Omega What Now? Making Sense of Fatty Acids and Oils
January 28, 2015 | Published by Dr. James L. Wilson
Most North Americans consume too much fat in their daily diet (40-55% of daily calories). Despite this huge over-consumption of fat, most North Americans are sadly lacking in the essential fatty acids that promote good skin quality, reduce inflammation and slow down the aging of body tissues.
Ideally, fats should not make up more than 20-25% of your total daily calories. It is very important that they are the right kind of fats. The type and quality of fats in your diet is critical because they become a major part of your cell walls, nerves and the membranes of your body.
People with adrenal fatigue often crave fats and oils, partly because foods high in fats make them feel better for longer than low fat or sweet foods. Some fats also contain cholesterol needed by the adrenal glands to make the steroid hormones essential for adrenal activity throughout your body.
Essential Fatty Acids
Polyunsaturated fatty acids come in 2 categories: non-essential and essential. Non- essential fatty acids are those the body can make by itself from other fats and oils. Essential fatty acids are the fatty acids we need to get from food because we cannot make them ourselves. Essential fatty acids are very important for us to consume in adequate amounts in order to maintain good health. Lack of intake or imbalances in the essential fatty acids has been shown to lead to a myriad of health problems.
There are 2 types of essential fatty acids: alpha-linolenic and linoleic. Alpha-linolenic acid belongs to the Omega 3 group of fatty acids and linoleic acid belongs to the Omega 6 group. Omega 3 fatty acids have more double bonds (3 to 6) and come from colder, more northern climates. Examples of foods high in omega 3 fatty acids are salmon, sardines, soybeans, walnuts, flax seeds, and in smaller amounts, dark green plants.
Omega 6 fatty acids have fewer double bonds (2-4) and come from more southern plants such as sesame, sunflower, safflower, and corn. Both groups of essential fatty acids are extremely important to your health.
An improper balance of essential fatty acids fosters the development of many conditions such as heart and circulatory disorders, arthritis and cancer. Because these oils contain a high number of double bonds, they are relatively unstable, so it’s best to buy them in small quantities and keep them in the freezer.
The right balance of essential fatty acid intake contributes significantly to adrenal recovery, as well as to your general health. For optimum health the best balance of essential fatty acids is a 4:1 ratio of omega 6 oils to omega 3 oils.
One easy way to get the right amount of essential fatty acids in this ratio is to mix 1 tablespoon of flax seed oil with 1 tablespoon of sunflower or safflower oil daily. Add this mixture, uncooked, to food just before you eat it (as salad dressing, mixed in with vegetables, sauces or grain, added to smoothies, etc.).
Here are some simple rules to make certain your essential fatty acid intake is adequate:
- Mix flax seed oil with safflower or sunflower seed oils in a 1:1 ratio
- Consume 1-2 tablespoon (uncooked) per day, sprinkled on meats, vegetables, grains, etc.
- Use only fresh, raw, cold pressed, unrefined oils
- Buy organically grown oils stored in lightproof containers, when possible
- Keep all oils in the refrigerator or freezer
- Squeeze one capsule of 400 IU vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) into every ¼ cup oil
- Eat cold water ocean fish as a source of omega 3 oils (avoid tuna, mackerel and swordfish as they tend to be high in mercury)
- Eat fresh seeds and nuts (except peanuts) as a source of omega 6 oils
- Avoid all hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (read labels on food)
- Use lower temperature cooking methods
- Avoid all deep fried foods
- Avoid restaurant foods cooked with oils
Even if you eat the right quantity of essential fatty acids in the right ratio, their value can be negated if you also consume poor quality or hydrogenated oils. When you eat foods containing hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats they disrupt normal fatty acid metabolism in your body. They use up the enzymes that normally would be utilized by the good oils, and prevent your body from creating quality cell membranes and nerve sheaths. As a result, your body cannot transform essential fatty acids into the materials it needs to make various cell wall components and other structures.
Any time you see hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils or fats, put that food back on the shelf and do not buy it. Alternatives are available in health food stores and in the grocery store, if you look carefully. Even though you may crave these familiar foods, eating them seriously interferes with your ability to heal.
About the Author: With a researcher’s grasp of science and a clinician’s understanding of its human impact, Dr. Wilson has helped many physicians understand the physiology behind and treatment of various health conditions. He is acknowledged as an expert on alternative medicine, especially in the area of stress and adrenal function. Dr. Wilson is a respected and sought after lecturer and consultant in the medical and alternative healthcare communities in the United States and abroad. His popular book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome has been received enthusiastically by physicians and the public alike, and has sold over 400,000 copies. Dr. Wilson resides with his family in sunny Tucson, Arizona.
Categorised in: General Health