Essential Fats for Health
By Lisa Metzgar PhD. – Nutrition Tidbits
For many years we have been told that fat was bad for us, that fat would make us fat and lead to heart disease. The problem is that all fats shouldn’t be lumped together in that claim. In the 1970’s our diet was dramatically changed by this belief. We started eating more grains and producing “low fat” foods. Now look at our country. Obesity is at an all time high and our children are unhealthier than they have ever been.
Essential Fats Explained
Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are fats that are essential to cellular activity but our bodies can’t produce them. We must get them from our diet. The two EFA’s that come from our food are Omega 3 (or alpha-linoleic acid) and Omega 6 (or linoleic acid). Omega 3 fatty acids come from cold water fish, flax seeds hemp, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, green leafy vegetables, grass fed beef or bison, and walnuts. Omega 6 fatty acids come primarily from grains and grain fed animals.
One of our main problems is the over consumption of Omega 6 fatty acids. Our typical American diet contains 14-25 times more Omega 6 than Omega 3. This is very out of balance. The other problem is that sugar and trans fats will lower healthy levels of your Omega fatty acids. When our fatty acids are lacking or out of balance you can experience skin problems, arthritis, vision problems, blood clots, poor memory, irregular heartbeat, digestive issues, nervous system dysfunction depression, and immune suppression.
We don’t have any problem getting enough Omega 6 in our diets. Grains and corn contain a form of Omega 6 that if over consumed can create inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the basis for many disease processes in the body. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation considerably and even lead to weight loss.
Ways to Add Healthy Essential Fats to Your Diet
Here are a few ideas to add healthy Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids to your diet. This is especially important for children to help prevent diseases like diabetes and ADD/ADHD.
- Snack on walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and pistachios. Only buy raw nuts as roasting destroys the healthy oils.
- Cold water fish like salmon and halibut are loaded with Omega 3
- Sprinkle chia seeds on your salad or add to a smoothie (they aren’t just for Chia Pets!)
- Eat lots of green leafy vegetables on a daily basis. Kale, chard, Brussels sprouts, and spinach are especially healthy.
- Eat flax seeds or use flax seed oil. You can add flax seed oil to your smoothies or to your salad dressing.
- If possible buy grass fed beef and bison. Grain fed animals have the same problem we do when we eat too many grains… too much Omega 6.
- Use raw olive oil, preferably extra virgin. The less processed a food is, the better it is for us.
- Eat organic chicken and turkey.
- Get fresh local eggs
- Make your own salad dressings. Use healthy oils like olive oil, hemp oil, and flax seed oil. Add a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and experiment with herbs and spices like basil, oregano, thyme, garlic, mustard, and even chili powder for some great tasting salad dressing. Avoid the processed store bought brands that contain sugar.
- Cook with coconut oil.
Summer is upon us and it is a great time to eat fresh and eat healthy!