by Anneliese Dressel.
In today’s fat-phobic culture, an important message has been lost: ‘Fat is essential to life’. Despite the advent of the low-fat diet revolution over 20 years ago, obesity rates are on the increase and eating less fat has in fact made us fatter!
Saturated fats are found mainly in animal products. Although they have important roles in the body such as protecting our internal organs and transporting fat soluble vitamins, over consumption can raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol that increases the risk of coronary heart disease. However, small amounts are great for using in high heat cooking (baking, roasting etc), as they are not easily damaged by heat.
Unsaturated fat raises high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol that can help to prevent against coronary heart disease. A subclass of unsaturated fats called the essential omega 3 and omega 6 fats cannot be manufactured in the body and therefore must be taken in the diet. They are the building blocks for hormones which balance many important reactions governing everything from how we sleep to how our blood clots.
The best sources of Omega 3 fats are fatty fish such as salmon, herring and sardines, flax seeds (and oil), walnuts and seaweed. Omega 6 fats are high in vegetable oils, meat and chicken. A healthy balance of Omega 3s and Omega 6s are the key to consuming the essential fats, and together they have demonstrated impressive results in the treatment of learning difficulties, depression and ADHD, whilst helping reduce the severity of allergies, asthma, eczema and hormonal imbalances.
Trans fats are synthetic fats created by ‘hydrogenating’ vegetable oils. This gives the oil a longer shelf life which is very good for food manufacturers but bad for you. Trans fats raise LDL and lower HDL cholesterol, are carcinogenic and have no health benefits. Unfortunately they can easily be at high levels within most people’s diets as they are used in the manufacture of margarine, biscuits, fried foods and baked goods. Trans fats are thought to be so damaging to health that many countries have banned their use and others have made it mandatory to label foods that contain ‘hydrogenated’ trans fats. This is not the case in Ireland.
Getting the Balance Right
Foods to include:
2-3 portions of oily fish per week.
1-2 handfuls of nuts and seeds per day.
Oils: 1-2 tablespoons per day.
Seaweed is great sprinkled on salads, stir fries or soups.
High omega 3 eggs.
Coconut oil for high heat cooking .
Foods to reduce or avoid:
Limit red meat to 2 or 3 portions per week.
Choose butter over margarine.
Nearly all pre-packed food contains ‘hydrogenated fats’.
Throw away any vegetable oil fats that have not been refrigerated or are not in a dark glass bottle as these may have turned into trans fats.
Do not cook at high temperatures.
Supplementing with Omega 3 and Omega 6
The average Western diet provides enough Omega 6 fats, therefore it is more important to supplement with Omega 3 fats. Vegetable oils provide omega 3 in the form of µ-linoleic acid. Not everybody is as efficient at converting this µ-linoleic acid to the more active forms of Omega 3; EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA(docosahexaenoic acid). Fish oils provide good levels of these EPA and DHA fats as the fish have already converted the µ-linoleic acid to the active form.
When choosing a supplement it is important to note that you often get what you pay for. Cheaper Omega 3 supplements often contain little, if any, EPA and DHA. A good target for mental well-being and performance is 1000mg per day so to get this amount; you may well need to take more than the manufacturer’s suggested dose. Look for a supplement that provides the highest levels of EPA and DHA. Supplements come in the form of capsules and oil.
Here are some examples:
3 Eskimo-3 capsules provide 240mg EPA
1 teaspoon of Eskimo-3 Liquid provides 750mg EPA
1 capsule of Minami MorEPA provides 580mg EPA
1 capsule of Minimi MorDHA (recommended during pregnancy) provides 83mg EPA
1 capsule of VegEPA provides 280mg EPA and 100mg EPO
2 capsules of Eye-Q provides 186mg EPA, 58mg DHA and 20mg GLA
ICIM teaches certificate and diploma courses in Nutrition and Nutritional Therapeutics. See our website www.icim-ireland.net or call 090 974 9929 for more details.