At Natures Clinicals we believe that all the knowledge you will ever need about nutrition is within your reach. Within you is an amazing storehouse of all the information you have ever encountered about diet. Your body knows better than any book what nutritional balance it needs. It tries constantly to communicate that information, but it's just not always received and interpreted accurately.
Flax Seed Oil has become a very popular dietary supplement due to its high Omega 3 content. Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid that our body is unable to produce and should therefore be present in our diet for the maintenance of good health. Current food trends have resulted in a depletion of available Omega 3 in our diets. Adding Flax Seed Oil to our daily food intake through a varity of recipes or simply as a dietary supplement, rebalances this deficiency.
Pumpkin Seed Oil is extracted from the seeds of special varieties of pumpkin (Cucurbita maximus) and is rich in phytosterols and antioxidants. The unrefined oil has a rich flavor and a unique color. It appears dark red in the bottle, but once poured the oil is dark green with a deep red tinge.
As a general guideline, whole natural foods, unprocessed, free of chemicals, pesticides and colorings are a great place to start. Most of us are fortunate enough to have ready access to an abundance of beautiful fruits, vegetables, grains, and minimally processed meats as well as plenty of fresh fish.
FACTS ON FATS
This extract has been reprinted with permission from the book 'The Shape Diet' by Maria Middlestead Penguin Publishers, 2004. Natures Clinicals highly recommend this book.
- Key Fat facts
- How to choose the best fats for your health
- Food planning and preperation tips
- Low saturated fat cooking tips
- Too little fat is as bad too much.
- The types of fat we eat and their quality are even more significant than the quantity we eat.
- Fats and oils are known collectively as lipids, and in common usage as ‘fats’. Fats comes mostly from animal sources and tend to be firm at room temperature – examples are butter, the visible fat on meat, and coconut fat. Oils are mostly from plants and tend to be liquid at room temperature – examples are olive, avocado, almond and sunflower oils, and also fish oils. Lipids are composed of different categories of fatty acids and are named according to which one is dominant in quantity: saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, or polyunsaturated fat (the latter has two subtypes – Omega 6 and Omega 3).
- The average westerner eats too much saturated fat – especially hydrogenated forms – and the Omega 6 type of polyunsaturates. These should be decreased while increasing the use of monounsaturates and the Omega 3 type of polyunsaturates. This does not mean that saturated fat and Omega 6s are now to be demonized! Except for the hydrogenated forms, these are crucial to good health. We have, however, tended to eat too much of them in relation to other fats- and from poor-quality sources.
- Eating fats which have been highly heated – whether due to commercial processing or in cooking – encourages dangerous levels of oxidation (cellular destruction like rust on your car) and the production of trans fatty acids and free radicals. In excess, these are linked with most disease states. Good selection and cooking techniques are explained in Food Planning and Preparation Tips.
- Cholesterol is the victim of half-truths. The body produces two basic types: HDL and LDL. We need to keep these in a good ratio for top mental and physical health. Specific foods help us do this.
The effects of actual or seemingly inappropriate fat choices can in part be offset by sufficient exercise, limiting stress, and two dietary factors: a high fibre intake and strong antioxidant levels. This helps explain why some groups such as the French and the Mennonites can eat a lot of saturated fat and have a low incidence of cardiovascular disease. A good balance of high-quality fats within a healthy diet and lifestyle is the aim.
Living off the fat of the land – how to choose the best fats for your health
To start, here are some important guidelines:
- Nothing is forbidden.
- It is what we eat and do, most of the time, which is the most significant.
- Reading labels can help us make sensible choices between one brand and another. For most people, however, it is obsession-promoting to count daily grams of fat. Think instead of a typical week’s menu and the gradual changes you can make. Set one or two realistic goals at a time. This approach encourage’s new patterns of behaviour to become sustained.
The focus of this section is to 1) purchase the best quality fats; 2) achieve a good dietary ratio of one type of fat to another; and 3) prepare and cook food in practical ways to get the most nutritional value from fats and to limit destructive practices. But firstly, let’s clarify which types and ratios of fat are being recommended and why.
