The fat wars
Come one, come all, to the battles of the century! (or at least since the past 50 years) This is the war to end all wars, in the world of nutrition, and we’re merely in the ides; the belligerents? Fats. The ideologies? Many. The science? Confusing. Guiding you through to what you should think, er, what’s the truth, I’m Kiko Rex; strap in, fatty.
Battle of Social Proof
The very first thing that I feel I must address is the status quo opinion and our abilities to be open-minded and review science that is very much solidly-based while at once being directly at odds with the established understandings. This isn’t by any means an opening to some ridiculous finger-pointing conspiracy, but it is still an opening to something (no dirty jokes, please); to understand any situation, one must view it from all angles with the evidence presented, questioning established values where they’re seen to be fraught with potential error. This is some serious Thomas Jefferson-ness up in this house right here; woo! Anyhow; if you’re anything like me, you probably have or have had the general understanding of fats and cholesterol that has been presented to us since we’ve been alive in this, THE MODERN AGE. That is, that both of these items are bad. During the 80s and 90s, in particular, fats were seen as the ultimate bad guy, and were recommended to be stricken from the diet as much as practically possible. The food industry followed suit, and soon we had plenty of low-fat, high carbohydrate things to munch on, but coronary heart disease and cardiovascular diseases, as well as incidences of type-2 diabetes and obesity, went up instead of down. These days, the understanding that fat is not necessarily bad is getting to be pretty universal, but there are still a lot of errors in the rationale of what fats are “bad” and “good” and the overall social view on cholesterol is still in the stone age as much as the view on fats was in the 80s, and I’m here with a mountain of SCIENCE (echoes)….to show, not tell, you why. (Slight Rush fan, here)
Battle of the bulge
As I mentioned, the understanding that “fat bad, carbohydrates good” is basically by the wayside these days, but I’ll give it a cursory work-over. Replacing fat energy with carbohydrate energy for better heart health has dismal efficacy, with decreases in HDL (“good”) cholesterol and increases in fasting triglycerides, both independent factors which are thought to increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Add to that the metabolic syndrome problems (obesity) infusing oneself with refined carbohydrates instead of natural fats causes, and it’s obvious I’m wasting my time typing this section.
The ANIMAL of company B
Oftentimes, in the “awesome” 80s, the “odelay” 90s (I dunno.) and even now, saturated fat has been seen to be the bad guy in the world of fat. There are a number of epidemiological studies which conclude that axing saturated fats and/or replacing them with polyunsaturated fats or equivalent energy from carbohydrate reduces the risk of heart disease and coronary events, but many esteemed critics have pointed out the flaws in getting to that over-simplified conclusion; especially in regards to meta-analysis, where there is a lot of “correction” i.e. speculation, albeit based in sound math, for confounding factors. Even in certain epidemiological studies, it’s shown that a majority of studies point to saturated fat being insignificant in its effects on coronary heart disease (a ratio of 3:1 pro-insignificance in cited study). Saturated fat may be “asking for it” in regards to its status as a heart disease-causer, not by wearing skimpy clothes, but rather by its practices such as leaving LDL (“bad” cholesterol) remnants in its wake after being metabolized in the liver (as opposed with polyunsaturated acids, which often metabolize as ketone bodies), but many of these supposed “bads” created by saturated fats have a silver lining. In the case of raising LDL, it should be noted that saturated fats also raise HDL (“good” cholesterol). Increasing total cholesterol may still sound bad to you, and I understand. Saturated fat is almost always tied with cholesterol; thus below, in my critique of cholesterol, I tie them together and show how higher isn’t always worse. So please, read on!
