Not all oils are created equal. That’s the best piece of advice you can take with you when shopping for healthy oils/fats to incorporate into your diet. But hold on a minute…why would anyone want to incorporate more fats into their diet? Well, we know that the food we eat affects our body in different ways and healthy fats are actually brain food, affecting your brain’s general tone, level of energy, and how it handles tasks. Your brain is a hungry organ and will begin to falter without its daily intake of healthy fats. Intellectual performance requires these specific fats, primarily omega-3 fatty acids, as they are crucial components of the outer membrane of brain cells. Flaxseed oil is the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids (and also contains omega-6 fatty acids), is a polyunsaturated oil, and is important for normal growth and development. Olive oil’s high content of monounsaturated fatty acids protects against heart disease by controlling your “lousy”, or LDL, cholesterol. And, coconut oil, another healthy fat, is rich in medium-chain, easy-to-digest, triglycerides that are metabolized very quickly by the liver, making more energy available to the body while decreasing fat storage. When carbohydrates are not available for energy, the body turns to fats, oxidizing them in the cells to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP); the energy currency of the cell. So you can begin to see why incorporating healthy oils and fats into your diet is important to your overall good health. If you’re not convinced by now that certain fats are healthy and necessary to the body, read on!
A QUICK PRIMER ON TYPES OF FATS
There are a few different types of fatty acids; saturated, unsaturated, trans fats, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated (which are both types of unsaturated fats). We’re getting into a bit of chemistry here, so hang on; it’s not as in depth as high school was.
Fats have three hydrocarbon “tails” called fatty acids.
Saturated and Unsaturated Fats
Think of the term “saturated” as meaning “full”. Saturated, in this context, refers to the number of hydrogen bonds in the fatty acid molecule. A fat, or triglyceride, having the maximum number of hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atoms is considered saturated; all the bonds are full. Saturated fats come mainly from animal sources and tend to be solid at room temperature.
Unsaturated fats are fats which are not fully saturated with hydrogen. Each molecule contains at least one double bond between two carbon atoms because these carbon atoms have not combined with all the hydrogen atoms they could carry. Unsaturated fats tend to become rancid more quickly than saturated fats, have a lower melting point than saturated fats, and are usually liquid at room temperature.
Trans fat is a specific type of fat formed when liquid fats are made into solid fats by the addition of hydrogen atoms, in a process known as hydrogenation. Small amounts of trans fats are found naturally in certain animal-based foods. Trans fat was originally added to foods to increase the shelf life. Trans fat comes from the fact that the hydrogen atoms in the double bond are actually across from each other (see below). This comes from the Latin meaning of trans, which is “across”.
Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated Fats
If saturated fats are saturated with hydrogen atoms and unsaturated fats are not, monounsaturated fats have one double bond (mono) in the fatty acid “tail”, polyunsaturated fats have at least two double bonds (poly) in the tail. Both mono and poly are considered unsaturated as well.
Monounsaturated fats are generally liquid at room temperature but can turn solid in the refrigerator. Both mono and poly are digested in the small intestine, and help lower blood cholesterol levels, reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke and provide protection to the body’s cells. The most common sources of mono and polyunsaturated fats are olive oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil. Fish rich in polyunsaturated fats include herring, mackerel, salmon and tuna.
Coconut oil is increasing in popularity as more is understood about its unique properties, specifically the fact that it is comprised of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s) which are ultimately more absorbable by the body and are less likely to be stored as fat. You can use coconut oil for frying or in salad dressing. You can even purchase the oil in a “tasteless” version if you dislike the taste of coconut.
Fat molecules are structured in “chains”. (Omega 3 gets its name from the special bond found at the third position from the end of its chain.) As the name implies, medium chain triglycerides are shorter than long-chain triglycerides. This makes them easier to digest, requiring lower amounts of enzymes and bile acids for intestinal absorption than the long chain variety. As an added bonus, MCT’s are metabolized very quickly in the liver, making more energy readily available to the body while decreasing fat storage.
MCT oils have been used to help regulate blood sugar levels and treat diseases such as cystic fibrosis, obesity and fat malabsorbtion. MCT’s are less calorically dense, having almost one full calorie less per gram than other regular fat molecules. It has been found that MCT oil burns three times more calories for six hours after a meal than other fats. Bodybuilders and exercise enthusiasts use it for its fat burning and energy-sustaining powers, as well as its ability to retain lean muscle mass.
There are numerous, promising ongoing studies beginning to reveal the benefits of MCT oil in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients; one in particular being conducted by Dr. Mary Newport who, so far, reports amazing successes. In her case study, published July 22, 2008 Dr. Newport explains, “Our cells can use ketone bodies as an alternative fuel when glucose is not available. Brain cells…normally require glucose, but they can also use ketone bodies. …In Alzheimer’s disease, the neurons in certain areas of the brain are unable to take in glucose… If these cells had access to ketone bodies, they could potentially stay alive and continue to function. …MCT oil is digested differently by the body than other fats. Instead of storing all MCT’s as fat, the liver converts them directly to ketone bodies which are then available for use…”
Olive oil has quite a rich and illustrious history. The ancient Israelites used olive oil in their consecrated lamps. The Egyptians, to whom the olive came from Cretan traders around 1,700 BC, nevertheless called it a gift from their goddess Isis; Tutankhamen wore a garland of olive branches. By 1,000 BC, the Greeks were crediting their goddess Athena for the golden oil that, to them, symbolized holiness and courage.
