Oils ain’t Oils!
Triglycerides are the main form of fat in our diets and in our bodies. They provide us with energy, insulation, and protect our internal organs from damage. They also enable our bodies to metabolize proteins and carbohydrates more efficiently. Despite the many benefits triglycerides give us if our blood circulation contains too much fat, then overtime it can cause major health problems, such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and excess fat around the stomach. Knowing the right fats to eat can help reduce overall levels and help us to maintain a healthy heart. Consumed in the right ratio, vital fats like omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to lower high triglyceride levels.
Triglycerides and Cholesterol:
Like triglycerides, cholesterol is a fatty substance that circulates in the blood. However, the body uses triglycerides and cholesterol differently. Triglycerides are a type of fuel, while cholesterol is needed for various metabolic processes such as making particular hormones and building cells.
There are two types of cholesterol high-density lipoprotein (HDL) the ‘good’ cholesterol that helps remove fat from the arteries, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that over time can cause fatty plaques to form on blood vessel walls. When blood flow is restricted through these narrowed blood vessels the risk factor of life-threatening conditions increase. This process is called atherosclerosis.
Things to remember:
About 95 per cent of all dietary fats are triglycerides.
Once digested, triglycerides circulate in the bloodstream to be used as energy by the cells.
If you habitually eat more kilojoules than you burn, you may have raised triglyceride levels in the blood. This is linked with an increased risk of serious health conditions.
Lifestyle choices can keep triglyceride levels within the normal range. Aim to exercise regularly, eat a healthy balanced diet and maintain an appropriate weight.
Trans fat is what makes processed food taste good and last longer on super market shelves, but unfortunately are hazardous for your heart. Trans fats raise your bad cholesterol just like saturated fats, but they also increase inflammation and lower the good cholesterol that protects us against heart disease. Unlike other members of the fat family (saturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated fats), trans fats, or trans-fatty acids, are largely artificial fats. A small amount of trans fats occur naturally in meat and dairy products but mostly trans fats are made by a chemical process called partial hydrogenation. Liquid vegetable oil (an otherwise healthy monounsaturated fat) is packed with hydrogen atoms and converted into a solid fat. This makes an ideal fat for the food processing industry to work with because of its high melting point, its creamy, smooth texture and its reusability in deep fat frying. Trans fat also extend the shelf life of food. They also add a certain pleasing mouth-feel to all manner of processed foods. Think of all fast food, buttery crackers, popcorn, crispy French fries, crunchy potato chips, creamy toppings and melt-in-your mouth cakes, pies and pastries. All these processed foods owe those qualities to trans fats. Trans fats also increase triglyceride levels in the blood, simply the more solid the fat, the more it clogs our arteries.
Definition: What are “saturated” fats; simply they are fats naturally saturated with hydrogen atoms and solidify at room temperature or when chilled, and are considered the most detrimental to your health, and are strongly correlated to heart disease.
So what is the difference between Trans Fats and Saturated Fats?
Saturated fat occurs naturally in food, but trans fat is man made. Saturated fat is chemically bonded with the maximum number of hydrogen atoms it can hold. Trans fat is made to resemble saturated fat by adding hydrogen atoms to vegetable oil. The process, called hydrogenation, makes the fat solid and gives it a longer shelf life. Animal based foods, such as full cream dairy products, cheeses and fatty meats, have the most saturated fat. Trans fats are found in margarine and shortening, in deep-fat fried foods like donuts, and in baked goods like breads, crackers, ready-to-eat cereals, and biscuits. In the body, trans fat contributes to disease just like saturated fat.
During hydrogenation, hydrogen atoms are added back to polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats to protect against rancidity from bacteria or air exposure. As a consequence, this process causes hydrogenated fats to become saturated fats. If a food label states the words partially hydrogenated oils among its first ingredients means that it contains a lot of trans fats and saturated fats. These fats increaseCholesterol LDL levels and decrease HDL levels, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
Omega-9 fatty acids are from a family of monounsaturated fats that are beneficial when obtained in food. This type of lipid lowers “bad cholesterol”, LDL, and leaves the “good cholesterol” HDL levels the same. MUFAs are usually liquid at room temperature. Research also shows that MUFAs may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes. Unlike Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, the body can produce Omega-9 fatty acids in small amounts. An interesting fact is that when the body doesn’t have enough Omega-3 or Omega-6, it tries to compensate by producing omega-9 fatty acids to take their place. While Omega-9 is not technically classified as an essential fatty acid because our bodies can manufacture it –however foods rich in oleic acid are recommended because oleic acid assists in cancer protection, and decreases the risk of heart attacks and arteriosclerosis.
