Not everything about vegetables and seeds are good for you...The polyunsaturated fat — Omega 6
Well, oil be damned.
Most of us now know that saturated fats (animal fats) have been exonerated of all charges by the world’s supreme judge — the mainstream media…
Saturated fat (and cholesterol) got off its alleged murder charges some years ago, after it was determined that the theory that they caused heart disease was a ‘bunch of bollocks’! (There was no real evidence to incriminate it in the first place.)
Note: Saturated fats, as part of a healthy diet, are good for us. I’ll write another blog-post on the ‘saturated fat + cholesterol = heart disease’ debacle at another time.
Back before we wised-up though, all the attention was on vilifying saturated fat. And, everyone did their best to avoid it like the plague. Unfortunately, while we were being distracted with this non-sense, ‘they’ told us that another type of fat (polyunsaturated fat) was good for us, allowing it to be ubiquitously ‘slipped’ into our food chain. Omega-6 is a polyunsaturated fat that — as it turns out — when used in excessive amounts, is actually detrimental to our health!
You just can't bloody-well win
We're oversaturated with polyunsaturated fat
Omega-6 is a problem because it is both prolific & insidious in our diet (it is in a huge number of the foods we eat every day). And, this stuff can actually cause heart disease. (You’ll find more details below.)
This polyunsaturated fat was once touted as being the healthy alternative to saturated fats. However, most of these fats are highly processed and they are all easily damaged by heating + reheating. They’re not only susceptible to oxidation, but they can form noxious compounds — including carcinogens (substances capable of causing cancer). This fat also causes inflammation in the body. It is termed pro-inflammatory. And while moderate amounts of omega-6 and inflammation are necessary for us to function, in excessive amounts, it is very bad for our health. (You need acute inflammation to help your immune system heal you.)
Omega-6 or, Linoleic acid (LA) as it is also called, promotes series 2 prostaglandins in the body. These create platelet stickiness, which can lead to the hardening of the arteries. This can then lead to heart attack + stroke.
The polyunsaturated fats that I’m referring to are Sunflower, Safflower, Soybean (Soya), Canola (or Rapeseed), Cottonseed, Corn, and Grapeseed.
Note: It is important to note that Evening Primrose oil and Borage oil are also ‘omega-6’.
Fatty acids are the building blocks of fat.
Saturated fatTY ACIDS
This type of fat is solid at room temperature. And, it is stable when heated.
It is found primarily in food that comes from animals e.g meat, cheese, butter and eggs. (Coconut oil is also a saturated fat.)
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs)
This includes omega-9.
You can find this type of fat in olives, macadamia nuts, peanuts and avocados. These fats are central to a Mediterranean diet.
Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs)
These include omega-3. AKA Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA).
You can find this type of fat in flaxseeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, and fish. (As well as grass-fed meat + eggs when the animals + chickens have been fed a diet containing flaxseed.)
These also includes omega-6. AKA Linoleic acid (LA).
This is found in vegetable + seed fats.
These are the potential baddies!
This is where you'll find omega-6 , polyunsaturated fat lurking...
Unfortunately, if it comes in a packet, tub, jar or if it comes from a commercial restaurant, cafe, or takeaway shop — then watch out!
01—Mayonnaise + Salad dressing + Sauces + Soups
02—Aioli + Hummus + store bought condiments
03—Bread + Crackers
04—Snack foods: crisps + nuts (roasted)
Even though nuts contain their own fat, some companies roast them in vegetable fat.
05—Cereals + Cookies
06—Non-dairy cheese + Non-dairy milk + Margarine
You could think you were being a 'heart healthy' Vegetarian or Vegan... but you'd be wrong.
Vegetable fat is every-bloody-where
In one day, you could easily consume this stuff numerous times by eating these seemingly innocuous foods:
Cereal + non-dairy mylk
A ‘Nice & Natural’ Nut Bar
— using Molenberg bread (Soy + Linseed)
— spread with Flora ProActiv
— containing John West: Chunk Style Tuna (Chilli + Lime + Ginger), and
— and a salad with mayonnaise
Rice crackers and hummus
If you use any of the fats listed above to make or cook your din-dins.
Or, if you go out to dinner or get takeaways…
Note: Essentially all processed foods contain polyunsaturated fats. However, considering the health conscious folk most likely to be reading this blog-post, I thought it was important to focus on what most of you would consider ‘healthy processed foods’- and what most would consider a healthy diet. (Heck, you would be excused for not even realising that these types of foods are considered processed!) If I had used examples of foods that the general public would consider ‘processed’ — such as pies, cakes and cookies — you’d find that these products also contain Trans-fats. Trans-fats are polyunsaturated fats that have had hydrogen atoms injected into them to make them more stable at room temperature. You’ll find these referred to in the ingredients list as “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil”. These substances are also a leading cause of heart disease. But! More on this in a future, riveting LISA SAID SO blog-post 😉
Polyunsaturated fats are competitive
While Omega-6 (LA) is pro-inflammatory all on its own. It also has compounding effects which contribute to inflammation in the body.
It competes with ‘anti-inflammatory’ omega-3 (ALA). It does this by vying for conversion in the body to its more critical forms, and by competing for space in our cell membranes.
These two types of polyunsaturated fats (LA + ALA) require the same enzymes to convert them in the body to either pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory substances. When you eat excessive amounts of omega-6, it will win this race hands-down.
This means that we will also have a reduced capacity to manufacture EPA + DHA which are two important anti-inflammatory substances.
This also means that when omega-6 is in excess in the body, it crowds out our inflammatory substances from being fully incorporated into our cell membranes.
That’s three reasons — right there — that implicate the excessive use of omega-6 as a leading cause of heart disease.
Strike a balance between omega-6 and omega-3
You don’t have to eliminate omega-6 fat from your diet. You just need to reduce your consumption of this, while ramping up your intake of omega-3 fat. Here’s how to do this:
TRY not to cook with OMEGA-6 fAT
If you do, make sure you only use cold-pressed, unrefined versions. And, cook for a longer time on a lower temperature.
You are better advised to use saturated fat to cook with such as lard or coconut oil. Or, to use monounsaturated fat such as olive oil or macadamia oil. (Use these latter oils at lower temperatures also.)
Try to limit your consumption of processed food
(This basically means anything that is made for you by an establishment or a company.) Try to make as much of your food ‘from scratch’ as possible.
Increase your consumption of omega-3
Try to have seafood at least 3x per week. And include healthy nuts (macadamias) and seeds (flaxseed + sesame + tahini) into your diet.
If you want to reduce chronic inflammation in your body — then reduce the amount of times you consume vegetable fat.
Make an appointment with Lisa
Lisa Fitzgibbon is a qualified (2006), experienced and registered Naturopath and Medical Herbalist. She runs her own private practice OOMPH, in Grey Lynn (Auckland, New Zealand).
Lisa has been involved in the Natural Health industry for 13 years. She draws on her professional training and experience, as well as her own personal experience to bring you realistic, holistic health advice.
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