Now that both Thing 1 and Thing 2 are happily napping in the sun on my bed (with Thing 3 about to be released from the hospital finally!) I have the time to sit and write a much overdue post. For those of you who have tried to reach me to schedule a consultation or follow on appointment, please know I am not ignoring you and will be back to business as usual within the next few weeks but now am happily adjusting to three beautiful new additions to our home and am happily falling in love with my growing family.
As we have gotten deeper into discussing estrogen dominance,thyroid and adrenal health you probably have seen the term PUFA bandied about a lot by me. Since I am about to blow your mind with a revelation about fish oils I thought we should talk firstabout the definition of a PUFA and why they have little to no business being in your eating plan.
Let’s define dietary fat first and foremost. They are divided into three main categories; saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. All oils used in cooking or eating (indeed pretty much all oils except perhaps engine oil) contain one or a combination of these fats.
*Olive oil, macadamia oil, and avocado oil are largely monunsaturated fats with some saturated and a very small ratio of polyunsaturated fats.
*Corn oil, safflower, canola, flax (yes, you heard me right!), sunflower, cottonseed (used in many packaged foods), and soybean oils are largely polyunsaturated fats. Having said that, most nuts (except for macadamia nuts), all grains, corn, grain-fed animal sources, (including farmed fish and factory eggs), and even green leafy vegetables (though I am not saying don’t eat your leafy greens) are sources of PUFAs.
The fact is, it is virtually impossible to avoid PUFAs altogether but we are here to bring balance back into eating, health, and life, right?
A fat molecule is basically a chain of carbon molecules. Every link in this chain has the ability to hold a hydrogen atom and if that happens, the fat is a saturated fat. If some of the links are missing hydrogen atoms and have double bonded carbon molecules then the fat is unsaturated. If, in this chain, there is only one double bonded carbon molecule, the fat is a “mono”unsaturated (mono meaning one) fat while if there is more than one the fat is a “poly” unsaturated fat (poly meaning more than one).
Polyunsaturated fats are not stable fats. These molecules are like magnets for free radicals and oxidative stress. Remember, oxidative stress can lead to inflammation in the body which can lead to arthritis, accelerated aging, (sugar gets a bad rap, however it is actually PUFAs present in most sugary snacks that cause glycation and collagen loss), hormonal imbalance, thyroid issues, cancer and many more illnesses and symptoms.
PUFAs are highly reactive to heat and light. They go rancid quickly on the shelf (especially since most are packed in clear plastic jugs). Canola, as an example, is touted as heart healthy for it’s Omega-3 content. Because canola oil is processed at temperatures hovering at 500°F and Omega-3 is fragile, breaking down quickly at temperatures above 120°F.
Most oils, when heated above their smoke point become extremely toxic (as they officially cross over into a rancid state) which means they oxidize quickly and whenever we incorporate something like a rancid oil into every cell in our body we are inevitably putting ourselves at huge risk for oxidative state diseases like cancer. Also, beauties, this oxidative state causes metabolism to lower (that’s a bad thing), affects your thyroid negatively, and causes your estrogen levels to shoot up (and blocks liver detoxification to lower them).
Some PUFAs, as discussed, such as canola, flax seed, and walnut oil, have some, even a lot of Omega-3 (an essential fatty acid found in fish, olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, flax, garlic, wheat germ and to a marginal extent olive oil) fatty acid. The problem here is, with the exception of wild caught fish, most nut and seed oils also contain high amounts of Omega-6, a fatty acid that, when consumed in ratios far above that of Omega-3 (the ratio should ultimately be 1:1) is highly inflammatory, even responsible for such illnesses such as inflammatory autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis, lupus, and even Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. High ratios of Omega-6 to Omega-3 has been linked to colorectal and breast cancers, cardiovascular disease, and asthma. Our Standard American Diet (SAD) suggests the average ratio is around 16:1, however, those who consume a high grain, nut and seed diet or a highly refined diet with fried foods can have ratios of upwards of 40:1. (Vegans and Vegetarians, I am not picking on you but if you are eating a lot of nuts or trying to get your Omega-3 from oils such as flax, chia, or hemp, you may actually be doing your body more harm than good since many of these oils are often rancid before you even get them home. The seeds, if harvested and packed within a few months and kept refrigerated are a much better option but even these contain PUFAs.)
If the above information isn’t ENOUGH to make you think about your PUFA use then let me remind you PUFAs block the ability of glucose to be absorbed by the cells. This causes, inevitably, insulin resistance which leads to weight gain and even conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, and other hormonal disturbances.
Where are PUFAs?
In a word, PUFAs are everywhere. Nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, nut and seed oils,nut milks, grains and, again, any animal product (milk, butter, eggs, meat) that is grain fed are high in polyunsaturated fats. Vegetables and even fruits have some but even though green leafy vegetables contain PUFA that does not give you a license to stop eating them.
An oxidative state causes metabolism to lower (that’s a bad thing), affects your thyroid negatively, and causes your estrogen levels to shoot up (and blocks liver detoxification to lower them).
So what can I eat??
This is the fun part. Although I really don’t feel it is possible to avoid ALL PUFAs, eating nuts, seeds and their products in small amounts rather than large parts of your meals is a good start. Avoiding commercial oils such as corn, canola, sunflower, safflower and even flax seed and peanut oil (buy very fresh flax seeds, grind them fresh and then add a teaspoon to something cold if you want to eat them). When you do use oils like avocado, olive, and walnut, buy the highest quality cold pressed oils possible and use them over salads and warmed veggies or other dishes as a garnish.
The good news is eating saturated fats like coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, cacao butter (chocolate fat), cream (from grass-fed sources), and even red palm oil can actually block most of the negative effects of PUFAs. Think butter on your broccoli, raw dairy ice cream (homemade with high quality sourced ingredients), cacao butter truffles, and if you must eat bread every once in awhile, a slab of sourdough bread with plenty of butter and jam. Pastured eggs and grass-fed meats on the bone, bone broth are also great sources of heart healthy saturated fats.
Before you pick up your fish oil or cod liver oil supplements, think again. Our next post will be about why you should leave them behind and will shock and awe you.