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Chronic Inflammation is a precursor to degenerative diseases and to us meeting an earlier end. Chronic inflammation can often be silent, or go unnoticed until symptoms of degenerative disease begin to show themselves. The best way to offset this tendency toward degeneration is to add in anti-inflammatory foods. As it turns out, anti-inflammatory foods are the real, whole foods we have been discussing thus far.
Vegetables and Fruits
As we have discussed before, brightly colored fruits and vegetables should cover the majority of your plate at any meal. We should try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Some of the best anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables include berries like blueberries, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, dark leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale). When considering brightly colored produce, don’t forget about the anti-inflammatory herbs we discussed in the last post such as garlic, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon. Fermented vegetables such as kimchee, pickles and sauerkraut should also be considered. Shiitake mushrooms are also an anti-inflammatory addition as they help to mitigate oxidative stress.
Grains and Legumes
If including grains and legumes in the diet, make sure they are whole, soaked or fermented and properly prepared for proper digestion. Flour based, processed grains should be avoided. As we’ve discussed in a previous posts, rather or not gluten is included in the diet should be carefully considered. If it is included, proper preparation is crucial. Organic, fermented soybean products such as natto, miso and tempeh can also be added.
Adding in healthy fats (coconut, avocados, raw nuts, olives, coconut oil, and cold-pressed olive oil) and the elimination of bad fats (highly processed vegetable oils like canola oil, soybean oil, margarine and hydrogenated oils/trans fats) is crucial in the anti-inflammatory diet.
Omega 3 foods such as cold water, fatty fish such as wild salmon, sardines, anchovies and herrings should also be included in an anti-inflammatory diet.
In general, in our western diets, we tend to eat too much animal protein. A vegetable based diet is best and a little good quality animal protein goes a long way. If you can, choose wild local seafood, local grass-fed meats and dairy products.
Other Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Other anti-inflammatory foods to consider in your diet are green tea, tulsi tea, matcha and dark chocolate for their antioxidant content.
Avoid Processed Foods and Sugar
One of the most important things to remember when eating an anti-inflammatory diet is to avoid processed foods, especially those containing processed sugars and bad fats. Regular consumption of flour based foods and refined sugars should be avoided as insulin resistance leads to chronic inflammation and degenerative disease.
Omega 3 fats are essential fats. Essential means that our body can not produce them and we must get them from our diet. Long chain Omega 3s are polyunsaturated fatty acids containing DHA and EPA. These fatty acids are needed for the brain, heart, eyes, joints, digestion, muscle activity, blood clotting, cell division and more. They also contain phospholipids which are building blocks of the cell. Deficiencies in long chain Omega 3s can lead to heart problems, depression, poor memory and inflammation. The best sources of long chain Omega 3s are cold water, fatty fish such as wild salmon, sardines, anchovies and herrings. It is suggested that we have 1 or 2 servings of fresh cold water fish per week. If you don’t eat fish you can also supplement with long chain Omega 3 oils such as wild, cold water salmon oil and antarctic krill oil. 250-500 milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA are recommended daily.
It is important to note that Omega 3s from plant sources are short chain Omega 3s and do not contain the essential DHA and EPA. Instead plant based Omega 3s, including flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts, are a source of ALA. While ALA is a precursor to DHA and EPA, our bodies do not efficiently make this conversion.
Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils should be balanced 1:1 but in our modern diet of processed foods and highly processed oils, our typical Omega 6 consumption is ten times higher than our Omega 3 intake. This imbalance inevitably leads to health problems as mentioned above.
The bottom line? Make sure you’re getting your essential Omega 3 in your diet.
The food pyramid that would have us basing our diet on foods made from processed grains like pasta, bread, cereal, white rice and muffins, is being rearranged. Evidence shows that the majority of our plate should be a variety of brightly colored vegetables.
Gone too are the days of vilifying fats. A good portion of our daily caloric intake should come from healthy fats. Fats are a dense calorie source so a little goes a long way. But not just any fats will do. We now know that over processed and damaged fats are far worse for our health than the old fashioned fat sources that our ancestors ate. When adding fats to our diet, we must do our best to avoid highly processed vegetable oils like canola oil, soybean oil, margarine and hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats). These high processed oils are sources of Omega 6 fats and over-consumption disrupts the Omega 3 to Omega 6 balance in our bodies. Instead, opt for healthier whole food fats such as those found in coconuts, avocados, raw nuts, and olives. Cold pressed and minimally processed oils from these foods can be healthy sources of fats as well such as coconut oil, olive oil and raw cacao butter. The healthiest option for animal fats come from animals raised on pasture (grass-fed) and eating a natural diet, not a diet solely of corn and grain. Animals raised with a natural diet produce a different fat profile than animals raised on grains. These healthy animal fats include, free-range eggs and pasture raised dairy products such as butter and ghee. Wild cold water fish such as salmon and sardines are also a good source of healthy fats to add to your diet.
Healthy fats don’t make us sick and fat. Basing a diet on processed grain products and damaged oils does that.