Monthly Archives: July 2009

Healthy Living Real Food

Can You Become Deficient In Omega 6s?

In life, balance is important. People often talk about everything in moderation. The trouble is, “everything in moderation” often includes a barrage of unhealthy items in our meals and for snacks. What people end up eating, then, is still not much that is healthy and a LOT that isn’t.

One example I can think of right off the top of my head is that most of the people I know who are vegetarian (or vegan) actually don’t seem to eat many vegetables. In fact, what I see them eating most are processed grain and fruit products which are marketed toward people who want to avoid meat and live a “healthier” lifestyle. From what I observe, a lot of vegetarian diets consist largely of little natural fats or proteins (replete with a lot of processed low-fat selections like dairy products, soy, and tofu), and the processed grain products. No wonder so many people are getting sick and having trouble with their weight!

Another example: my father continually insists that if you eat a “mixed-diet” you will get all you need. However, my father has for many years been eating a lot of the things traditional diets advise against eating – items on the SAD (Standard American Diet): processed breads, crackers, cookies (and candy), desserts, etc., industrial meat and dairy, and basically a whole slew of industrial oils that are really high in Omega 6s  like soybean, canola, and cottonseed oil. So the whole “everything in moderation” mantra really isn’t all that reliable as a gauge.

Now, my father looks great for his age (he’s 72, is a rock-climber and very active), but he had prostate cancer at age 55 (although it  has not returned since his surgery) and has been on Lipitor for high-cholesterol for a number of years. This is probably what you might call a classic case of being way too high in Omega 6s…the exact opposite of what traditional diets recommend. Would my Dad still be on medication for high cholesterol if he ate a truly healthy diet? Does this profile fit a majority of people in developed countries? Without a doubt. But does it apply across the board to everyone in general? Maybe not. Here’s why:

For the last 3 years I have maintained an extremely healthy diet, so much that people are constantly in disbelief at the way I eat. I was told to avoid Omega 6s by a well-trained nutritional therapist when I first started my diet. I’ve been seeing another nutritional therapist from time to time, who happens to be my next door neighbor and studied under the first NT when she was studying for her credentials. Both of these individuals ascribe to WAPF (Weston A. Price Foundation) principles.

For some time I was using a small amount of the organic, unrefined, cold-pressed grapeseed oil mixed in with extra virgin olive oil for salad dressing, as we make all our own homemade dressings. Of course I knew grapeseed oil contained polyunsaturated fat and was high on Omega 6s, but it was such a great all-purpose oil I used it anyway because it was great for cooking and mixing with my homemade olive oil dressings. Then I read a few things here and there about grapeseed oil being unhealthy and I stopped using it for a few weeks.

Recently, I went to see the my Nutritional Therapist and she checked to see how I was doing with the fish oil I was using, and I did not respond well to it. She uses muscle-testing, a form of applied kinesiology, which has always been extremely accurate each time I have been tested for anything – whether it be a dietary supplement, food, or other substances. This puzzled her, so she tested me on multiple healthy Omega 6s like sesame oil, evening primrose oil, and sunflower oil. The discovery we made was a surprising one – that I had become DEFICIENT in Omega 6s! Why? Because I AVOID pretty much all Omega 6s in my diet. My diet has been so rigid that I had now been getting TOO many Omega 3s and NOT ENOUGH Omega 6s.

According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, “Cancer as well as heart disease can be prevented by taking a ratio of at least 1:1 up to 2.5:1 unadulterated parent omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids plus specific vitamins and minerals.” So apparently the ratios in my diet have been off. I had suspected all along before I stopped using the grapeseed oil that perhaps it was okay to be consuming this substance since my diet no longer included the rash of Omega 6 foods I used to eat…but I second guessed my own intuition. This is a valuable lesson I’ve learned and will be more mindful in the future of my own body and my own knowledge about what I need to be healthy.

