonoma County each year, there’s a special festival called
the Blessing of the Olives. That’s how central olive trees & the foods they yield are to the economy & the eating
habits of the region.
Olive oil, the most treasured gift of these blessed trees, is just
as central to The Sonoma Diet. There’s probably no food choice you’ll make that does more for your health &
weight loss efforts than olive oil.
Which is good news
for your taste buds, because no other vegetable oil comes close to olive
oil’s rich & pleasing flavor. It’s at the heart of Mediterranean cuisine’s appeal. A dish prepared
with olive oil almost seems to announce to anyone who smells or tastes it, “I’m
The research is clear as can be that a major reason for southern Europeans’
low rate of heart disease is their liberal use of olive oil as their main source of dietary
fat. By adopting olive oil in the same way, you’ll get the same benefits. And because you’ll learn to enjoy
olive oil in healthy amounts in place of the harmful fats you may be used to, you'll lose
To appreciate olive oil as a power food, banish from your mind the notion that it’s the
“least bad” fat. It's a heart-healthy food that is good for you. You need dietary
fat to lose weight, but you need the right kind. Olive oil is one of the best. Choose extra-virgin
olive oil & you’ll also enhance the flavors of your food.
the kind of fat that olive oil is mostly made of (monounsaturated fat) actually lowers your levels of the bad LDL cholesterol as
well as blood fats called triglycerides.
The fats you’ll be avoiding (saturated fat) raise those levels. That right there qualifies olive oil as a power food par excellence.
A Wealth of Antioxidants
But there’s more. Unique among vegetable
oils, olive oil - particularly extra-virgin olive oil - is rich in the same family
of antioxidant phytonutrients that make all the other power foods on the Top Ten list so effective in preventing heart disease.
The majority of the types of fat
you should eat come mostly from plant oils. The healthiest are led by monounsaturated fats,
such as extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, canola oil & avocados.
Other healthy oils are found in the polyunsaturated
category, such as:
The kind of fat you must limit eating is
the saturated fat found mostly in animal foods such as meats & dairy products, as well
as those found in palm & coconut oils. This doesn't mean you can’t eat meat or
You can. But it does mean that you must seek the lean or nonfat versions
of meat or dairy foods.
You can recognize saturated fat because it’s solid at room temperature or lower - the white
rimming a steak, the marble in prime rib, the chicken fat that skims a soup in the fridge, a stick of butter.
Its primary sin is raising the levels of bad LDL
cholesterol in your arteries, inviting heart disease. In fact, saturated fat ups your blood cholesterol more than dietary cholesterol itself.
Hydrogenated oils should be avoided because they have far worse effects on your health &
heart than saturated fats.
© 2006 Dr. Connie Guttersen, R.D., Ph.D. from the book The Sonoma Diet by Dr. Connie Guttersen, R.D., Ph.D. Published by Meredith
Books; December 2005;$24.95US/$34.95CAN; 0-69622-831-9
Olive Oil, Your Health, Your Kitchen
Extra virgin olive oil has become such a symbol of healthy eating that it is hard to believe that it was once accused
of increasing the harmful cholesterol. It was a fat, so it had to be bad for us. Fortunately, we left those times behind and
now olive oil and most fats are much better understood.
The main reason olive oil is healthy is because it is rich
in healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. About 75% of that monounsaturated fat is oleic acid, which is very stable even at
high temperatures. Moreover, our body processes oleic acid easier than other fatty acids.
Secondly, organic extra virgin
olive oil also contains high levels of antioxidants like phenols, and vitamins E and A, which fight free radicals and thus
prevent premature aging. Those antioxidants help neutralize the oxidation process, which is common to alls fats, and preserve
the properties of olive oil too.
So, the fact that olive oil is capable of resisting oxidation at higher temperatures
much better than seed oils makes it the safest vegetable oil for frying.
Many in the non-Mediterranean industrialized
countries feel uneasy when a Mediterranean recipe calls for frying in olive oil. Frying is an old cooking technique that is
very popular in the Mediterranean cuisines. It is as much an integral part of the healthy traditional Mediterranean diet as
consuming raw olive oil with bread and salads.
