Good Fats and Bad Fats
Increase Intake of Omega-3 and
Reduce Omega-6 Fats for Improved Health
Most of us want to increase our overall health and energy
level. We want to prevent heart disease, cancer, arthritis, depression
and Alzheimer's. One of the best things we can do to address these concerns
is to balance the intake of the omega-3 fats and omega-6 fats in our diet.
These two types of fat, omega-3 and omega-6, are both essential for human
health. However, the typical American consumes an excess of omega-6 fats
in their diet while consuming very low levels of omega-3. The ideal ratio
of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1. Our ancestors evolved over millions
of years on this ratio. Today, though, our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3
fats averages from 20:1 to 50:1! That contributes to the diseases of civilization
The primary sources of omega-6 are corn, soy, safflower, and sunflower
oils. These oils are overabundant in the typical diet, which explains
our excess omega-6 levels. Limit these oils as much as possible to get
closer to the ideal ratio. Omega-3, meanwhile, is typically found in flaxseed
oil, walnut oil, and fish. Animals that are fed grain or artificial pellets
(feedlot ruminants or farm raised fish) have less omega-3 than animals
that eat a natural diet of grass or sea food.
Olive oil is a monounsaturated oil that does not upset the critical omega-6
to omega-3 ratio. It is best to obtain a high quality extra virgin olive
oil, because it can easily go rancid when exposed to air, light or high
temperatures. Peanut oil is another monounsaturated oil, but it is high
in omega-6 content, so its use should be limited. Canola oil is also monounsaturated,
but it is not recommended because most of the omega-3s in canola oil are
transformed into harmful "trans fats" during processing. Even
organic cold-pressed canola oil is questionable because it is more unstable
than olive oil and becomes rancid very easily.
Trans fats are the most harmful type of fats. They are formed when unsaturated
fats are exposed to prolonged heat, for example during the deep frying
of foods such as french fries, or the hydrogenation process. Many foods
on the grocery shelves have "partially hydrogenated oil" as
an ingredient (margarine, cookies, crackers, donuts, baked goods, salad
dressings, etc). These trans fats should be avoided. A recent report by
the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine concluded that
"It is recommended that trans fatty acid consumption be as low as
possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet." Animal fat
such as butter or lard, even though rich in saturated fat and cholesterol,
is not as bad as trans fats and has some positive nutritional value.
Two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to human health, DHA and
EPA. These fatty acids are pivotal in preventing heart disease, cancer,
and many other diseases. The human brain is also highly dependent on DHA
low DHA levels have been linked to depression, schizophrenia, memory
loss, and a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's. Researchers are now
also linking inadequate intake of these omega-3 fats in pregnant women
to premature birth and low birth weight and to hyperactivity in children.
While flaxseed oil and walnut oil are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids,
they are unfortunately not the DHA or EPA type, and the body's ability
to manufacture DHA or EPA from these fatty acids varies from person to
person and decreases with age. The omega-3 fats found in fish are rich
in DHA and EPA.
Eating fresh fish, whether from the ocean, lakes and streams, or farm-raised,
is no longer recommended. Mercury levels in all fish have now hit dangerously
high levels across the world, and the risk of this mercury to your health
now outweighs the fish's omega-3 benefits.
Routine consumption of foods or supplements containing omega-3 fats is
encouraged as a key ingredient in improving health. Fish oil contains
the highest levels of omega-3 fats with EPA and DHA fatty acids, and the
process used to make the oil removes the mercury that is often found in
fresh fish. The "Now" brand of fish oil from GNC and the Carlson
brand of fish oil or cod liver oil are good products. But some small amount
of toxin may remain in fish oil. Depending upon metabolic type and individual
factors, flax oil supplements may be best for some people.
Grass-fed beef (not the common corn-fed beef in most grocery stores)
is another outstanding option for increasing omega-3 intake, but it is
hard to find and expensive (it can be ordered over the Internet
see Dr. Mercola's web site for links). A cheaper and more accessible source
is Gold Circle Farms "DHA Omega 3" eggs that can be found at
Whole Foods or Weaver Street Market.
Adapted from the website http://www.mercola.com/