When you eat a really healthy diet which omits the processed, unhealthy Omega 6s, you will need to supplement this important EFA (essential fatty acid) in some way. So let’s make clear the distinction about  eating the right Omega 6s and the wrong ones – and that if you have no Omega 6s in your diet, you can become deficient in those, just like many people in industrialized countries can become with Omega 3s. So I’ve added a bit of Omega 6s to my diet – organic sunflower/sesame oil/evening primrose oil – which also has Omega 3s (flax oil), Udo’s brand (cold-pressed). In fact, this oil is formulated to contain the right blend of the essential fatty acid oils for health.

I certainly do not advocate people eating the unhealthy variety of Omega 6s to receive adequate amounts in their diets. Unhealthy Omega 6s include many processed foods such as vegetable oils (canola, soy, safflower, cottonseed, etc.), packaged grains and grain products like cereal, breads, and crackers. Good sources of healthy Omega 6s oils with GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) would be foods such as the following:

  • almonds
  • evening primrose oil
  • walnut oil
  • hemp oil
  • pumpkin seed oil
  • sesame oil
  • wheatgerm oil
  • grapeseed oil

All oils should be organic and cold-pressed, kept in dark bottles, and away from light and heat. Check labels for information on oils and do some research to find out how the oils are produced. Best if refrigerated.

So please remember, you need the right balance of polyunsaturated fats which come from healthy sources of Omega 6s and Omega 3s too – from sources like safe-source fish (mackerel, salmon, and anchovies, wild caught from a deep-sea source), grass-fed meats and poultry, pasture-raised eggs, and real dairy from grass-fed cows.

Don’t be fooled: mainstream medical and health sources claim that meat is too high in Omega 6s, which is certainly true of commercially-raised, industrial variety meats and poultry. These animals are fed a steady diet of unnatural feeds containing high levels of Omega 6 like grain, corn, and soy. As a result, their meat is too high in Omega 6s (polyunsaturated), lower in protein, and is high in calories. If you keep your meat consumption to choices from healthy, pasture-raised animals you actually be getting the Omega 3s which are so important in the essential fatty acid balance. These animals consume the food nature intended for them to eat, and as a result you are getting meat with higher protein, lower calories, the right amount of fat, and Omega 3s.

Looking for good sources of grass-fed meats and pasture-raised poultry and eggs? Check you local farmer’s market and farmers who raise meat in your region. Here are some good sources online:

U.S. Wellness Meats – merchant selling a variety of naturallly-raised meats, sausages, pork, rabbit, bison, poultry, lamb, sustainable seafood, and more!

Alderspring Ranch – one of my favorite local sources for grass-fed, organic beef; family owned and operated in the mountains of Idaho

Grass-fed Traditions – pasture-raised beef fed Cocofeed!

Eat Wild – resource for grass-fed meats

Healthy Living Real Food

Do Restaurants Serve Healthy Oils?

When you go out to eat and read the dinner menu, do you think about cooking oils used by the restaurant where you are eating your food? Many people don’t, but the reality is, most of the oils used by restaurants, unless otherwise noted, are highly-processed, industrially-produced, genetically modified, rancid vegetable oils that are unhealthy to consume.

In my teens and twenties, I remember having conversations with people about eating low-fat dressings on salads that were supposedly “healthier” choices than the full-fat choices. The idea was that fat was unhealthy to consume, and therefore low-fat was better (not unlike the mentality about fat now).

This idea has persisted for some years, and really, this notion is false. Because medical and health communities have mislead the public about health information for so long, everyone believes the issue lies in fat. But real, whole fats are good for you. What’s more, the oils contained in 99 percent of the salad dressings and condiments you eat in restaurants are not good for you… and why? Because they are usually soybean, canola, cottonseed, or safflower oil. Just ask your server, and it may take some digging to find this out, but what you will learn is that your salad is covered in a toxic substance that has no place on the dinner table.

Case in point: one night some years ago I went to the Olive Garden with my husband and son who was still a baby at the time. This was during the years when we used to eat out a lot. For some reason it occurred to me to ask the server about the dressing. I asked her what type of oil they used in their famous salad that everyone believes to be so healthy to eat. She replied that she would have to ask in the kitchen and would let me know. Upon her return she confirmed my suspicion: the oil they use is soybean oil. All those years I had been eating that same salad and thinking how good it was for me…only to find out all that time I was eating rancid, toxic oil! I felt duped and lied to, and began to realize that probably every restaurant I ate at did the same thing.