Some olive oil tips for the kitchen
When heated up, olive
oil expands in volume and food absorbs it less than other cooking oils. Therefore, you need a smaller quantity of olive oil.
it didn't burn in your frying pan, you can reuse olive oil up to three times. Some say even five times, but I personally never
use it more than twice.
Olive oil transmits flavors between foods, so never fry meat in olive oil you used to fry fish
and vice versa. My grandmother always kept a jar for fish and one for meat next to the olive oil bottle. It is the best way
not to get flavors mixed up.
Finally, olive oil looks thicker than other vegetable oils, but this is only appearance
as, contrary to popular belief, it has no more calories than sunflower oil, for instance.
Olive oil for your health
In the 13th century Arnau de Vilanova, doctor of the Catalan royal family, already realized that a moderate intake
of olive oil enhanced the vital functions of the body. In the 20th century, the late American doctor, Ancel Keys MD, documented
that the olive oil based Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
We see that contemporary research
has confirmed what the Mediterranean peoples knew and practiced intuitively all along.
Heart disease is the Achilles'
heel of modern societies living at a frantic pace. Since Dr. Keys and his followers realized that we in the Mediterranean
have a better cardiovascular health, the first medical studies on olive oil focused mainly on that area.
that olive oil balances the cholesterol levels, can reduce the risk of a heart attack, can play a role in the prevention of
arteriosclerosis, and fights high blood pressure.
Later, research was extended to other areas like digestion, cancer,
and diabetes. The results have been very positive and olive oil usually comes through with flying colors.
study concluded that with only two tablespoons of virgin olive oil every day you can begin to experience the health benefits
that the Mediterranean peoples have enjoyed for so long. Incorporating it naturally into your eating practices is simple.
to integrate olive oil in your eating practices
The easiest way is to get into the habit of drizzling olive oil over
slices of bread or toasts, consuming it as a dressing for sandwiches instead of butter, and adding it to salads with some
Wherever you go in the Mediterranean, Morocco, Provence, Tunisia, Italy, Greece, Catalonia, Andalusia, or Majorca,
you'll find people eating their own combination of bread and raw olive oil.
As a Catalan I eat pa amb tomaquet,
literally bread with tomato, almost every day: as part of my breakfast, as a snack, or, I admit, when I am too lazy to cook
dinner. It is the Catalan bruschetta, so to say, and you can prepare it in no time with slices of bread or toasts, both are
Here is the most basic recipe for pa amb tomaquet. Cut a very ripe tomato crosswise, rub the bread with
one half on both sides, drizzle olive oil liberally over the bread and sprinkle some salt.
You can eat it plain or
add any topping and accompaniment you like: prosciutto-style or cooked ham, cheese, tuna fish, an omelet, anchovies, figs,
olives. Even with a chocolate bar at tea or coffee time, it may sound weird, but it is delicious.
Other recipes with
raw olive oil are authentic allioli, salads with olive oil dressing, cold sauces like romesco, and sopa de farigola or thyme
soup. As the Catalan saying goes: Sopa sense oli no val un dimoni, literally, Soup without oil isn't worth a devil, meaning
that a soup with no oil is junk.
Here is the recipe. In a soup pot, bring 2-quart (2 l) water to a boil together with
2 peeled garlic cloves and 2 sprigs thyme. Simmer for 10 minutes and drain. Place 1 or 2 slices of country-style bread on
the bottom of each soup bowl, drizzle them liberally with extra virgin olive oil and ladle the soup over it. In the spring
and summer this soup is also great with mint instead of thyme.
Recent studies have shown that the health benefits of
the Mediterranean diet are not derived from olive oil alone, but from the Mediterranean diet as a whole. So, eat well
© 2007 Núria Roig, http://www.mediterranean-food-recipes.com
Truth About Low Fat Diets Benefits
A national study recently revealed telling facts regarding low-fat diets and their benefits relating to cancer and
heart disease. A study concluded by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) and Stanford University noted that a low-fat
diet, alone, is not enough to greatly reduce the risk of heart disease and/or cancer in adult women. Researchers have found
that a reduction in saturated and trans fats may provide more positive results.
