Nutritional-fats are essential for healthy living

Nutritional-fats and oils are not all created equal. Our society consumes prodigious amounts of fats and oils. Some are healthy and good for us and some are either harmful or at best marginal for healthy nutrition.  

Any discussion of fats has to be made with the understanding that fats are complicated. All dietary fats are composed of a mix of fatty acids. There are four types of fatty acids. These are saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids and the trans-fatty acids. There are two types of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

In my opinion based on what I have read, trans-fatty acids are not nutritional-fats. Trans-fats are partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These oils have been chemically altered to reduce spoilage. It is often added to food to enhance freshness. Trans-fat is found in vegetable shortening, in some margarines, crackers, cookies and snack foods. Trans-fats should be avoided because they are harmful to your health especially to the health of your heart and brain.

Three types of nutritional-fats

  1. Saturated fatty acids are solid at room temperature. It is found in such things as butter, cheese, meat and coconut oil. Saturated fat has been portrayed as a villain for decades and saturated fat does indeed increase cholesterol both HDL and LDL. But it causes HDL levels to go up more than LDL levels. The balance between omega-3 and omega­-6 is far more important than the  saturated fat in your diet.
  2. Monounsaturated fatty acids (omega-9) are liquid at room temperature and is found in olive oil, macadamia nuts and avocados.  Olive oil is an important part of the Mediterranean diet because it is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which lowers LDL cholesterol and helps reduce blood pressure. Omega-9 oils are also anti-inflammatory and help keep the lining of the arteries smooth. Additionally, unlike omega-6 oils such as corn, safflower, and sunflower oils, olive oil does not compete with heart healthy omega-3 oil. Olive oil is also rich in vitamin E and polyphenols. The best olive oil is cold pressed, extra virgin because it contains more antioxidants. The antioxidants and polyphenols prevent the oxidation of LDL in our blood stream protecting the heart and brain.
  3. Polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omega-6s & Omega-3s) are liquid at room temperatures. There are two types of polyunsaturated fats, Omega-6s and Omega-3s. Omega-6s are Linoleic Acid (LA) as found in vegetable oils. Omega-3s are Alpha-Linoleic Acid (ALA), Docosahexanoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentanoic Acid (EPA). ALA is found in walnuts and flaxseed. DHA and EPA are both found in fish and grass fed meat.

All nutritional­-fats and oils are a mixture of fats including monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids. Butter for example is largely saturated fat. And much maligned Lard is only about 40% saturated fat, 50% monounsaturated fat, 10% polyunsaturated fat. Butter made from milk fat from grass fed animals contains high levels of vitamin A and other important nutrients.

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are important to the health of our bodies but have to be balanced. Omega-6 fats promote inflammation and omega-3 fats are used by the body to build anti-inflammatory compounds. They are both necessary parts of our immune system and are nutritional-fats. It is thought that the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s should be no greater than four or five to one. The problem is that the ratio in the diets of most people may be as high as 20:1.    

We are all eating too much omega-6 oils

We are all eating far too much vegetable oil and not enough omega-3 oils. Diets high in omega-6 oils can result in depletion of vitamin E, cause heart disease and stimulate cancer growth and spread. Omega-6 oils also compete with omega-3 oils reducing their effectiveness.

It is not enough to simply ingest more omega-3s. Because omega-6 oils compete with the omega-3s and inhibit the body’s ability to produce DHA and EPA, we need to replace the omega-6 oils with omega-3s and omega-9s. Reduce the omega-6s in your diet by avoiding commercially prepared foods that contain safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and canola oil. Learn to be a label reader.

Eat more seafood, especially wild Alaskan salmon and consider supplementation with fish oil capsules containing nutritional-fats DHA and EPA. Fish, high in omega-3 fats have been shown to protect against irregular heart rhythms than can lead to heart failure. New evidence suggests that in addition to heart protection, the fatty acids such as DHA and EPA found in fish oil (and ALA found in flaxseed) may offer a defense against depression and age-related memory loss and help prevent certain cancers.

Avoid rancid oils. All fats and oils that are oxidized before they are ingested are called rancid and they are not safe to eat. It is important to know that as healthy as omega-3 oils are they become rancid easily and should be kept in the refrigerator. Olive oil is more resistant to oxidation.

Modify your diet to include nourishing, organic foods including a lot of whole grains, fresh fruits (whole fruit, not fruit juice), and fresh vegetables. A high intake of a variety of antioxidants, a balance of nutritional-fats, and the use of special supplements may protect most of us from heart attack and stroke. Consult your physician before starting any program of nutritional supplementation. Nutritional supplements do not cure or prevent illness and disease.  They only give the body the extra nutrition it needs to take care of itself!  A healthy lifestyle starts with good nutrition.

Disclaimer and goal

Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated. Deut. 34:7

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References and suggested reading:

  • Go to resource page
  • Russell L. Blaylock, M.D., Health and Nutrition Secrets that can save your life, Health Press. 
  • Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., The Sinatra Solution, Metabolic Cardiology, Basic Health Publications. 
  • Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D. and Jonny Bowden, PH.D, C.N.S., The Great Cholesterol Myth, Why lowering your cholesterol won’t prevent heart disease and the statin free plan that will. Fair Winds Press, 2012.  
  • Stephen T. Sinatra, MD et al., Heart sense for Women, Your plan for natural prevention and treatment, Penguin Putman Inc. 
  • Mary G. Enig, Ph. D, Know Your Fats: The complete primer for understanding the nutrition of fats, oils, and cholesterol, Bethesda Press, 2000, 2013. 
  • William Sears, M.D., Prime Time Health, Little, Brown & Company.

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