Monday, October 18, 2010

InspireHealth - Fats and Oils

Here's what I've learned about fats and oils.
  • Eliminate trans/hydrogenated fats. They promote inflammation, which is not healthy and they have been "implicated in the cancer process as well as in many other diseases". These types of fats are best avoided altogether. These include vegetable shortening, most margerines (including 'heart healthy' varieties, which are processed using a refining, bleaching, and deodorizing process involving many toxic chemicals and high heats), and many commercial foods. I've learned through my reading prior to this workshop that inflammation (internal - where you don't even know it's happening) can be a contributing factor in a lot of illnesses, cancer included. Reducing inflammation is one of the goals of a healthy diet because inflammation leads to disease. The recommendation is to strictly limit deep fried foods and commercial snack foods like chips, as well as pie crusts, mayonnaise, commercial muffins, donuts, cookies and baked goods as they typically include highly processed and/or high levels of omega-6 fats. *sniff sniff*  :-(
  • Decrease Omega-6 fats, which have been identified as "promoting the cancer process". We don't want that. Omega-6 fats include common vegetable oils, margerines, and commercial salad dressing - even ones that claim to be "organic" or "healthy". Apparently, in general, we now eat 10 to 20 times more Omega-6 fats in our diets as compared to the previous century. Who knew??!! To avoid these fats, eat out less often, avoid fast-food, and make your own healthy salad dressing. Someone asked about canola oil and here's what we were told -  Organic, cold-pressed canola oil is good but most, if not all, of the canola oils you see on the shelf at the grocery store are over-processed to get that clear, golden colour and to eliminate the actual taste of the canola. And if the canola used to make the oil isn't organic, it's likely to be genetically altered, which is something to be avoided as well.
I must say, this is where I get a little confused. I'm not sure I know the difference between a trans/hydrogenated fat and an Omega-6 fat. I should look that up because I'm not quite getting it. While they're both not great, the trans/hydrogenated fats are, apparently, worse than the Omega-6 fats. I'm just not sure how to tell the difference entirely. I'll look that up and see if I can sort it out for both you and me. Then again, if this is something you grasp, please explain it to me. Okay, on to what I understand better ...

Note: I did a little more looking and, while there's a lot more to the discussion of types and sub-types of fats, basically a bit of Omega-6 is good, though we already typically get much more than we need in our diet so it should be cut back. Trans and hydrogenated fats are "man-made fats" and are VERY bad for us.  They should be eliminated. There are efforts being made to have them legally banned altogether. They have such a bad rap and, anticipating that they will be banned in the future, many commercial food companies are eliminating them already.  It's very important to read food labels of commercial foods to know what kinds of fats you're getting.  Here's a little plain language talk about fats that works for me.
  •  Increase Omega-3 fats. Considerable research suggests that Omega-3 fats have anti-cancer effects for many types of cancers, though for prostate cancer sticking to fish sources may be most effective and safest. I don't recall why that is but I think it came up in the course and I just don't remember. It's worth researching on the internet for anyone who is concerned about that. The general recommendation is to eat wild salmon (emphasis on WILD SALMON - not farmed salmon) 2-3 times per week and cook it well below 350 degrees to protect the fragile fat. For those who don't eat salmon, take a fish oil supplement. That's my choice. Use 1-2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds daily - in oatmeal, smoothies, on salads, or other foods. Store flax in a dark container in a fridge or freeze to protect the Omega-3s. I had recently read that chia seeds are as good or better than flax seeds. I asked the doctor about that and she said that yes, they, like flax and hemp seeds, are "super foods" and can be used interchangeably.  I was very glad to hear that because I like using the chia seeds - they're just that much easier to incorporate in my daily diet than flax seeds (they don't need to be ground, don't stick in my teeth, stir easily into my oatmeal, and I can't even taste them). I am, admittedly, food lazy most of the time. I haven't tried hemp seeds but might do that when my chia seeds are gone.
  • Use extra-virgin olive oil for low-heat cooking and for salad dressings. Avoid lower grades of olive oil such as those labeled 'pure', "extra pure', or 'pomace'. Use coconut oil and butter for cooking, particularly high heat cooking. Coconut oil can withstand high heats. Someone brought up the concern raised some years ago about the coconut oil that was used in theatres to make popcorn but the doctor said that studies since that time have proved coconut oil to be a healthy oil. So there! When using butter, the ideal is half butter and half olive oil. It can be stirred together and then refrigerated to use as needed.
  • Eat moderate amounts of healthy fats at each meal (1 to 2 tsp per person per meal). We needs fats to help our bodies absorb the good nutrients in the food we're eating. Several supplements and vitamins are to be taken with oils (so, ideally, at mealtime) as well. I remember being told that I should take my Vitamin D with oil. I take it at the same time as I take my fish oil capsule (1000 mg), which I take because I don't like eating salmon or any kind of fish much. Someone asked if 1000 mg wasn't a big dose of fish oil but the doctor told us that even though it sounds like a lot, it equals about a third of a serving of a piece of salmon.
  • Only cook with olive oil if using nothing more than medium temperature on the stove top and 300 degrees F in the oven. That's the temperature that prevents it from smoking and breaking down.
  • Unsalted, organic butter is a good fat for cooking and eating, in moderation. 
And that's all I have in my head and notes about fats and oils! Feel free to enlighten, correct or question me. As a disclaimer, I encourage everyone who is interested in this information to take this and then do a little research on your own just to be sure.
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