Articulate, passionate and humorous, Dr. Holly Lucille breaks down the myths and misconceptions about health and health related topics.

Omega What? Making Sense of Fatty Acids

From the Show: Mindful Medicine
Summary: Essential fatty acids are necessary in order for you to maintain a healthy life.
Air Date: 3/11/15
Duration: 10
Host: Holly Lucille, ND, RN
Omega What? Making Sense of Fatty Acids
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It can be difficult to start and maintain a healthy diet, as the standard American diet today consists of refined sugars and carbohydrates and fatty foods with little nutritional benefit. For optimal health, you need to carefully balance the right amount of fat and carbohydrates.

Why Your Body Needs Fat

Fat is one of Dr. Holly Lucille’s favorite food groups, and she cites fried zucchini and ranch dressing as some of her all-time favorite choices. Eating fatty foods can lead to unwanted weight gain and an unhealthy body though, right? Actually, your body needs some degree of fat in its system… just from the right sources. A cheeseburger might be extremely delicious, but it’s full of empty fats.

Americans have no problem including fat in their diets; some have fat comprise as much as 55 percent of their daily calories. Ideally, your fat intake should take up no more than 20-25 percent of your daily calories and come from the right kinds of fat. The type and quality of fat consumed is crucial, because it later becomes a major part of your cell walls.

Stress, exhaustion and illness can lead to adrenal fatigue, which causes your body to crave fats and oils.

Separating Good from Bad

There are two kinds of polyunsaturated fats: essential, and nonessential. Your body naturally creates nonessential fats, whereas essential fats are not made by the body and must be consumed to maintain adequate good health. Unfortunately, most Americans consume far fewer essential fatty acids than they need. Not having enough essential fats in your diet can lead to myriad health problems.

Essential fatty acids come in two types: omega-3 (alpha linolenic), and omega-6 (alpha linoleic). Omega-3 foods typically come from colder, northern climates. As Dr. Lucille points out, perhaps the best example of a foods high in omega-3 content are salmon and sardines. Other foods that contain omega-3 include legumes, soybeans, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and dark green plants.

Omega-6 foods include sesame, sunflowers, and corn. Both groups are important to your health, and “improper balance fosters the development of many conditions, such as heart disease, circulatory issues, arthritis, and even cancer,” says Dr. Lucille. Toxicity from ingesting too much of one type of fatty acid over another is a real danger. Omega-3 toxicity tends to present with painful joints and foggy thinking. On the other hand, omega-6 toxicity can cause inflammation and general pains.

Improving Fatty Intake

Dr. Lucille has several tips for maximizing your fatty acid intake:

  • Keep oils in the fridge or freezer.
  • Eat cold-water ocean fish for omega-3, but avoid those high in mercury such as tuna, swordfish and mackerel.
  • Eat fresh seeds and nuts. Avoid peanuts, though, as they are not a great source of oils.
  • Mix one tablespoon of flaxseed oil with one tablespoon of sunflower oil to ensure you receive even amounts of each fatty acid type.
  • Avoid eating deep-fried foods whenever possible.
  • Avoid hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, and read food labels carefully.
  • Use fresh, raw, cold pressed and unrefined oils. Buy organic oils stored in lightproof containers.

In the accompanying audio segment, Dr. Holly discusses the different omega acids and oils and how they benefit your health.

Alonso is a long-time health and wellness advocate who loves to write about it. His writing spans the scope of blogs, educational magazines, and books, both on and offline.