Today we know that regular olive oil consumption produces a significant lowering of arterial blood pressure. Olive oil also blocks the tendency of the blood to clot and therefore protects against strokes. It may also play a protective role against gall bladder disease because it activates bile flow and raises HDL cholesterol. Olive oil may contains antioxidant substances that fight against the cellular damage and genetic “errors” that cause cancers and the effects of aging.
Olive oil’s high content of monounsaturated fatty acids protects against heart disease by controlling LDL cholesterol levels while Raising HDL or “good” cholesterol levels. In fact, olive oil has the highest amount of monounsaturated fatty acids of all naturally produced oils. The protective function of olive oil, which is well tolerated by the stomach, may have a beneficial effect on ulcers. Other research suggests that some compounds in olive oil may help prevent colon cancer. 1
Extra virgin olive oil should be used primarily for salad dressing, or in uncooked dishes such as antipasto, as it does not tolerate heat very well and heat destroys the uniqueness of the flavour. Regular olive oil can be used for cooking. Store olive oil in a cool, dark place. Better olive oils are packaged in darker bottles. Once combined with other foods, such as garlic, olive oil should be refrigerated and used within 5-7 days.
Walnuts and their oils are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Most of the research on the health benefits of walnuts has focused on consumption of the nut itself, although interest in walnut oil has grown over the last decade. The health benefits of walnuts and walnut oil are similar if the oil is unrefined, fresh (6 month shelf life), and uncooked. However, the serving size of walnut oil is less than the amount of walnuts needed to get the same nutritional benefit. For example:
- A 35 gram serving of walnut oil provides the same nutritional benefits as 50 grams of walnuts.
- Walnuts are rich in phytonutrients and are an excellent source of selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium.
- Walnuts and/or walnut oil provide hefty levels of Vitamins B-1, B-2, and B-3, coupled with Vitamin-E and niacin.
The health benefits of walnuts were first identified in 1937 when researchers discovered that they were a significant source of vitamin C. It has now been well established that eating walnuts on a regular basis has definite health benefit, the most significant of which being a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease. Consumption of walnuts or walnut oil has been shown to lower total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol) and the ratio of LDL to HDL (good cholesterol). Furthermore, regular walnut oil consumption reduced triglyceride levels 19 to 33% in a 45-day study.
In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration stated, “Supportive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces per day of walnuts, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.”
The cardio-protective benefits of walnut oil are primarily due to the high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid that ultimately is converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and omega-3 fatty acids that are easily utilized by the body. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that one tablespoon of walnut oil provides 1.4 grams of ALA. Men require 1.6 grams and women 1.1 grams of ALA per day. Walnuts differ from other nuts because they primarily consist of omega-3 fatty acids whereas monounsaturated fats are found in higher levels in most other types of nuts. For more information on omega-3’s, CLICK HERE.
Walnuts and walnut oil are also rich in antioxidants and are one of the best antioxidant sources among the tree nuts. Antioxidants are substances that counter the effects of free radicals, which are substances that cause cell damage and accelerate the aging process. Walnuts are especially dense in the antioxidant ellagic acid, which aids in controlling the replication of malignant tumors and has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antiseptic properties. Gallic acid and malic acid, both antioxidants, are present in smaller quantities and have similar protective effects. 2
Walnut oil is best purchased as “cold pressed” and should not be heated. Use it in salads, homemade granola bars and smoothies.
HEALTHY FATS FROM FOODS – Salmon, Avocado, and Flaxseed
With so much focus on the amazing omega-3 benefits of salmon, other unique health benefits from salmon may have been inadvertently overlooked. One fascinating new area of health benefits involves the protein and amino acid content of salmon. Several recent studies have found that salmon contains small bioactive protein molecules (called bioactive peptides) that may provide special support for joint cartilage, insulin effectiveness, and control of inflammation in the digestive tract. One particular bioactive peptide called calcitonin (sCT) has been of special interest in these studies. The reason is because a human form of calcitonin is made by the thyroid gland, and we know that it is a key hormone for helping regulate and stabilize the balance of collagen and minerals in the bone and surrounding tissue. As researchers learn more and more about salmon peptides – – including sCT – – we expect to see more and more potential health benefits discovered related to inflammation, including inflammation of the joints. 3
Once four-ounce piece of salmon contains over 264% of your daily RDA of vitamin D, over 109% of RDA of vitamin B12, almost 62% of your RDA for protein, and only 244 calories.
