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By Julene Tripp Weaver
OILS AND FATS: Emphasis on FLAX SEED OIL
This column will address the difference between healthy and unhealthy fats
and oils. Why do we need them, and because we need them what is the best
way to use them, and which ones are the best to use? This subject is big,
I will address a narrow range of this big topic.
You've all probably heard a mix of things about fats. There is the whole
mystery of saturated vs. unsaturated fats and which is which? Then there
is the process of hydrogenation, two types of cholesterol in the body, and
the essential fatty acids. How can we sort this out without a science degree?
What is good for us anyway? One year we are being told use margarine,
the next year we are told this is wrong and to go back to butter. Will
someone please just lay it out real simple, what do I do?
One thing I have learned from herbalist Susun Weed is that women's bodies
do need fat. As women when we go into hormone production we put on an extra
ten pounds of fat. When I think back to my early teenage years I remember
my bewilderment of putting on these extra pounds. Now as I'm looking toward
menopause I realize this is likely to happen again. Healthy fat for women
is important because it helps in our hormone production. Not only does
ingesting healthy fat help with hormone production, it is vital to make
vitamin D, and cell membranes. So it is important to keep our bodies in
a good healthy supply. But the million dollar question, what is healthy
Healthy fat means considering the type and quality of fats ingested. The
major components of all fats are fatty acids. Of the hundreds of different
fatty acid about twenty are common in human foods, and two are essential
to human health. These two essential fatty acids (EFA's) are Omega-3 and
Omega-6. Essential means you absolutely have to have it to live and be
healthy. It also means our body cannot produce this type of fatty acid,
it must come from our diet. Flax seed and some fish oils are an excellent
source of these two fatty acids.
EFA's are required for normal development of the brain and for continuing
brain functioning in adults, meaning visual function, brain and nerve function,
and adrenal function (dealing with stress). They are required in the structure
of the membranes that surround each cell in our body. This is vital to
those of us dealing with HIV/AIDS because if we lack EFA's we wind up with
leaky membranes; it makes it easier for the virus to replicate. Vitality
is lowered, gastrointestinal problems arise, skin afflictions occur and
allergic reactions take place because foreign substances get into our body
and our immune system has to deal with them, thus getting overtaxed. EFA's
also stimulate metabolism, increase metabolic rate, increase oxygen uptake,
and increase energy production. EFA's, especially Omega-3's, slow down
growth of cancer cells, candida, and other anaerobic organisms which do
not like oxygen. Another function of EFA's is to produce hormones, the
prostagladins produced are a hormone like substance that regulate immune
function, particularly B cells and T cells, and control inflammation. This
is the main reason its especially important to women. Immune function requires
EFA's to kill infectious organisms.
The EFA's are the good fats required by our bodies, what about the Non-Essential
Fatty Acids? These are all but the EFA's. They are found in beef, pork
and lamb fats, dairy fats: butter, cream, sour cream, cheese and cream cheese,
coconut fat and palm kernel fat. These are high in non-essential fatty
acids of the saturated type. All oils contain some non-essential fatty
acids both saturated and monounsaturated. All calories that are in excess
of what the body uses up in its moment-to-moment activity are sources for
non-essential fatty acids. Excess sugar absorbed by the cells, and excess
calories from any source (such as protein, or fats, or refined carbohydrates),
are converted into non-essential fatty acids and into cholesterol.
Another group of non-essential fatty acids are the trans-fatty acids produced
by frying, deodorizing, and hydrogenation of oils. They are in large quantities
in margarine, shortenings, shortening oils, partially hydrogenated vegetable
oils and fried and deep fried oils. Most of these processes transform the
oil's natural molecular structure (a horseshoe shape) into a straight line
shape that is destructive in the cells of our body. Because of this processing
it is safer to use organic butter than margarine and expellor pressed virgin
olive oil rather than processed vegetable oils (buy olive oil or sesame
oil which are stable oils that resist rancidity and are almost free of pesticides).
Our ancestors had an abundance supply of healthy oil, now with food processing
the average American has one fifth the amount of omega-3 in our daily diet.