The one type of fat which seems innately destructive is any highly heated, chemically altered or hydrogenated fat. This is a product of elaborate technology, not nature. Every other category of pristine fat permeates our food supply and the functional requirements of every tissue and organ. We need them all. Saturated fat is vital for the structure of the brain and sufficient firm surround to each cell. Meanwhile unsaturated fats help keep that surround supple enough. Balance is clearly the key. The following tips are aimed at addressing the out-of-balance ratios common to the average diet. The suggestion to lower saturated fat is therefore based on its typically high ratio (not inherent ‘badness’), and on the poor quality sources which tend to be chosen. Part of the adverse consequences to so much saturated fat in the modern diet may be due to its overly tinkered-with quality. Fresh, clean, unpasteurised and unhomogenised dairy products – still widely available in Europe – may not lead to as much intolerance and other health problems. More such artisan products are becoming available here.
The principle is the same regarding the two types of polyunsaturates – Omega 6 and Omega 3. an ideal ratio is about 3 parts of Omega 6 to 1 part Omega. 3. At present the average ration is 15 or 20 – even 50 – times more Omega 6. This imbalanced relationship has been linked to the increase in inflammatory conditions. Hence the popularity of Omega 3 fish oil supplements.
Instead of trying to estimate all this in terms of grams on your plate, think in terms of using oils other than Omega 6 for cooking – such as the more oxidation – resistant monounsaturates like olive oil. To receive the important contribution of balanced Omega 6 and its essential fatty acid, turn to the tasty seeds which contain it and add high-quality Omega 6 oil raw in salad dressings. Include more Omega 3 into your week’s menu with the help of Linseed Cereal or bread, or more fish and seafood-especially dark varieties like salmon-for lunch or dinner. Vegetarians can increase Omega 3s through dark greens, walnuts, pecans, soy products and raw hemp oil. Clearly no one food is the problem or the solution. Their value lies in the relationship between them and your diet as a whole. This perspective has tended to be missing in regards to canola-the benefits of which have been taken out of context. Canola is substantially a monounsaturated oil with Omega 3 than any oil except linseed (otherwise known as flaxseed). However, there are three caveats. First, it is difficult to obtain a truly cold-pressed or unrefined canola. The high heat and solvent extraction commonly used in its production is especially damaging to its Omega 3 content (funny how they don’t mention this in the advertising). Secondly, because all Omega 3s are sensitive to heat and oxidation, it is not a good choice for direct fat-in-the-pan cooking. Thirdly, despite the rumours, most of the canola available in New Zealand has been developed by traditional plant-breeding practices – however, genetically engineered version’s are on the increase.
These are designed to help avoid hydrogenated and otherwise damaged fats, to ensure less than average saturated fat and Omega6 levels, while encouraging sufficient monounsaturates and Omega 3s – all from the best-quality sources.
- When shopping, choose oils which are labeled virgin, unrefined or cold-pressed (extra-virgin relates to prime acidity level and taste). These terms mean that the oil was extracted using cold mechanical pressure. Such a product will have a distinctive aroma, and as with any fresh food it will go rancid with too much heat, light or time. Store in the refrigerator or cool, dark place and use within six months.
- Read labels in order to minimize hydrogenated and hardened fats. If an unspecified fat is listed such as ‘vegetable oil/fat’, this can mean it is hydrogenated. However, if an oil is specified by name such as soy or olive, then if it is hydrogenated this must be stated. Hydrogenated fats are used extensively in margarine, commercial cakes, muffins, sweet and savoury biscuits and snack foods, dried packets of sauces, soups and beverages, stock cubes, pizza, milk shakes, chocolate and confectionery.
- Choose lean cuts of meat and trim visible fat. Cook chicken with the skin to retain moisture – if you wish, it can be removed before serving. Try to obtain organic or biodynamically reared meat to minimise hormone, antibiotic and agrichemical residues.
- Minimise the use of bacon, sausage, salami and especially the highly processed tinned and luncheon meats. Four-fifths of the kilojoules in these products can come from fat. Keep this in perspective e though – a few slices of naturally cured bacon can flavour a big pot of sauce and vegetables, to go over pasta and be served with salad creating a balanced meal.
- Grill, bake, steam, simmer. Use ways of cooking which do not involve unnecessarily heating added fat. Grill or roast meat and drain off fat. Small cuts pan-brown beautifully with only a few teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce. Baste meat or fish with mustard, ethnic seasoning pastes or balsamic vinegar and grill. Bake or simmer meat, fish or tofu in wine, seasoned tomatoes, or stock with lemon slices and garlic. ‘Stir-simmer’ meat, fish or tofu in soy sauce, black bean paste or chilli sauce. Traditionally the Chinese add a dash of sesame oil immediately before serving. Steam individual or medley of vegetables and then toss with oil and seasoning.
