That sounds odd, right? For as long as any of us can remember we have been told that fats are bad for us and should be reduced or avoided at all costs. But there are a host of recent studies that indicate that we have been traveling the wrong road when it comes to avoiding fats. In fact, fats are good for us and are a necessary part of a healthy diet. I’m not advocating that you binge on red meat and butter, but the truth is that our bodies need good fat in order to function properly.
Two studies that I think you might find interesting:
A 2012 Mayo Clinic study found that those people whose diets were highest in healthy fats were 42% less likely to have cognitive impairments that are the precursor to Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, the study showed that those who had the highest consumption of healthy fat sources like chicken, fish and meat actually had reduced their risk level by 21 percent!
In 2007 the journal Neurology published a study that showed that regularly consuming healthy fish contributes to both heart and brain health. In fact, those who ate fish daily reduced their risk of developing the cognitive impairments that often are precursors for Alzheimer’s by 44% while those who never ate fish actually increased their risk by 37 percent! This positive effect is attributed to the high levels of Omega-3 fats found in fish.
Unfortunately, many of us fail to consume enough Omega-3s and instead consume too many Omega-6 fats. Although we need both Omega-3 and Omega-6, it has become clear that most of us are consuming way too much of the Omega-6 fats. Many scientists believe that a major reason for the high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and some types of cancer is due to the significant imbalance between our intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
These Omega-6 fats are most commonly found in the vegetable oils that we use in preparing and cooking meals. The healthier Omega-3 fats are found in flaxseed oil, walnut oil, and marine plankton and fatty fish.
Our ancestors evolved while eating a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of about 1:1. A huge change in our dietary habits over the last few centuries has changed this ratio to about to 20:1 and this out of balance situation is what leads to many of our modern day health problems.
Which leads me to my main tip for today: Check your pantry for the oils that you are using and get rid of those that contain lots of Omega-6 and stock up instead on those with higher Omega-3s. Most oils have both Omega-6 and Omega-3. So the trick is to use those with the best (lowest) Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios. Below is a partial list of the most common oils and the amount of Omega-6 and Omega-3 content in each. (Source: Grain Brain)
Oil Omega-6 Content Omega-3 Content
Canola 20% 9%
Corn 54% 0%
Cottonseed 50% 0%
Fish 0% 100%
Flaxseed 14% 57%
Peanut 32% 0%
Safflower 75% 0%
Sesame 42% 0%
Soybean 51% 7%
Sunflower 65% 0%
Walnut 52% 10%
A popular oil not included on this list is coconut oil. It is not an Omega-3, but is considered one of the better oils. I use it for cooking instead of the other oils. Not included on the above list is the ever-popular olive oil, which has a 13:1 Omegas ratio. While this oil has a worse ratio than flaxseed oil, it is often used in cooking because it has a higher smoke point (420 degrees) than flaxseed oil which has a much lower smoke point (225 degrees). Lastly, the also popular grape seed oil is not on the above list, you probably want to avoid it due to its high ratio of 676:1.
There is so much more info out there on the Omega-6/Omega-3 balance. If you are interested check out this article about Omega-3s or what the health author Cris Kresser has to say about Omega-6s making us sick.
When talking about fats the issue of cholesterol often comes up. Check out my post on Friday where I provide some interesting information about cholesterol that will shock you!
To your health!
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