The Allied Powers
So, now we come to the much-vaunted “good fats:” The mono- and polyunsaturated variety. Like England and France allowing Germany’s annexation of parts of Czechoslovakia and American oil moguls doing business with Nazi Germany, the “good” is a bit of a hazy line (Everybody loves war analogy, especially when it involves World War 2!). Whereas the practice of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates had little scientific evidence, the theories surrounding replacement with mono- and polyunsaturated fats are supported almost universally in the scientific community. However, there is still a problem with the hypotheses regarding some ill logic and, of course, the food industry. As with anything, the answer is not as clear-cut as it would seem. Simply switching fat types and expecting miraculous health and lack of coronary heart disease would be great; but there are other factors, though still somewhat easy to remember, to consider. Firstly and most urgently, you must know that most vegetable oil sold in America is anything but “heart healthy.” This, of course, does not include all polyunsaturates, but of note: safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed, corn, and canola (which, I know, is a monounsaturate; but stick with me). All polyunsaturates, even the truly good ones I will mention later, are much less molecularly-stable and thus unsuitable for cooking as they all undergo intense breaking down during heat, actually turning rancid (it’s not something one can taste, which is why you don’t see people returning their fries at McDonald’s. Ever eaten really really old peanut butter? It’s hard to tell if it’s rancid). These oils in their heated forms create oxidized LDLs which foster atherosclerosis. Other than that, there’s another highly important thing to consider:
The sea campaign and the balance of power
The long-time nutritional biochemist, researcher, and much-cited and peer-reviewed scientist Dr. William E.M. Lands (Not in his cult or anything; just want to distinguish him from personality cultists like Joseph Mercola and Weston A. Price, who are often referred to in pieces like these around the internet.) points out that the true culprit in crimes of the heart (or on the heart?) isn’t any type of fat, but an immense imbalance of omega fats in the American diet. Continuing the subject left above, the imbalance is omnipresent in all of those typical American oils; that is, an imbalance between omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids. The American diet, due in huge part to these commercial oils being in most every produced foodstuff, is thought to have a ratio of 10:1 omega 6 to omega 3 (by conservative estimates). Lands has demonstrated the differences in ratio of omega 3s and 6s and the incidence of coronary disease between different countries/cultures, and found that the cultures with the least omega 6s in their diets (Greenland Eskimos and the Japanese) have less instances of coronary heart diseases and that the cultures with the most (Whaddya know, USA leads the way by far!) have crippling population percentages of heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Lands notes that most people [i.e. YOU] are completely oblivious to this imbalance, but hey; now you know. What you probably don’t know is what these Greenland Eskimos and elderly Japanese villagers eat that is limiting their omega 6 intake, and causing them to have less heart disease (though I’m sure you can guess). Welp, it’s fish and seafood! Before I get onto that, I would like to note that Lands quiets critics who balk at transnational studies by pointing out that the mean genetic difference within the borders of the United States itself is greater than that between these lands. Also that the Western diet, high in n-6s, creeping into the lives of groups like the Quebec Cree Indians (featured in the above graph) has happened to make the heart disease risk creep up. Therefore, he stipulates, heterogeneity worldwide is a more important trait for preventative measures than genetic variability.
What’s the big prob with omega 6?
Omega 6, in smaller amounts, may not be horrible. In fact, it’s in pretty much every food in some measure. It is one of the diet’s “essential fatty acids,” as humans cannot make it by themselves and thus have to get it from food. It seems to work its best as a brain function-helper and in treating other maladies only in concert with omega 3, and mostly in the form of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in the body. The problem, however, is that in excessive amounts (the United Nations health report suggests that only 2-3% of food energy should come from omega 6s), especially in poor balance with omega 3s, it displaces omega 3s in membrane phosphosolids, actually changes tissues in your body, and metabolizes more often in the form of arachidonic acid (AA) than the more beneficial GLA. Arachidonic acid is the precursor for compounds that cause inflammation and negative immune responses within the body. The problem ain’t just for old fogies, either; upwards of 75% of young American war casualties were found to have signs of atherosclerosis upon autopsy, whereas their Eastern counterparts had little to no such signs. Dr. Lands notes that this has as much to do with the habit of Americans to eat way too much per meal, as well. Other processes which cause heart attacks (for your reference: ischemia, arrhythmia, and thrombosis) are exacerbated by omega 6 eicosanoids, which are signaling molecules oxidized from long-chain fatty acids like omega 6. The omega 6 derivative thromboxane A2 itself causes thrombosis (the clumping of blood inside a blood vessel), in addition to omega 6 worsening said condition. Omega 6s also increase, via arachidonic acid, leukotrines. Leukotrines are eicosanoids which cause inflammations during asthma attacks and flood the body with superfluous histamines, causing allergic reactions all over the body (Sometimes in the form of “innocuous” light rashes like rosacea and eczema). In any case, a lot of “yipes” in regards to omega 6, especially when you again consider the awful ratio of omega 6 to 3 in all of the “heart healthy oils” in everything Americans eat like soybean and cottonseed.