Alpha-linoleic, the EFA that is omega-3, is a highly volatile and active
form of fatty acid that is easily denatured by oxygen. Linoleic acid is
in everything, this is omega-6, so what is common now is an imbalance, we
have more omega-6 than we need and less omega-3. We only get omega-3 if
we eat fresh foods or use flax seed oil. It is crucial for your cells;
if you don't have omega-3 your immune system will fall apart. Other attributes
of omega-3 EFAs: it cleans arteries by melting residues of old oils and
fats, it cleans the liver and gall bladder (it melts gall stones) and it
melts cancer tumors (cancer is bad quality fats in body). Our brain is
formed from these Omega-3's and without them it can atrophy. It is also
rich in the sperm and ovum, and in fact the population is less fertile now
than in 1950; a typical sperm count is a fraction of what it was in 1950.
This is partly due to these processing changes in the Standard American
So we need more Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids, what next? What is the best
source to get them since our bodies cannot make them? Intergrating flax
seeds into our diet is one way to increase EFS's, using unrefined cold-pressed
flax seed oil is also a good source, flax seeds are the richest vegetal
source of Omega-3 oils; 57% of its oil is composed of Omega-3 fatty acids
also called alpha linolenic acid. In our busy lives it is a very convenient
way to get a substantial amount easily. The perfect flax seed oil should
be unrefined and cold pressed and you find it in the refrigerator section
of your local health food store. It is stored in specially formulated black
plastic bottles that protect it from light (light degrades oil fastest),
in addition these special bottles do not bleed plasticides into the oil.
(Typically oils should not be purchased in plastic containers, plastic
is petroleum based and when oils are stored in it toxic plasticides come
into the oil). Once opened it is to be used within six weeks.
Other vegetables have lesser amounts of Omega-3, for example pumpkin seeds,
dark green vegetables, and soybean products (if you buy tofu do not buy
low-fat, it has the good type of oil you need). All green foods contain
alpha-linolenic acid in their cells, and this includes the micro-algae foods:
spirulina, wild blue-green algae and chlorella.
Fish is another source of Omega-3: salmon, mackerel and sardines have the
highest amounts. The advantage of the flax seed oil is that it is less
contaminated than fish might be. Fish often had dangerous levels of pesticides
Flax seed oil is not a cooking oil, so what do you do with it, and how much
do you use? What is recommended for regular dosage is one tablespoon per
day, when the body is having problems two tablespoons per day. It can be
added to yogurt smoothies, or mixed into cottage cheese or oatmeal. It
can be used in place of butter as a dip for bread, add fresh herbs and crushed
garlic into it for additional flavor, use a good crusty bread and it's a
treat. Try it in salad dressings or pour it over food at one of your meals
and eat it.
Omega Nutrition Certified Organic Flax Seed Oil is rated number one in this
country according to Paul Pitchford; another high quality brand is Barlean's
(it should be stored in a refrigerator). Your local co-op or health food
store carries other brands; look at the freshness date, you want the freshest
organic flax seed oil in dark bottles for the best taste.
Organic flax seeds can be used in the same way as the oil, a small coffee
grinder is great to grind a weekly supply, store your ground seeds in a
dark jar in the freezer to prevent them from turning rancid. Use them sprinkled
onto food, in smoothies, or in anything you would use the oil in. This
is a cheaper way to get the EFA's than the oil, and with the seeds there
is a much longer shelf life until you grind and use them. They can also
be used whole by adding them into breads, muffins, pancakes, cereals, or
Erasmus, Udo, Fats that Heal Fats that Kill: The complete guide to
fats, oils, cholesterol and human health, Second Printing, Vancouver,
Canada: Alive Books, 1994
Pitchford, Paul, Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern
Nutrition, Berkeley, CA: North Atlanta Books, 1993.
Steinman, David, Diet For A Poisoned Planet: How to Choose Safe Foods
for You and Your Family, New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1990.
Disclaimer: Please be advised this is a sharing of information that is
not meant to be used to replace medical treatment and your own intuitive
sense of your body and what it needs. Please see your medical provider
(Dr., Naturopath, Acupuncturist, etc.) to follow up on suggestions.