The study showed that women who participate
in a low-fat diet experienced a 9% reduction in the development of breast cancer. In addition, no significant changes were
noted in the occurrence of heart disease. An impressive 49,000 females, ranging in age from 50 to 79, participated in what
is known as the America’s largest long-term study of a low-fat diet to ever be noted. The research was conducted over
a period of eight years, in which the experts planned to test the theory that low-fat diets were helpful in reducing the risk
of heart disease and cancer.
Among the 49,000 subjects, 40% were assigned to a low-fat diet, which required that they
reduce their fat intake to 20% of their total calorie intake. In addition, they were to eat fruits and vegetables on five
or more instances throughout the day, along with six servings of grain. The remaining 60% of participants were designated
as the comparison group and were instructed to maintain their eating habits as always.
Women’s Health Initiative
experts, however, noted that a number of low-fat diet participants did not meet the 20% fat intake goal. In a recent news
report released from Stanford University, experts conveyed that women who wish to maintain their health should consider a
diet that is both low in saturated and trans fats while being rich in fiber and vegetables. This diet would replace one that
is geared solely toward the intake of low-fat foods.
“Just switching to low-fat foods is not likely to yield
much health benefit in most women,” commented Marcia Stefanick, PhD, professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention
Research Center and chair of the Women’s Health Initiative steering committee. “Rather than trying to eat low-fat,
women should focus on reducing saturated fats and trans fats.”
In addition to any diet program, regular exercise
and health screenings should be used for early detection and the most effective treatment.
The information in this
article is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered as, or used in place of, medical advice or
professional recommendations for diet and/or exercise regimens. Every individual should consult his/her physician prior to
beginning any program consisting of diet and/or exercise.
Having type two diabetes
means a higher risk of heart disease. Therefore, you should eat a low saturated fat diet.
(Ivanhoe Newswire) Achieving
a better balance between fats found in corn & other oils & fats
found in cold water fish may be a good way to reduce the growth of prostate cancer tumors & lower PSA levels in men.
Researchers arrived at those
conclusions after conducting a study in mice who were bred to have a hormone-sensitive form of prostate cancer similar to
that seen in humans. All of the mice were fed a diet containing 20% fat. Some received equal
portions of omega-6 fatty acids, such as the type found in corn oil & omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in salmon, tuna & other types of cold water fish.
Others received a typical
American diet, which is mainly made up of omega-6 fatty acids.
Results showed a 22% reduction
in tumor cell growth rates among the mice fed the balanced fat diet. PSA levels - a marker of prostate cancer activity - were 77% lower in that group.
The balanced fat diet probably works, report the investigators, because omega-3
fatty acids contain substances known to play a role in reducing the inflammation associated with the growth of cancerous
tumors of the prostate.
"Corn oil is the backbone
of the American diet. We consume up to 20-times more omega-6 fatty acids in our diet compared
to omega-3 acids," says study author William Aronson, M.D., a professor in the department
of urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA & a researcher with UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"This study strongly suggests
that eating a healthier ratio of these 2 types of fatty acids may make a difference in reducing
prostate cancer growth."
He cautions, however, more
studies are needed to prove the strategy would have any benefit in people.
This article was reported
by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: http://www.ivanhoe.com/newsalert/.
SOURCE: Clinical Cancer Research, published online
Aug. 1, 2006
Omega-3 & Weight Control
By Douglas Adams
Omega-3 fatty acids which
are important in human nutrition are:
- alpha-linolenic acid (18:3, ALA)
- eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5, EPA)
- docosahexaenoic acid (22:6, DHA)
These 3 polyunsaturates have either 3, 5 or 6 double bonds in a carbon chain of 18, 20 or 22 carbon atoms, respectively.
All double bonds are in the
cis-configuration, i.e. the 2 hydrogen atoms are on the same side of the double bond. Known source of polyunsaturated fats is the cold-water fish including:
- lake trout
These fishes are a rich source
of omega-3 acid which is essential in preventing heart diseases thru lowering blood clot
& lowering triglycerides.
Omega-3 acid is also known
to lower high blood pressure. (Triglycerides: The major form of fat. A triglyceride consists
of three molecules of fatty acid combined with a molecule of the alcohol glycerol. Triglycerides serve as the backbone of
many types of lipids (fats). Triglycerides come from the food we eat as well as from being produced by the body.)