Okay, so that must mean omega 3s are the big heroes. Well, all irony aside, they actually are. They’re almost miraculous in their heart healthiness. Even in doses as small as 5.5g per month, they reduce the risk of a heart attack by 50%. Just a 1.7% increase in blood cell presence of omega 3s reduced the risk by 70%! In contrast with omega 6, omega 3 has ANTI-arrhythmic properties, meaning it’ll stop your heart…from stopping! Omega 3-rich fish oils also lower cholesterol and triglycerides much more effectively than the ubiquitous omega 6-rich vegetable oils like safflower; the omega 3s even lowered triglycerides by a whopping 45% with a 3-4g dose. Omega 3s also reduce endothelial dysfunction, which is a marker for future atherosclerosis. Many of these studies are done on seemingly healthy people, but there are studies that also show that people who already have coronary heart disease benefit greatly with an influx of omega 3s. One would think there has to be a downside to this substance, but longer-term studies have found no ill effects at 3g a day (which, if you read above, is much more than enough). There is then the issue of fish sustainability, which is a pressing one, but again the level of omega 3 needed is so low that it shouldn’t too adversely affect the fish population; especially if people reduce omega 6 intakes while upping their omega 3s, and utilize vegetable sources of omega 3s as well. There has also been talk that fish and seafood consumption results in heightened and dangerous mercury consumption, but our old pal Dr. Lands points out that the selenium in seafood helps to detoxify mercury. Also, properly distilled cod liver oil supplements do a good job of screening it out, to your benefit!
Compulsory STEROL-ization during wartime
Now to the big hot-button ‘ssue (that’s short for “issue”): CHOLESTEROL. Lots of different ideologies about the stuff have been tossed about over the years; “It’s altogether bad,” “Well, some of it’s good.” “Well, the “bad” one isn’t really bad but an offshoot of the “bad” one is.” et cetera et so forth. It’s pretty easy to be ultra-confused. After much studyin’, I’ve come out with a pretty good idea of what’s what. As I said above, blood cholesterol is almost always tied-in with saturated fat. That’s because, as also mentioned above, saturated fats leave trails of LDLs while being transported to tissue that polyunsaturates don’t. Does saturated fat raise cholesterol? As mentioned above, yes, saturated fats have been seen to raise total cholesterol (HDL and LDL) in some cases, mostly with fatty acids with longer molecule chains like stearic acid, but the real questions are: 1) If otherwise there is a good ratio of HDL (good) to LDL (bad) cholesterol, does this increase really matter? and 2) What of short and medium-molecule chain saturated fatty acids, found in substances like coconut oil and shown to not raise blood cholesterol, risk of coronary heart disease, or risk of sudden death? Well, I have another die-hard, non-crazy *cough*Gerson*wheeze* researcher I’d like to introduce you to; his name is Dr. Uffe Ravnskov, and he’s a renowned skeptic and anal analyzer (sounds bad, but in this case it’s good) of many studies regarding cholesterol, especially meta-analyses. He’s very picky about source material in such studies, and has often found contradictory discrepancies and bad logic, picking it apart pretty meticulously. In any case, he’s come up with a whole other ideology that completely dismisses the cholesterol-heart disease idea, but you’d better hold on and open that mind because this is gonna rock you: High cholesterol is good for you.
Giving you a second to get your catcalls and/or gasps out.