Best Choices for Monounsaturated fat, Omega-9 Essential Fatty Acids (Oleic Acid) are:
Olive oil (extra virgin) olives, avocados, almonds, peanuts, sesame oil, pecans, Macadamia nuts: note: Buy organic when possible, and store in the freezer to protect from rancidity. The problem with the above Monounsaturated foods is that as well as being good sources of Omega-9; they all have a high concentration of Omega -6 and little Omega-3.
“Unsaturated” fats do not have hydrogen atoms at bonding sites on the molecule. This means oils or in other words polyunsaturated fats are liquid even in the refrigerator. The two main types of polyunsaturated fats are omega-6, and omega- 3. They must be stored in a dark place before opening, and refrigerated when in use. They are essential, meaning the body cannot manufacture them and must be obtained through your diet. Essential fatty acids maintain the architecture of cell membranes and are also used in the production of eicosanoids, a hormone used by the body to regulate blood pressure, blood clotting and immune function.
Although polyunsaturated fats are generally thought of as healthy, there is a possible misconception to this statement. The amount of omega-6 fat that we consume has increased dramatically in recent decades, while in general the amount of omega-3 fat we consume is lower. The Western diet contains massive quantities of omega-6, and thus it is important to moderate that, while actively increasing omega-3 intake. Westerners consume on average 25 times more omega-6 than omega-3. Through research Medical experts now feel that this imbalance is contributing to inflammation in our bodies, and overtime increasing the risk of such chronic diseases asarthritis, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and many different types of autoimmune disease. Striking a balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet allows both substances to work together as a team to promote a healthy heart. There’s an ideal ratio between omega-6 and omega-3. Originally, when we were hunter-gatherers that ratio was 1:1. Meaning that we consumed the same quantity of omega-6 as the omega-3. Scientific studies, based on statistical analysis, set the desired omega-6 to omega-3 ratios at 4:1.
What Vegans and Vegetarians need to understand is the role of the omega-6 and omega-3 ratios, and the ramifications that is putting them at the same health risk of the degenerative diseases as Western society as a whole. The facts are there, vegans and vegetarians live no longer than meat eaters and die of the same most common causes like heart disease and cancer. Why: The function of Omega-6 is to create inflammation, to tell you when there is pain. Omega-3 on the other hand is anti-inflammatory, to create balance. Just because it’s a vegetable oil doesn’t mean you’re healthier and will live longer. This is where Nature has played a cruel trick on us as most plant-based oils are heavily weighted towards Omega-6. To compound the problem human intervention in manipulation natural fats for financial gain is the reason heart disease is our biggest killer.
So how did this all happen?
Unfortunately politics has played a major role in the explosive use of omega-6 oils. Originally (not so long ago) we were roaming the plains and forests, gathering seeds and hunting animals. Our hunter/gatherer diet was fully balanced between omega-3 and omega-6. Seeds, nuts, fruits, and grasses contain mostly healthy oils, and the hunter/gatherer had to make a huge effort to collect them. Furthermore, the hunted animals were lean and consumed the same healthy vegetable oils as the humans of those days.
Radical shift from omega-3 to omega-6 foods:
Around 50 years ago agricultural policies changed when food-processing companies forced farmers through financial necessity to shift their crop varieties to the bulk production of oil based yields to accommodate the manmade food industry. With the availability of cheap mass-produced oils that could be chemically changed into Trans fats, the food manufacturers’ created food with longer shelf life, also switching to omega-6 oils because the more complex omega-3 oils are less stable with heat and oxidize (go rancid) if not refrigerated. So if you think that you still consume the same quality foods as your parents did, then you’re fooling yourself. Today the omega-6 to omega-3 ratios is estimated to be as high as 35:1. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratios for the hunter/gatherer was 1:1.
Cooking Oils containing high percentages of Inflammatory Omega 6
Safflower Omega 6 – 75% Omega 3 – 0%
Sunflower Omega 6 – 65% Omega 3 – 0%
Corn Omega 6 – 54% Omega 3 – 0%
Sesame Omega 6 – 42% Omega 3 – 0%
Peanut Omega 6 – 32% Omega 3 – 0%
Soybean Omega 6 – 51% Omega 3 – 7%
Canola Omega 6 – 20% Omega 3 – 9%
Walnut Omega 6 – 52% Omega 3 – 10%
Flax Omega 6 – 14% Omega 3 – 57%
Fish Oil Omega 6 – 0% Omega 3 – 100%
So lets look at the foods:
Corn: fresh 32.1 times more 6 than 3.
Pork Chops: 22.4 times more 6 than 3.
