Are You Eating The Right Types of Fat?
TYPES OF FAT
Omega 6 and Omega 3– essential fatty acids
Researchers estimate our ancestors ate close to a 1-1 Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio. On average we eat closer to a 25 to 1 ratio. Reducing Omega 6 intake while seeking sources rich in Omega 3 is shown to improve cognitive function and decrease risk of obesity and neurodegenerative diseases.
Decreasing Omega 6 can be done by avoiding industrial seed oils commonly used in restaurants, baked goods, fried foods, and prepared grocery items like salad dressings.
The Science on Omega-3 (EPA + DHA) Supplementation and Reducing Omega 6 consumption
If you do not like fish or aren’t eating it on a regular basis there may be a case for supplementing with fish oil. Talk with your doctor before supplementing.
One study found, taking a daily omega 3 supplement of 1320 milligrams EPA and 880 milligrams DHA (for 26 weeks) increased executive function in the brain by 26% over the placebo group. Furthermore, the omega 3 supplement group had an increase in gray and white matter in the brain which points to a healthy, optimally functioning brain – creating faster, more efficient pathways and connections for data.
Children with lower intakes of omega-6 show better executive functioning than children with high intakes of omega-6.
Attention has been shown to improve in children with ADHD with Omega-3 supplementation.
For whole food sources of Omega-3, eat wild salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, pasture raised eggs, and grass-fed beef. If these aren’t a part of your regular diet consider consulting with a doctor and adding in a fish, krill, or algae oil to meet your Omega-3 needs.
ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is another form of Omega-3 that comes in the form of nuts and seeds. I like to add a tablespoon of chia or flax to my smoothie or add some walnuts on top of a salad or in a pesto sauce.
Protects the brain and helps support faster neurotransmission.
Sources rich in monounsaturated fat include avocados, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, salmon, grass-fed beef, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.
Despite the bad reputation saturated fat normally gets, you’d be hard pressed to find any compelling evidence to suggest that saturated fat is bad for us. They are a part of pretty much every fat naturally occurring in the wild. Come to think of it, I haven’t found a natural fat that doesn’t contain saturated fat.
If your lipid levels are high or you are an ApoE4 gene carrier you may want to rely more on monounsaturated fats and eat smaller portions of saturated fats. Talk to your Functional Medicine Doctor if this is the case.
Foods rich in saturated fat include: full-fat dairy, grass-fed beef, chicken, pork, coconut, olives, avocado, almonds and EVOO
You may have noticed that most healthy fats contain a combo of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fat. And that’s a good thing! We need all three. Here’s my go-to list of healthy fats and a few fun facts.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) – choose EVOO’s with a grassy, peppery taste instead of a greasy and bland taste. Strong tasting (spicy even) EVOO is a sign of higher oleocanthal content – which means more anti-inflammatory and better for your brain and body!
Oleocanthal is a phenol in EVOO that has potent, anti-inflammatory properties similar to the inflammation reducing effects of IB profen. EVOO consumption is also correlated to lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and decreased buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain. EVOO is also a great source of Vitamin E which is anti-aging for fatty organs such as your brain.
Studies have shown that EVOO has the power to block an enzyme called fatty acid synthase which creates fat in the body, so it could potentially even help you lose fat. EVOO is also rich in monounsaturated fat, which can also aid in weight loss, while also protecting the health of your blood vessels and liver.
Nuts/seeds – choose organic and store in the fridge as they are prone to mold.
Nuts and seeds can be easy to overconsume which is why I generally don’t use them as a snack but more often to complete a meal as a salad topping or a tablespoon or 2 in my smoothie.
Coconut (oil, MCT Oil, butter, milk, cream, flakes, flour)
Dark Chocolate and Cacao/Cacao Nibs
I like 80% or higher dark chocolate. The higher the better for me, because its less sugary and more satisfying to eat less of. When buying your chocolate bar should only have three ingredients (cocao powder, cocao butter, and a sweetener, sometimes vanilla). Avoid Dutch processing/alkali and emulsifiers.
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, oysters and sardines
Avocado + Avocado Oil
Grass-fed butter + full fat grass-fed dairy in moderation (dairy is rich in fat soluble vitamins so if you consume dairy make sure its full fat so you’re absorbing those vitamins!)
Grass-fed Animals have a better omega 6 to omega 3 ratios than that of conventional, grain-fed animals.
Eggs with yolk!
FATS TO AVOID
Industrial Seed/Vegetable Oils: Canola oil (or Rapeseed Oil), Sunflower oil, Safflower oil, Cottonseed oil, Grape seed oil, Corn oil, Peanut, Soybean oil, Vegetable oil
The chemical processing of these oils causes oxidation making them highly inflammatory to the body. The heating, deodorizing and bleaching make them more shelf stable and great for big food companies, but not so great for our bodies. Furthermore, these oils are high in Omega 6, making it hard to achieve an optimal Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio.
These oils are commonly found in packaged foods like chips, crackers, desserts, breads, salad dressings, fast food and more.
Eliminate Trans Fats – usually listed as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” on an ingredient label. There are small amounts of trans fats in animal products but this is negligible.
Consumption of trans fats is known to promote inflammation in the body, and has been linked to insulin resistance, heart disease, overall brain shrinkage, Alzheimer’s disease, and overall increased risk of death (by any kind) by 34%. Scary!!!
Good News! Singapore has followed the lead of other countries and has announced that they will be banning partially hydrogenated trans fats: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/moh-to-ban-partially-hydrogenated-oils-7-things-to-know-about-trans-fat
It’s scary to think you could be making a “healthy” choice by buying a store-made pesto or salad dressing, but then its made with canola oil or regular olive oil instead of EVOO or perhaps a store bought hummus made with sunflower oil. Unfortunately these oils are way cheaper and more shelf stable so most packaged foods contain them. Practice reading ingredient labels, and when in doubt, make dressings and fat sauces at home. Perhaps try my favorite pesto sauce or spicy, ginger peanut sauce.
You’re likely familiar with smoke points of different oils – which is the heat at which an oil begins to smoke and oxidize. We don’t want this. Oxidation results in harmful free radicals that cause inflammation in the body. To avoid oxidizing oils cook at lower heats or choose oils with higher smoke point when appropriate. Also store your oils in a dark place with the lid screwed on tight to avoid oxidation.
HEALTHY COOKING FATS
++ temperatures they can heat to before oxidation occurs:
Coconut Oil – 365F/185C
Ghee – 480F/248C
Grass-Fed Butter – 350F/176C
Avocado Oil – 520F/271C
Algae Oil – 480F/248C
EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) – 350F/176C
Refined Olive Oil – 425F/218C
Almond Oil, Walnut Oil, Flaxseed Oil should never be heated and instead used as a finishing oil or salad dressing.
Hope this was helpful! xx Katie