I’ll say it once more now, for further dramatic effect: HIGH CHOLESTEROL IS GOOD FOR YOU. Still not a dogma in my heart or anything, but definitely something to think about; especially when you consider the evidence. The American Heart Association itself released a study talking of the importance of cholesterol, even saying that a low total cholesterol count may predispose individuals to hemorrhagic stroke, especially in the presence of hypertension. Two studies, one a follow-up of the other, found that higher total cholesterol resulted in lower infection rates and hospitalization for urinary, venereal, musculo-skeletal, genito-urinary, septicaemia, and bacteraemia infections, as well as bringing down death rates for COPD. Even more surprising is the apparent positive relation triglycerides, which are always paired with cholesterol and dogged for their supposed ill effect on the heart, have on health. Triglyceride-rich lipoproteins have been hypothesized to increase the power of the immune system to stave off disease, though the understanding of this phenomenon is very hazy. Still, all these studies give weight to what Dr. Ravnskov has to say. Ravskov himself contends that the immunological effects of higher cholesterol levels described above result in positives like elderly people living longer, and even added protection against getting crippling immunodeficiency diseases like HIV and AIDS. He points out the innate low cholesterol of children with Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome, a disease which results in malformation of the brain, perpetual sensitivity to infections, and autism. When their cholesterol is heightened through dietary means, however, their infections subside somewhat and aggressive behavior due to autism is curbed. He has also surmised that LDL and triglycerides are not “bad” as is the common perception, as they protect the body against sepsis. He also comes to another immunity-related conclusion related to children, citing a study where even breast-fed children, who are known for having more immune resistance to allergies, had allergy improvements.
The most interesting bit of his studies to me, however, were his observations on people with familial hypercholesterolemia. Familial hypercholesterolemia is a hereditary condition marked by a defect in LDL receptors which results in the cholesterol molecules not being properly transported into cells, if at all. The study of people with familial hypercholesterolemia (man, I’m getting tired of typing that) was the basis for Nobel Prize winners Joseph Goldstein and Michael Brown’s hypothesis that atherosclerosis is the result of superfluous LDLs in the blood; this hypothesis, though somewhat sensible for what they studied, was too simplistic and not fully correct…but it has subsisted to this time as the gospel and “commonly understood” rhetoric in matters of cholesterol and heart-health. Ravnskov points out that people with familial hypercholesterolemia do die more often from atherosclerosis than the normal population (though corrected for the typical American, the percentage higher isn’t much), but notes where Brown and Goldstein dropped the ball are in a few facts. Firstly, those with familial hypercholesterolemia have also been found to die much less frequently from cancers and infectious diseases than the general population (infection-staving effects of the extra cholesterol in their system, anyone?). Also, of important note, is the fact that hypercholesterolemiacs, as part of their condition, produce much more prothrombin, fibrinogen, and factor VIII, all substances which clot up blood. Thusly, they are more prone to heart attacks from eventual artery blockage than a person from the general population who has high cholesterol. One last thing I found interesting on the increased immune system of hypercholesterolemiacs is that pre-1900 they mostly outlived the general population. Modern medicine has given us antibiotics and vaccines and such that we didn’t have then that obviously increase lifespan, but back in the frontier days, it seems the people with high cholesterol were leaving dysentery, smallpox, malaria and the like in the dust! Even the aforementioned good Dr. William E.M. Lands acknowledges: “The misimpression that cholesterol, a marker of excessive HMG-CoA reductase action, has been killing people, when the killers are actually vascular inflammation, thrombosis and arrhythmia, is one of the tragedies of biomedical science.”
SpOILS of war
So, keeping all the information on dietary fats, fat balance, and cholesterol in mind, let’s take a look-see at this lil’ table for some comparison and review:
Well, oil be!
Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio
|Corn oil||Polyunsaturated||46:1||This stuff’s in a lot of prepackaged foods, Fritos and corn tortillas por ejemplo. This means it’s probably been cooked at high temps, which as you read above is not safe for any polyunsaturate (molecular breaking down and rancidity occur.) In any case, it has a stifling 46:1 6 to 3 ratio, even raw, and is oft-times derived from genetically-modified corn, so stay faaaaaar away!|
|Soybean oil||Polyunsaturated||7:1||Ah, the generic “vegetable oil.” This stuff, like corn oil, is sitting on store shelves in those big plastic bottles. Like corn oil, it’s totally unsuitable for cooking due to being a polyunsaturated, and most likely genetically-modified. It has a better balance at 7:1, but we’re working with the idea that a ratio of 4:1 and lower is the way to go.|
|Cottonseed oil||Polyunsaturated||258:1||This is mostly seen in packaged foods, so read those ingredients labels; at 258:1, you can’t afford not to read ‘em!|
|Safflower oil||Polyunsaturated||253:1||This is a disappointing one to me, as safflower is related to the super-spice, saffron. Safflower tea is healthy; but its oil is obviously not, at that ratio. Hurf.|
|Sunflower oil||Polyunsaturated||199:1||Another oil mostly in packaged foods. Be wary!|
|Flaxseed oil||Polyunsaturated||0.24:1||This is where the polyunsaturates start turning “good.” Flaxseed oil is derived from the very well-ratioed flax seed, and while it’s unsuitable for cooking, it’s a good thing to take a teaspoon of now and then to counteract all the omega 6 in our diets.|
|Cod liver oil||Polyunsaturated||0.05:1||Another good polyunsaturate; probably the best. As you saw above, this stuff is basically a heart health godsend. Be kind of careful with it, though; it doesn’t take much of it per day to do its magic, and it’s very high in vitamins A and D, and can strip your body of vitamin E at excessively high doses. A teaspoon or less a day oughtta do ya.|
|Olive oil||Monounsaturated||13:1||At a disappointing 13:1, olive oil doesn’t quite make it. It is suitable for cooking, being monounsaturated, but there are better options.|
|Peanut oil||Monounsaturated||5162:1||Sweet gorilla of Manila! 5162:1?! Yeah, I’m also pretty disappointed in peanut oil, and peanuts/nuts in general as they have such stifling omega 6 numbers. Losing nuts is a sacrifice we have to make, folks!|
|Lard||Monounsaturated||10:1||Kind of surprised to see this “oil” is more monounsaturate than saturate, but whatevs. This is one of the preferred cooking fats of Paleos, but at 10:1 I’m not so sure I’d recommend it.|
|Canola/Rapeseed oil||Monounsaturated||2:1||I’m dubious about this guy. On the one hand, it seems like a great cooking oil as it’s monounsaturated and the ratio is good. On the other hand, is the other hand: HUMAN’S HANDS that is. There is a lot of talk of the procedures making this oil entails; removing eurucic acid, irradiating it to speed up natural processes, and of course the plague of genetic engineering of the rape (its derivative plant). I just can’t recommend it based on its ratio. If you must get it, look for organic non-GMO canola oil. One thing to note is that even at 2:1, it isn’t as low as natural polyunsaturates like fish oils, so it should probably just be understood that we shouldn’t be cooking with oils in the first place. Just a personal (poisonal?) observation. More on this oil, later!|
|Butter||Saturated||9:1||Another big hero to Paleos and especially to Mercola/Weston A. Price cultists. Hey, I use it sometimes, but just as I recommend not drinking cow’s milk I have to say not to go too ape with this. At 9:1, it isn’t that great anyway.|
|Coconut oil||Saturated||All omega 6; no omega 3s present!||Well, surprise surprise! There’s a big fad going around about how great coconut oil is for you, and all the trendy-type people shopping my co-op are in on it! OOPS! Looks like coconut oil has absolutely no omega 3s; hope you’re taking your fish/flaxseed oil, suckers! All fun-making aside, I suppose if you’re looking for a good source of medium-chain saturated fatty acids (great for energy boosts), this is a place to get them; just don’t go crazy with it.|
|Tallow||Saturated||5:1||This looks to be the best readily-available saturated fat, going from the ratio.|