Rolled Oats: cooked 22.3 times more 6
Rice: cooked 22.1 times more 6 than 3.
Bacon: cooked 21.3 times more 6 than 3.
Eggs: cooked 15.5 times more 6 than 3.
Avocado: fresh 15.1 times more 6 than 3.
White bread: 8.8 times more 6 than 3.
Chicken: cooked 8.4 times more 6 than 3.
Beef mince: 7.5 times more 6 than 3.
Below is where Vegans and Vegetarians come unstuck with heart disease and other western society diseases, by consuming large amounts of nuts, seeds, nut butters or simply the polyunsaturated oil they cook with.
This is all done in good faith with the belief of supposed high quality health.
Peanuts: raw 5,206 times more Omega 6 to Omega 3.
Pine nuts: 3,004 times more 6 to 3.
Almonds: raw 2,010 times more 6 to 3.
Brazil nuts: raw 1,144 times more 6 to 3.
Sunflower seeds: 311 times more 6 to 3.
Cashews: 128 times more 6 to 3.
Pumpkin seeds: 114 times more 6 to 3.
The healthiest ratio are:
Macadamia nuts at 6.2 times more Omega 6 to Omega 3.
Walnuts at 4.2 times more 6 to 3.
Hemp oil at 4.0 times more 6 to 3.
As stated above: the current research shows these two very important essential fatty acids that we must derive from food sources should be a 4 to 1 ratio.
Taking a look at all the quality foods above they all carry high nutritional properties, that is not the issue, it’s the fat ratio and the damage that happens overtime to the body through an over indulgence of the inflammatory omega-6.
Why do we need Omega-6:
In moderation, Omega-6 plays a key roll in cell growth, and is thus essential for brain and muscle development. It also plays a principle role in swelling, pain, blood thinning, blood vessel spasms and accumulation of inflamed cells. You may wonder why pain or inflammation is considered a benefit. The answer is that pain is an important signal that prevents further injury, and inflammation is a trigger for our immune system to take control. Omega-6 is vital in the nervous system, as a transmitter of nerve impulses. So although Omega-6 has a central role to play in alerting the body of danger, it has a far more sinister sting its tail.
The danger of an omega-6 overdose:
The key to understanding the benefits of omega-6 is that this messenger should play a short role, and as soon as our system gets the inflammation message it should be switched off ASAP. This turn-off messenger is made from omega-3 EPA, which needs to be converted from omega-3 ALA. The problem with EPA is that we typically don’t have enough to balance the overdose. The highest quantity of anti-inflammatory EPA and DHA that is directly assimilated by the body with no conversion comes from pharmaceutical tested cold-water fish and krill oil. For those through choice that only derive their omega-3 source from Flax or Chia seeds or dark leafy green vegetables, which are great sources of ALA please note: Research shows that only 1% to 5% of ALA is successfully converted to EPA and DHA the main anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3. The inequity also stems from the over-consumption of animal fats, cooking oils, and the massive overdose that comes from nuts and seeds. We all need to understand the role of the omega-6 and omega-3 ratios.
Omega-6, over time becomes a silent killer:
Take this as a possible chain of events of a person who eats an adequate diet.
The system is challenged by a virus attack, an allergy response, or oxidative stress causing arthritis.
To respond to the attack, the fats in the cell membranes are used to make messengers. The fats in the cells have too much omega-6 and are deficient in omega-3 EPA because we didn’t consume enough fish, fish oil or krill oil.
Although we consumed flax, chia seeds and dark leafy green vegetables or their oil containing omega-3, the ALA was not effectively converted to EPA because the bodies conversion rate is to low.
The omega-6 pain messengers are not switched off with the lack of the antidote from EPA, the pain increases, so we take painkillers.
The painkiller drug temporarily reduces the pain but we pay a hefty price over time in the form of uncontrolled inflammation or dependency.
Chronic inflammation, although in the early stages is controllable with drugs, over time increases the threat of heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, Alzheimer’s, stroke, and a number of autoimmune diseases.
This is why current research shows that strict Vegetarians and Vegans, who on the whole may have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, carry less weight and may live longer still die of heart and associated diseases at similar rate and age than the rest of the population.
So to finish, to help you balance your diet you need to consume food that is high in anti-oxidants that lowers inflammation in the body. The best anti-flammatory foods are: Turmeric, which contains the substance Curcumin. Ginger, plenty of cooked or raw dark leafy green vegetables and in my opinion the king of Carotenoids, natures strongest antioxidant Astaxanthin a red pigment found in one-celled algae sea plants, phytoplankton and the sea animals that consume it. Astaxanthin is a very important part of my daily food routine.