Field of flax

Good Fats Don’t Make You Fat, and They Don’t Cause Heart Disease

Field of flax

Flax seeds are an excellent source of healthy saturated fats.

The idea that fat is bad for us is deeply ingrained in our culture. In fact it was listed as one of the key facts of “Life” in the recently released, otherwise clever iPhone commercial starring John Malkovich and Siri. But the fact is, eating fat is really good for us.

Based on decades-old faulty science, most Americans believe two things: (1) Eating fat makes us fat (what makes us fat is sugar and grains, not fat), and (2) Eating fat raises cholesterol, which causes heart disease. Both ideas are false. In fact, we need good fats — and plenty of them — to be healthy.

Dr. Joseph Mercola, one of my favorite health experts, believes we should be consuming over half our fat calories as saturated fat. In the article entitled “The Forbidden Food You Should Never Stop Eating,” he quotes none other than Julia Child: “Enjoy eating saturated fats; they’re good for you!”

If over half our calories are coming from fat, what are the good fats we should eat? The fats required for good health are called Essential Fatty Acids, or EFAs. So far so good, but we also require the right balance of EFAs.

We often hear about the benefits of supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3’s are one of the essential fatty acids — so called because our bodies cannot synthesize them and thus it’s essential to good health that we consume them. Other EFAs include Omega 6’s and Omega 9’s.

For optimal health we want the ratio of Omega 3, 6, and 9’s to be about 1:1-4:1. Contemporary diets have a ratio in the neighborhood of 1:10 – 50:1. While most of us have no problem with omega-9’s, we’re eating about 10-50 times as many omega-6’s as we should if optimal health is our goal. And that’s why we’re told to take omega-3 supplements. In fact, our colleagues at Green Med Info suggest that Omega 3s can help remedy over 250 diseases!

You see, having the correct balance of Omega 3 to 6 fatty acids in your diet has substantial health benefits, including reduced overall inflammation (joint,etc.), healthy cardiovascular function, healthy skin, healthy brain function (reduced risk of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and depression, etc.), and more. So, most of us need to dramatically decrease the omega 6 fats in our diet, while increasing the omega 3 fats.

It’s not that omega 6s are inherently bad, it’s just that our modern diets contain far too many of them. But some fats are bad for our health in any amount. Some of the worst are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, deep fried foods, and trans fats (which are created when we heat oils/fats at high temperatures).

OK, you say, just tell me which foods/fats to eat and which ones to kick off the island.

GOOD FATS, EAT PLENTY GOOD FATS, EAT IN MODERATION FATS TO AVOID
Omega 3 *(best raw or minimally cooked) Chia, flax & salba seeds, sacha inchi and walnuts, calamari, sardines, salmon, pasture-raised eggs and poultry, grass-fed beef, lamb, raw grass-fed dairy products
Omega 6*(best raw except coconut oil, which may be raw or cooked) Hemp seeds *(which have a balance of omega 3,6 & 9’s) Avocado, coconut/coconut oil, all nuts and seeds not listed in the omega-3 row All vegetable oils (and foods containing them), deep fried foods, foods cooked at high temperatures, conventional dairy, conventional meat, all eggs *(except pasture-raised)
Omega 9 Olive oil *(best unheated)

 

It would be difficult to eat too many Omega 3s. Since Omega-3s tend to be highly susceptible to oxidation when exposed to light, air, and heat, it’s best to use whole seeds and nuts and store them in air-tight containers in the refrigerator. It’s also best to soak them for about 8 hours before eating them to make them more digestible. And, flax seeds contain phytoestrogens, which may not be healthy in large quantities – so limit intake to no more than about ¾ cup per week.

Grass-fed dairy is also best raw as are pasture-raised eggs (NOTE: free-range is not the same as pasture-raised and Omega-3 eggs may be fed rancid flax seeds so these are not recommended sources of Omega 3s). If your salmon is sushi-grade, eat that raw, if not cook it minimally. If you cook other wild or grass-fed meat, prepare it as rare as possible (NOTE: 150 degrees F for 5 min. will kill all pathogens that can be killed by cooking).

Finally, I recommend 500-1000 mg. of krill oil per day as an Omega 3 supplement, especially if you don’t consume many of the animal-based sources of Omega 3s in the table above. Krill oil seems superior to fish oil (e.g., lower on the food chain so less prone to toxins, better absorbed so you need less, less susceptible to oxidation/rancidity).

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