|Suet||Saturated||2.5:1||Well, this seems to be the best saturated fat ratio-wise. Only problem is it doesn’t seem to be a thing one can buy, and the process of making it, to me, seems so much similar to tallow I’m not sure what distinguishes them. They put it in commercial bird food, for some reason.|
|Palm/palm kernel oil||Saturated||45:1||Here’s another Paleo-enthusiast favorite, but obviously the ratio is awful as it’s about the same as corn oil. Also, there are many uncouth businesses basically mowing down land in third world countries, disrupting human and animal ecosystems and property rights for palm oil. Ditch it.|
|All “hydrogenated” oils||Trans||365:1||I haven’t much touched the issue of trans fats, kind of want to dedicate another post to that (as well I should, since my site is DEhydrogenated.net). I just kind of assume it’s a given that we all know these things are horrible.|
As previously mentioned, almost all foods have omega 6, with omega 3 being much-less prevalent. That in mind, you may be asking “My good master Kiko Rex, what are the foods that I can eat without worry?” and you’d be smart to call me master. That aside, I have furnished yet another table, this time with pictures for those of you, who like me, liked books with pictures as a kid. As you’ll see, the list pretty much reads as a “foods that are obviously good for me but I still don’t eat them” list. I have included a few “non-good” entries that are kind of eye-opening. Without further ado-doo:
Omega 6:Omega 3 balance
|Spinach||Vegetable||0.19:1||It should be of no surprise that leafy greens make the top of the “good vegetable” list. They carry with them a lot of nutrients, and if you read my juicing post you know that they’re the best guys to juice for optimal health.|
|Lettuce||Vegetable||0.4:1||Ditto on above.|
|Brussels sprouts||Vegetable||0.5:1||Here’s a great one; loaded with all sorts of vitamins and nutrients. You may not have liked it as a kid, but it’ll sure save yo’ health!|
|Squash||Vegetable||0.6:1||Glad to see a Thanksgiving favorite in here, and at a surprising 0.6:1!|
|Cabbage||Vegetable||0.75:1||Both green and red varieties are 0:75:1, so enjoy those omega 3s and all the nutrients the cabbages have to offer!|
|Kale||Vegetable||0.76:1||Green leafy, et cetera.|
|Broccoli||Vegetable||0.8:1||Another obvious one, filled with magnesium, calcium, and other good things.|
|Cucumber||Vegetable||1:1||The only food I’ve found thus yet that has an exact 1:1 ratio, to the milligram. Just thought that was interesting.|
|Sweet potato||Vegetable||15:1||Huge disappointment for me, the ratio, but if you’re looking for a great source of vitamin A and dietary fiber, this tuber has it. Interestingly, I found a russet potato has a 3:1 ratio, but all tubers are high glycemic load and calorie-dense and probably should be avoided. Still, should be noted that a single sweet potato has but 120 mg of omega 6, so pick your battles I reckon.|
|Corn||Vegetable||33:1||No big shock, here; just wanted to point out how this “staple” food of the Americas (which is in everything and contributes to our ill-health epidemic) is trash.|
|Mushrooms||Vegetable||72:1||Talk about disappointment… Well, I suppose in small amounts they can’t be horrible and vegetarians/vegans really need these guys for the vitamin D they provide.|
|Mango||Fruit||0.4:1||Yeah mon, tropical fruits be headin’ the list for omega 3 ratio. Mango also is like the brussels sprouts of the fruit world, as it’s filled with all sorts of great vitamins and minerals. Just be sure to wash ‘em before handling and don’t eat the skin; it has the same toxin as poison ivy.|
|Cantaloupes||Fruit||0.8:1||Pleasantly surprised to see melons so good on the 3/6 ratio. This includes honeydews and watermelons.|
|Pineapple||Fruit||1.4:1||The bromelain in pineapples is well-known for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties.|
|Strawberry||Fruit||1.4:1||Much better in vitamin C content and 3/6 ratio than oranges; easier to eat, too.|
|Cranberry||Fruit||1.5:1||Thanksgiving/Fall-time nostalgia bump.|
|Bananas||Fruit||1.7:1||The “original” tropical fruit, these guys are a dandy source of potassium.|
|Apples||Fruit||4.8:1||An apple a day, huh? Well, I guess 4.8:1 isn’t too bad, but obviously there are a lot better fruit choices, both 3/6 ratio and nutrient-wise.|
|Pinto beans||Legume||0.57:1||Olé! Glad to see these guys on here, and at such a low ratio. Love me some refried beans!|