Omega-3 acid is
particularly noted in help in weigh control because it contains EPA & DHA which is the long-chain that is only found in
marine organisms. This acid is also responsible for the increasing the secretion of a hormone known as leptin which decreases
appetite & burns body fat.
The omega-3 acid
found in some polyunsaturated fats are also responsible for enabling the body to store carbohydrates
in glycogen form so that it'll not be stored as body fat.
In addition, omega-3 acid
prevents inflammation which is a condition that contributes to weight gain.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Your Health
By Cheryl Winter, M.S., R.D., R.N.
While you know “omega”
as the last letter of the Greek alphabet & meaning, “the end,” it's doubtful that you've heard the end about
“omega-3 fatty acids.”
In fact, you’ll be hearing more & more about this long-chain fatty acid & how important it is to your health & how American diets should be increased in this nutrient.
Isn’t FAT a 4 Letter Word?”
No! Fat isn't a bad word! It’s understandable that people have come to believe that all fats are bad for them. For over 2 decades, dietary guidance has emphasized the
importance of choosing a diet low in fat, saturated fat &
However, this is wrongly interpreted by consumers to mean that all fat is bad &
should be eliminated from the diet.
In fact, omega-3 fatty acids (& omega-6 fatty acids) are building blocks of every
living cell in the human body & are absolutely essential for normal health & development.
Since the human body is unable to synthesize omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids &
must obtain them thru diet, they're called “Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s).”
Dietary Fats 101:
To have a clearer picture
in understanding the classification of omega-3 fatty acids, let’s review the 3 major categories of dietary fats:
- Saturated Fats
- Monounsaturated Fats
- Polyunsaturated Fats
As you probably are already aware, these 3 major categories have various effects
on blood cholesterol.
Saturated fats, in general, are shown to elevate LDL-cholesterol
(the “bad” cholesterol), the type of cholesterol considered
to be a major risk factor for heart disease.
In contrast, diets higher in monounsaturated & polyunsaturated
fats are known to decrease the “bad” LDL-cholesterol, without lowering the “good” HDL-cholesterol.
In addition, when monounsaturated fats are consumed in greater amounts, studies indicate
these individuals have lower cholesterol levels.
Wthin the “Polyunsaturated
Fats” exists 2 subclasess of fatty acids (the EFA’s):
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Don’t We Already Get Too Much Fat in the Diet?
It would appear from our nation’s obesity epidemic that we must be getting too much fat in the diet. And, indeed, that's the case. However, obesity isn't just caused from excess fat,
but from a multitude of problems, including:
- excess calories (from all macronutrients, not necessarily
just from fat)
- as well as from inactivity
No matter what type of fat one consumes, each type
has the same amount of calories & when eaten excessively without balancing with activity, will contribute to weight gain.
However, in addition to being concerned about getting too much fat in the diet, one needs to be concerned about the
ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.
Beyond the Basics:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The principle omega-3 fatty acid is alpha linolenic acid
(ALA). A healthy person will convert ALA into) & then into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
In other words, ALA is the precursor to EPA & DHA, which are the omega-3 fatty acids that have the significant
benefits (see specific foods below).
So, even if we get adequate ALA in our diets from plant sources, such as flax,
walnuts, soy & canola oil, the body must still convert it to the important EPA & DHA. EPA & DHA, however, are
found primarily in fish & fish oils & when these foods are consumed, the body doesn't have to convert them.
The important omega-3 fatty acids, then, for health are:
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Linoleic acid is the
principal omega-6 fatty acid & it's abundant in most cooking oils, including:
- corn oil
- processed foods
A healthy person will convert linoleic acid into gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which
is then synthesized with EPA from the omega-3 fatty acid group, into eicosanoids.
Eicosanoids are hormone-like compounds that aid in many body functions & promote
heart health by preventing blood platelets from clotting & sticking to the artery walls - effects that are similar to
those observed with aspirin.
Decreased clotting helps reduce the chances of blockages in an artery & thereby decreases the risk for heart attack
or stroke. Eicosanoids also play a role in the reduction of inflammation, significant in heart disease, as well as other diseases
like arthritis, lupus, asthma & diabetes.