Even when you see olive oil on the menu at a restaurant – which is usually served on some type of meat or fish (and it is called out specifically on the menu; the restaurant won’t just sneak it in somewhere because olive oil is too expensive), you have no idea what kind of olive oil they are using and whether it is good quality. For all you know, it could be rancid as well. Olive oil can become rancid easily if stored improperly, for too long, or is subjected to high-temperature heat.  So unless noted, anything cooked in oil in a restaurant, is most likely prepared in vegetable oil of some type.

Now there may be some exceptions, such as when the server brings out a bowl for dipping your bread with vinegar and a bottle of oil – in those cases, the oil is often olive oil. Still, the quality is probably not up to standard. The name of the game in the business of restaurants is making money, after all. Their margins are razor-thin and they have to make every expense count. And let’s not even get started on the bread…it MAY be fresh baked, in some cases, but the flour is most likely not organic and the flour used to make the bread is also probably rancid (and likely from a genetically-modified source). Best to avoid the bread and the dipping oil altogether.

What’s wrong with vegetable oils? Other than the fact that they are trans-fats, rancid and industrially-produced, and originate from genetically-modified sources, their main fat content comes from polyunsaturated sources. According to Rat Peat, PhD, a physiologist who has studied dietary fats and hormones since 1968, polyunsaturated fats are not healthy and cause heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and various auto-immune disorders. They are so unhealthy, he believes their only place is in industrial uses such as for painting. Read the following two excerpts from ‘Unhealthy Vegetable Oils‘ by C.J. Puotinen:

“The main problem is that polyunsaturated oils contain long-chain fatty acids, which are extremely fragile and unstable. The unsaturated oils in some cooked foods become rancid in just  a few hours even when refrigerated,” says Peat, “and that’s responsible for the stale taste of leftover foods. Eating slightly stale food with polyunsaturated oils isn’t more harmful than eating the same oils when fresh, since the oils will oxidize at a much higher rate once they are in the body. As soon as polyunsaturated vegetable oil enters the body, it is exposed to temperatures high enough to cause its toxic decomposition, especially when combined with a continuous supply of oxygen and catalysts such as iron.”

“Senate hearings on the health implications of tropical oils brought testimony from Harvard Medical School researcher George Blackburn, Ph.D., University of Maryland research associate Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., and U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, M.D., all of whom defended coconut oil. They pointed out that coconut oil has been a mainstay in the diets of millions of people for thousands of years, and those who still follow their traditional diet, such as Pacific Islanders, enjoy long, healthy lives with none of the heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses that plague America. The media paid little attention and instead promoted the anti-saturated-fat hysteria with headlines (“The Oil from Hell!”) that sold newspapers. In the end, fiction triumphed over fact, and restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King replaced the saturated fats they had been using with more “healthful” vegetable oils. The switch, according to FDA tests, increased or even doubled the fat content of fried foods.”

What’s the solution? For one, don’t make eating out regularly a habit. Most food is sure to be bathed in these toxic oils. Prepare most of your meals at home and from scratch. Pay attention to the types of oils you purchase and from where they originate.

What are healthy oils and fats to consume?

  • Organic, extra virgin olive oil, stored in dark glass bottles or metal cans.
  • Organic, extra virgin coconut oil
  • Organic palm oils
  • Other cold-pressed, organic oils eaten uncooked such as pumpkin seed, avocado, flax (Omega 3), borage, evening primrose, blackcurrant, sesame, walnut, grapeseed, hazelnut, or almond.
  • Real, organic butter from grass-fed cows
  • Tallow from grass-fed cattle
  • Lard from pasture-raised hogs

As much as it does take a bit of time and effort, researching the source of the oils you eat will provide the maximum nutritional benefit out of your food. Just do a quick Internet search and read about the products you buy before you buy.

For more information about healthy and unhealthy oils, read The Oiling of America from the Weston A. Price Foundation.

This article is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival. Please visit her site and check out all the other real food posts there.