|Edamame||Legume||5:1||Eh, soy; you know.|
|Soybean||Legume||7.5:1||Just another shot at soy, here; never have liked it. Czech out my post on this baddy, but in the meantime that ratio and the fact that so much soy is GMO makes me say “Stay away!”|
|Uncle Sam cereal||Grain||0.39:1||Yep, another post containing this ne’er-do-bad name brand cereal! I think its low ratio is more due to its whole flaxseed content rather than its whole wheat berries, as evidenced below. Still, great source of fiber and you’ll love it!|
|Whole wheat flour||Grain||19:1||Just wanted to point out that even the most healthy of flours, with all of its grain and germ intact, is still pretty poor for your health. Though it does provide a lot of fiber, you’d get that from any one of the finer vegetables mentioned here.|
|Brown rice||Grain||22:1||Even the most healthy rice, brown long-grain, is not acceptable on the OMEGA scale. Besides that, it’s mega-high on glycemic load, and again; you can get your daily fiber, better nutrients, and fuller faster on fruits and veggies.|
|Oats/oatmeal||Grain||30:1||Here’s a shocking one. I’ve been lead to believe, from the advertisement on the Quaker brand container, that these are great for your heart. Welp, looks like they are if you consider thrombosis “great for the heart.” Unlike justifications for the sweet potato, i.e. the low amounts of omega 6, oatmeal has about 2,000 mg omega 6 per serving; yipes. In all seriousness, it seems a shame; however, at 30:1 6 to 3, the omega 6 value is just too great to justify the good fiber you can get out of these. Again, you can obtain that from all other fruits and veggies.|
|Cod fish||Meat||0.03:1||Just like the oil derived from it, cod is a great choice for health.|
|Tuna||Meat||0.03:1||Fish, in general, is a great choice for health, as seen here. My only issue with tuna and I guess really all fish is the overfishing problem and the questionable fishing practices surrounding commercial fishing. Many of such practices result in the unnecessary death of other marine life and thus wreck the balance of the ecosystems and food chains. Make sure tuna you buy is sustainably harvested, not using FADs or longlines.|
|Shrimp||Meat||0.39:1||Don’t forget other seafood! Crab and shrimp are great for health, too; but like tuna, be wary of from where they come.|
|Grass-fed beef||Meat||4.9:1||Grass-fed beef is much lower than the crappy grain-fed beef prevalent in the U.S. (Which has an omega 6 to 3 ratio of about 20:1). I’ve seen claims (from Mercola’s site; surprise, surprise) that grass-fed beef has more Omega 3s than 6s, and that it is proven by some Iowa St. study. However, I have not been able to track down said study (of course it isn’t cited on Mercola’s page) and really, at 4.9:1, the nutrition info I have found shows it’s still pretty good.|
|Chicken||Meat||17:1||This is for non-grassfed/grazed chicken, so I’m sure it could be improved for grassfed chicken and their hens, though most farmers will tell you it’s basically impossible to have a healthy chicken fed on grass alone. So, I’m doubting it makes it down to where grass-fed beef does, at 4.9:1.|
|Walnuts||Nut||4.2:1||Well, given that peanuts, almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and pretty much all other nuts have ridiculous 2500+:1 values of omega 6 to 3, nut enthusiasts basically only have a couple of nuts to choose from. Walnuts are the best-ratioed nuts I could find…|
|Macadamia nuts||Nut||6.3:1||…with Macadamia nuts being a close second.|
The Genoa Ham Conventions/Conclusions (taking suggestions for a better pun):
• Type of fat, not amount of fat, has more to do with heart health than worryin’ about cholesterol all the time. If one balances or gets a higher percentage of omega 3s to omega 6s in their diet (which, as I demonstrated, unavoidably leads to more healthy eating as one would have to eat more fresh fruits and veggies), any threat of cholesterol is automatically removed, as are the true culprits of cardiac death (Thrombosis, atherosclerosis). On a less food-related note, I’d like to add that stress is a huge cause of arterial blockages, much moreso than cholesterol, and recommend everyone watches this eye-opening National Geographic documentary on the subject; it’s available on Netflix as of this writing, as well.