However, in addition to the GLA that is produced from linoleic acid,
GLA is also further metabolized to arachidonic acid, which has been shown to have properties of increased inflammation &
increased clotting, thereby having potentially negative effects on health.
These potentially negative effects, however, are minimized, if omega-6 fatty acids are in the proper amounts.
the amounts of linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) are too high, the conversion of ALA (omega-3 fatty acids) to the EPA (the
biologically active form of omega-3 fatty acids), is reduced & more of the GLA is used to make the more harmful arachondonic
acid, than is used to make the more beneficial EPA.
As complicated as this sounds, this is a very simplified explanation of the process.
To overcome the potential
negative effects of the arachidonic acid, supplementation with GLA-rich foods such as:
- borage oil
- black currant seed oil
- or evening primrose oil
has become popular.
However, this is very controversial, with no scientific evidence to
support it, & could be harmful, since GLA is eventually converted to arachidonic acid, thereby, defeating the purpose.
Therefore, extreme caution should be used with these products.
How Much of the Fatty Acids
do We Need:
Why are our diets too high in omega-6
fatty acids and too low in omega 3-fatty acids?
beings evolved consuming a diet that was much lower in saturated fatty acids than is today’s diet. Furthermore,
the diet contained small & roughly equal amounts of omega-6 & omega-3 fatty acid (ratio of 1-2:1) & much lower
amounts of trans fatty acids than does today’s diet.
Contrast this to the modern American diet in which the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is greater than 10:1,
partially due to the indiscriminate recommendation to substitute omega-6 fatty acids to lower serum cholesterol concentrations.
addition, intake of omega-3 fatty acids is lower today because of a decrease in fish consumption, as well as to the mass production
of omega-6 oils like corn, safflower & peanut oil, which are widely consumed in our food supply.
Our farm animals are fed with grain (as opposed to greens in the wild) & yield meat & eggs also high in omega-6
fatty acids. This also includes farm raised fish which are fed grains. Even cultivated vegetables contain fewer omega-3 fatty
acids than do plants in the wild.
Modern agriculture, with its emphasis on production, has decreased the omega-3 fatty acid content in many foods.
benefits derived from the consumption of the marine omega-3 fatty acids were first noticed during epidemiological studies
in the Greenland Inuits, an Eskimo population that consumed large amounts of traditional marine mammals & fish & had
little mortality from coronary artery disease.
EPA & DHA are found to be in abundance in cold-water fish, such as:
Fish don't make these fats but obtain them from the plankton they eat; the colder
the water, the more omega-3’s the plankton contains.
Plain English, Please!
This is obviously a very
complicated subject & scientists continue to study & discover new links to how fats affect our health. In the mean
time, here's the best available nutritional advice, in regards to the omega-3 fatty acid issue:
Although we need to
increase the amount of omega 3-fatty acids in the diet (from plants & fish), this will not be totally effective without
decreasing the amount of omega-6 fatty acids in our diet, especially if only plant based omega-3 fatty acids are consumed.
Too much omega-6 fatty acid will inhibit the conversion of plant-based ALA to EPA, thereby reducing the full benefits
of the omega-3 fatty acids. This is more of an issue for vegetarians who don't eat fish, however.
To some degree,
by increasing omega-3 fatty acids, you'll be decreasing your intake of other fats. It's still recommended by health-promoting
organizations, such as the American Hearth Association to:
- Limit harmful saturated fats found in animal products, such as full-fat dairy products like whole milk, ice cream,
hard cheeses, as well as cakes & cookies & fried foods.
- Limit total fat to approximately 30% of caloric intake.
The good monounsaturated fats, such as found in foods like olives & olive oil,
canola oil, avocados & nuts, continue to be essential in our diets.
fatty acid is still an essential fatty acid, it shouldn't be totally eliminated, but its intake can be limited by reducing
the intake of processed foods, such as crackers, chips, cookies, cakes & fried foods.
The minimum healthy intake
for both omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids per day in adults is 1.5 grams of each. One tablespoon of flaxseed oil can provide
this amount, or larger amounts of other omega 3- fatty acid-rich foods can be consumed.
The best scientific evidence suggests an intake of omega-3 fatty acids of at least 650 mg per day. There's strong evidence
that consuming considerably more than 650 mg per day provides even more health benefits.
