Much has been written on the health benefits of vegetable oils compared to animal fats. It has gotten to the point where the balance has gone far to the side of vegetable oils in the typical Western diet, and this imbalance is putting us at greater risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, to name a few. We get much of these omega-3 fats in today's diet from vegetable oils and processed foods, and instead of making us healthier it is the cause of many of our health problems.
When we look at our intake of omega-6 fats and omega-3 fats, the key to having these fats providing optimum health is balance between the two. Although animal fats have gotten a bad rap, both of these are essential. But with the increased amount of processed foods and foods cooked in vegetable oils at high temperatures in our diet, we now consume far too much omega-6 fats, both in total and in ratio to our omega-3 intake.
When we talk of a diet high in omega-6 fats, what kind of a diet are we talking about? Think the typical American southern diet, which is known for its chicken and other foods that are deep-fried. In a recent test done by the University of Alabama Birmingham it was found that those who ate this diet on a regular basis had a 41% greater risk of stroke. By eliminating other factors such as obesity, smoking and lack of physical activity, there was still a 30% increase in stroke risk.
It's not just that people consume too many omega-6 fats, but what happens to them when they are subjected to excessive heat. They are very chemically unstable, and when they are overheated in processing or cooking they literally deteriorate chemically. Also, if not consumed quickly they turn rancid. This is due to the oxidation process they go through. Depending on the type of oil and temperature, this breakdown and the formation of toxic chemical compounds it produces will depend on the oil and the temperature. The free radicals that will be released are what can cause cancer as well as numerous other health issues.
So what can we do to bring our omega-3s and omega-6s into balance? Some of the sources of omega-6 fats are corn, soy and canola oil, margarine, shortening and hydrogenated fats. Almost all processed and prepackaged food contains one of these oils. Oils that are acceptable to use to balance your omega-6s and 3s are extra virgin olive oil, avocados, coconut oil and organic butter. Also, meat that is raised exclusively on grass or free-range diets is very good. These would include venison and other game animals, but would not include traditionally raised cattle, because they typically are fed grain before they are slaughtered.
Another option is omega-3 supplementation, and probably the best option here is krill oil. It is far more absorbable than the omega-3 fish oil, therefore making it as much as 48 times more potent. But the key is to limit your intake of omega-6 fats, and that comes from eliminating processed, prepackaged, and deep-fried food as much as possible.
As the article states, fats are an important part of our diet, but we need a balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fats.
By Rich Carroll