BAKED HALF SALMON with VEGETABLE-DILL STUFFING
Makes 4 or more servings.
Half a fresh salmon in one piece (2-3 lbs.), inner membrane, bones, and spine removed, skin on.
1 tbsp olive oil
3 slices whole wheat bread
3 scallions, finely chopped
¼ cup grated carrot
½ sweet red pepper, finely diced
2 tbsp minced fresh dill or 1 tsp dried dill
Pepper to taste
Rinse the fish inside and out. Slice into thin rounds and seed the lemon. Grease a baking dish with the olive oil. Cut 3 long pieces of kitchen twine and lay them crossways on the dish. Put the fish, skin side down, open for stuffing, over the twine.
Crumb the bread in a food processor. Mix together all the stuffing ingredients. Spoon the stuffing into the cavity; it will be quite full. Lift the ends of the twine and tie and knot them to close the fish completely over the stuffing. Carefully slide the fish over so that the cut side is underneath.
Lay the lemon slices over the top of the salmon, tucking them under the string as necessary. The salmon can be prepared to this point a few hours early; chill in the coldest part of the refrigerator until ready to cook.
Bake the fish in a preheated 350F oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until cooked through. Gently remove the twine. Let the fish stand for a few minutes before slicing. The salmon can be kept warm for 15 to 20 minutes.
From Superfoods, by Dolores Riccio
We tend to think about carotenoids as most concentrated in bright orange or red vegetables like carrots or tomatoes. While these vegetables are fantastic sources of carotenoids, avocado—despite its dark green skin and largely greenish inner pulp—is now known to contain a spectacular array of carotenoids. Researchers believe that avocado’s amazing carotenoid diversity is a key factor in the anti-inflammatory properties of this vegetable. Research has shown that the greatest concentration of carotenoids in avocado occurs in the dark green flesh that lies just beneath the skin.
While generally considered a “fatty” vegetable, over half the total fat in avocado is provided in the form of oleic acid (omega-9) which helps our digestive tract form transport molecules for fat that can increase our absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like carotenoids. As a monounsaturated fatty acid, it has also been shown to help lower our risk of heart disease.
Consider adding avocado to salads, and not only on account of taste! Recent research has shown that absorption of two key carotenoid antioxidants—lycopene and beta-carotene—increases significantly when fresh avocado (or avocado oil) is added to an otherwise avocado-free salad. One cup of fresh avocado (150 grams) added to a salad of romaine lettuce, spinach, and carrots increased absorption of carotenoids from this salad between 200-400%. This research result makes perfect sense because carotenoids are fat-soluble and would be provided with the fat they need for absorption from the addition of avocado. Avocado oil added to a salad accomplished this same result. Interestingly, both avocado oil and fresh avocado added to salsa increased carotenoid absorption from the salsa as well. 4
Flaxseeds have an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids in them and are rich in beneficial fiber. In fact, two tablespoons of flaxseeds contain almost 133% of our RDA of omega-3 fats. Flaxseeds can be consumed whole, ground and as oil. Omega-3 fats are used by the body to produce Series 1 and 3 prostaglandins, which are anti-inflammatory hormone-like molecules, in contrast to the Series 2 prostaglandins, which are pro-inflammatory molecules produced from other fats, notably the omega-6 fats, which are found in high amounts in animal fats, margarine, and many vegetable oils including corn, safflower, sunflower, palm, and peanut oils. Omega-3 fats can help reduce the inflammation that is a significant factor in conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, and osteoporosis. The omega-3 fat found in flaxseed promotes bone health and reduces bone loss, reduces the formation of blood clots which, in turn, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. Omega-3 fats are also needed to produce flexible cell membranes which allow nutrients in while promoting the elimination of wastes. In the colon, omega-3 fats help protect colon cells from cancer-causing toxins and free radicals, leading to a reduced risk for colon cancer. Individuals whose diets provide greater amounts of omega-3 have lower blood pressure and significantly reduced total cholesterol. In fact, researchers found that omega-3s from nuts, seeds and vegetables oils had just as much impact on blood pressure as omega-3 from fish.
And the good news for menopausal women seems to be that flaxseed reduces hot flashes by almost sixty percent. 5
Nutter’s Can Suggest…
EACH SOFTGEL CAPSULE CONTAINS:
Cold pressed unrefined Flaxseed oil*
(Linum usitatissimum) . . . 753 mg
(contains 60% Omega 3 as Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA))
Evening Primrose seed oil*
(Oenothera biennis) . . . 10 mg
Sunflower oil*, sesame oil*, coconut oil*, lecithin*, rice bran oil*, oat bran oil*, tocopherols, tocotrienols, glycerin, water, modified food starch, carrageenan, sodium carbonate and caramel.
* Organic, this product is non-GMO.
1. Advance for Nurse-Practitioners and Physician-Assistantsa
2. What’s Cooking America
3. Whole Foods
4. Whole Foods
5. Whole Foods
Superfoods, by Dolores Riccio
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.