The average American diet contains less than 200 mg per day of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA & DHA.
Fatty Acids Rich Foods:
Plant Products (high in ALA)
- canola oil
- wheat germ
- green leafy vegetables (spinach, mustard greens, purslane, collards)
Animal Products (high in EPA & DHA)
- albacore tuna
Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
- promote cardiovascular health
- increase memory & learning ability
- helps brain & vision development of infants
- decreased development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- reduces risk of stroke & hyptertension
- improves regulation of heartbeat
- helps boost immune system (defends against cancer)
- promotes natural joint flexibility & mobility (decreases rheumatoid arthritis)
- reduces symptoms of depression
- reduces risk of dementia, e.g. Alzheimer’s disease
- reduces the amount of triglycerides released into blood
- increases HDL levels
Other Important Facts:
- Eating 2 to 3, 3 -oz. servings of fish per week is supported by the American Heart Association, with at least 2 servings
from fish high in EPA & DHA
- Avoid fish with potential high levels of toxins & pay attention to advisory warnings for eating fish from questionable
- Children and pregnant & lactating women should consume fish with caution due to risk of mercury intoxication
- Fish oil supplements are NOT to be used in place of eating the actual food
- Studies show that eating as little as one serving per week of “fatty” fish can reduce your risk of cardiac
arrest by 50-70%
- Since omega-3 fatty acids inhibit blood clotting, supplements shouldn't be used by those who have blood clotting disorders
or by individuals taking anticoagulant medications
- Most vitamins and most herbal supplements do not contain any omega-3 fatty acids
- The positive benefits seen with omega-3 fatty acids generally occur with continued use of greater than 12 weeks
- Do not use flaxseed oil for cooking (heat destroys the EFA)
- Flaxseed is preferable to flaxseed oil because of the healthy lignans & fiber content, not available in flaxseed
A calorie is a measurement of energy.
We tend to associate calories with food, but any sort of energy can be measured in calories.
The official definition of a calorie is
the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature
of a gram of water by 1 degree C.
is 1,000 calories. Just to make life confusing, the "calorie" that you see on packages of food is really a "kilocalorie" in
the scientific sense.
It makes sense that food contains
energy, because most foods burn. For example, if you have ever roasted marshmallows, you probably know that marshmallows burn. What's burning in that
case is the sugar in the marshmallow.
too, you know that if you have ever seen a grease fire. Your body "burns" fats, carbohydrates
& proteins, not with flames, but with more controlled chemical reactions that release the energy in different ways.
Fats, proteins & carbohydrates have characteristic calorie measurements.
- One gram of fat contains
almost 9 calories (kilocalories) of energy.
- One gram of any carbohydrates contains 4 calories (kilocalories).
- One gram of protein contains 4 calories (kilocalories) as well.
Knowing these values, you
can calculate the number of calories in any food as long as you know how many grams of fat,
protein & carbohydrates it contains. If you were to take any food, dry it out & burn it, the specified number of calories would be released by the flames.
If you ingest 3,500 extra
calories one day (or over the course of several weeks or months), your body will convert
the excess energy to body fat & save it for a rainy day.
To lose 1 pound of fat,
therefore, you have to burn off the 3,500 excess calories. You can do that either by exercising or by restricting your calorie intake.
The USDA estimates that the
average man, 5' 10" tall & weighing 174 pounds, needs 2,900 calories per day (assuming light
to moderate activity).
The average woman, 5' 4" tall
& weighing 138 pounds, needs 2,200 calories.
See this page to find out how to calculate your body's exact calorie needs.
Just recently, the FDA ruled that by 2006, food manufacturers must list the amount of trans
fats in their products on the label. (The natural trans fats in meat & milk, which
act very differently in the body than the manmade kind, will not require labeling.) Until then, here are a few ways to reduce your intake of trans fats
& saturated fats, South Beach style.
Limit margarine, packaged foods & fast food, which tend to contain high amounts of
saturated & trans fats.
over your cooking methods.
Bake, broil, or grill rather than
Remove the skin from chicken or turkey
before you eat it.
Cook with canola or olive oil instead
of butter, margarine, or lard.
Slim down your dairy.
Switch from whole milk to fat-free or 1%.