Home Stay Informed The Good Essential Fats (Fatty Acids)

 

The many roles of fats

Fats are necessary for the absorption of vitamins A. D. E & K. They also cushion, insulate and protect vital organs, store energy, facilitate proper brain function, ward off feelings of hunger (by slowing down the absorption of food), serve as building blocks for cell membranes, hormones & similar substances, and help to regulate complicated body systems (including inflammation).

Confusion about fats

Are you confused about different types of fat and what to do about them? If so, you're not alone. Some of the confusion may come from a more recent emphasis on essential fatty acids (EFAs).The terms “Fats” and “Fatty Acids” are used interchangeably even though fats technically contain both fatty acids and glycerol.

Forms and types of fats

When cholesterol is the issue, the emphasis is on the form of the fat—whether it is solid (saturated/less healthy) or liquid (unsaturated/more healthy) at room temperature. Within those two categories it is generally agreed that monounsaturated fats are healthier than polyunsaturated fats and naturally saturated fats are healthier than artificial trans fats.

Healthy, natural trans fats can be found in certain animal products like meat or milk. CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is an example of a healthy, natural trans fat. Grass fed animals produce significantly more CLA than animals that are fed corn. Preliminary research suggests that CLA may reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

The latest recommendations from the American Heart Association regarding fats are as follows (for healthy Americans over the age of 2):

  • Limit total fat intake to less than 25–35 percent of your total calories each day
  • Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of total daily calories
  • Limit trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total daily calories (Buffaloberries™ recommends the total elimination of all artificial trans fats).
  • Remaining fat should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, fish and vegetable oil

When inflammation is the issue, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) take center stage. EFAs are fats the body cannot make.

There are only two EFAs—Omega 3 and Omega 6—and experts agree that the typical Western diet has wrecked havoc with the balance of these two fats. No one knows for sure what the perfect ratio of these two fats should be, but most experts agree that is should not be higher than 3:1 (3 times more Omega 6 than Omega 3). Estimates place current ratios in the Western diet at 15:1 or higher.

Among other things, Omega 6 fats trigger inflammation processes and Omega 3 fats help to stop them when they are no longer needed. An inbalance of Omega 6:3 can result in chronic inflammation that in turn can lead to chronic disease.

Symptoms of Omega-3 deficiency include:

  • Depression
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Fatigue
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Joint pain

Salmon and other types of fatty fish are excellent food sources of Omega 3. Plant sources like flaxseed) provide Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) that must be transformed into Eicosatretaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexanenoic acid (DHA)—a process that is not very efficient in humans. Fish and grass fed meat sources of Omega 3 provide EPA and DHA directly.

Most experts now recommend fish oil supplements to obtain adequate levels of EPA and DHA. The FDA considers 3 grams of total EPA/DHA daily to be safe with no increased risk of bleeding involved.

You can improve your balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats by choosing olive and organic canola oils over corn, soybean & safflower oils, by eating naturally-fed fatty fish and by choosing grass-fed meats and vegetarian-fed, Omega-3 enriched eggs over corn fed meats and non-vegetarian fed eggs.

Buying and storing oils

Ironically, the fats you need the most have the same characteristics as free radicals—they are unstable compounds and they have a tendency to spoil easily when exposed to oxygen.

Therefore, it's best to buy olive oil or organic canola oil in quantities that will be used in a few weeks or refrigerate to store.

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