- For delicious alternatives to milk, butter, grates cheese, cottage and cream cheese, ice-cream, whipped cream and chocolate see Food Options and Substitutions (See ‘The Shape Diet’). Check out Breakfast, Lunch and Snacks for butter options, plus sweet and savoury spreads in the book 'The Shape Diet'.
- Each day eat some high-quality raw fat sources such as from nuts, seeds, avocado, linseed, and cold-pressed oils in home-made salad dressings, toppings and spreads.
- Cooking with fats: some purists will say that no fat should ever be heated – such people are obviously not keen cook (or frequently invited to dinner!). choose fats for cooking which resist oxidation. These are monounsaturates, especially olive oil, avocado oil and peanut oil; butter, especially clarified butter; and coconut fat (these and a few more tropical fats largely make up the age-old global preferences). The monounsaturates are additionally good choices for their ability (unlike butter) to reduce LDL and increase HDL. Minimise Omega 6 and especially Omega 3 as direct fat-in-the-pan fats as they readily oxidise. When frying keep the heat low. Often include garlic and onions (again, global favourites) as these foods are high in antioxidants. Be assured, when baking – such as a casserole or cake – that only the surface layer of food has any fat content exposed to high heat. The internal temperature will only reach about 116oC (even pre-eminent and fussy fats scientist and author Dr Udo Erasnmus states that this range is safe). Use an oxidation-resistant fat to line baking pans and dishes. This good news also applies to simmering, steaming and boiling-such as when cooking a one-post stew or rice dish which may include the fat from nuts, fish or olive oil. The temperature will not go beyond the 100oC of boiling point. In contrast, a sizzling – or worse, smoking – pan – fry or deep-fry takes the temperature to a more destructive 180oC and beyond.
- Grill, bake, steam, simmer.
- Alternate meat meals with vegetarian-especially low-fat grains and legumes with lots of vegetables.
- Choose of meat and trim visible fat. Cook chicken with the skin to retain moisture; remove before serving. lean cuts
- Minimise use of bacon, tinned meat, sausages, salami and luncheon (four-fifths of the kilojoules in processed meat can be from fat).
- Grill or roast meat on a tray to allow fat to drip off. Cook smaller cuts in liquid (Worcestershire Sauce aids browning and flavour) or in a non-stick pan and drain off any fat.
- Bake or simmer fish in white wine, seasoned tomato or stock with hers, lemon peel and garlic.
- Drain tinned fish of oil before using (the oil added is not fish oil) or buy water/brine packed fish.
- If using dairy products switch to low fat yoghurt, ricotta, quark.
- Serve sorbet, frozen yoghurt or sweetened tofu smoothie in place of cream and ice-cream.
- Avoid “coffee whiteners” and other milk and cream substitutes which are full of additives and hydrogenated fat.
- Minimise hard, processed and cream cheeses.
- Spread options: avocado, nut butters, Yeast Spread, hummos sliced or mashed fruit, tahini, mustard, relish, salsa, mashed seasoned tofu.
- Try alternatives to butter and other solid cooking fats. Use cold-pressed oils measure for measure. E.g. when baking cakes, muffins, ½ cup butter may be replaced with ½ cup virgin olive or other cold-pressed oil.
- Butter is minimally processed but high in saturated fat. If you want a lactose-free margarine, read labels and look for no milk or artificial additives, low TFAs. The highest proportion of fat should come from specifically named oil (eg “olive oil”) otherwise “veg fat/oil” can mean it is hydrogenated. In the main use Spread Options as above. Or make better butter: combine 1/3 softened clarified butter (such as Anchor brand) with 2/3 virgin olive oil. Add salt to taste.1 Delicious with garlic and parsley. Mixture will be very soft. Cover and chill. Plain version keeps for months.
- In cooking use a little parmesan for cheese flavour-its strong flavour means you need very little and because it is well aged, those with lactose-intolerance can more readily digest it.
- Minimise commercially baked, pre-prepared and packet goods which usually contain hydrogenated fat. (eg cake, biscuits, chips, snack bars, dried soup, sauces & drinks)
- Do not re-use cooking oils. Take-aways, once weekly, maximum. Minimise deep-fried, battered and fried foods.
- For chocolate flavour use cocoa or carob powder instead of solid chocolate.
- No more than low – moderate wine intake (raises HDL, reduces platelet aggregation and thus risk of thrombosis)
- Limit coffee, tea, sugar, refined carbohydrates and salt.
- Eat ‘dark’ fish twice weekly.