• Polyunsaturated oils readily found at the supermarket are unsafe for use in cooking, and unhealthy on the whole. Their pervasiveness in all manner of packaged foods together with the ongoing obesity, diabetes, and coronary heart disease epidemics in America just go to show how anti-”heart healthy” they are. That any scientist or consumer, for that matter, could turn a blind eye to the huge shift from saturated fats to industrial polyunsaturated fats and claim that vegetable oils like corn and soybean oils are healthy in the face of this evidence as well as saying that it is the fault of the traditional saturated fats (that we now eat less of) is mind-boggling. The only polyunsaturates worth using are those with higher omega 3 values, i.e. flaxseed oil and fish oils; and if you’re looking for cholesterol lowering foods, stuff with these oils is the way to go. On that note…
• Cholesterol is not “evil.” It is a vital part of our body’s regulatory processes, which the body even makes itself. All of it, from the HDLs to the LDLs to the vLDLs and even the triglycerides have some role in the healthful individual. Cholesterol can be harmful, but there are things to consider. LDLs, for example, have effects on strong inflammation and calcium influx; but if the inflammation isn’t caused in the first place…get where I’m going? (Hint: Too much omega 6 /hint) Am I advocating going hog-wild on the stuff and having a 100% cholesterol diet? No, but in moderation (just like with anything else), cholesterol is fine, healthful, and was never proven to kill anyone.
• It is best to eat less per meal, and more times than 3 per day. I touched on this a bit earlier, but this was another of Dr. Lands’s recommendations. The study citing the young war casualties took into account the big meals we Americans eat, which for reasons of cultural values or poverty other lands do not follow; these places also have much less incidence of coronary heart disease, for that and other reasons as outlined. The imbalance between energy intake and energy expenditure is just as important as the imbalance of omega 6s and omega 3s; both create vascular inflammation and oxidative stress. It is optimal to eat 5-6 times per day, and it should be known that attempting to eat one meal per day, or something to that effect to restrict calories, creates a sizeable troche of carbons and electrons entering metabolic pathways, induces the liver to create free radicals, and thus creates a bigger oxidative stress problem than if one limits food to lower-calorie meals spread throughout the day. That’s the mission: the less oxidant stress you create, the longer you live. So, what is the optimal oxidant stress for you?
• All right, all right; I’m wrappin’ it up, really. This last point will be in bold: Omega 6 fats are in virtually everything, not just “fatty” things (and mostly in large numbers). Do not worry that, in following these tips, you will have a profuse amount of omega 3s compared to omega 6s- Unless you truly live in some kind of ice-fishing culture, it is virtually impossible. What you should do, to this end, is make certain most of your foods themselves are well balanced. As you saw above, there are foods like the cucumber (1:1) that have the perfect balance, and you should try your best to keep it balanced or more on the side of omega 3s. Though again, as omega 6s are everywhere it’ll be pretty difficult; but again I say: the less oxidant stress you create, the longer you live. Some folks swear off omega 6 completely, as they view it and its arachidonic acid and COX/LOX creation as evil. I’m a bit less hard-line, and say to keep it under 4:1.
Two shout outs before this war is over:
To my vegan “dawgs” (dogs, or friends): I know you guys can’t eat fish, so I’d say to be on top of the omega 3 issue by really going at those fruits/veggies that have really low omega 6 numbers like mangoes. If your body doesn’t think it’s getting enough essential fatty acids, it will synthesize them out of omega 9s/mead acid. These synthesized EFAs are prone to creating arachidonic acid and thus the inflammation that causes all of the maladies listed above.
To Jack Lalanne, because I want to use a fitting, favorite quote of his to end things off: *ahem*
“If man made it, don’t eat it.”