A fishy situation: Lowering your cholesterol
Most Americans consume their fair share of oils from different sources, but you could be missing out on one very important oil? Studies have shown that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids are particularly helpful in many metabolic processes in the body, lowering LDL aka “Bad” cholesterol, raising HDL, aka good cholesterol along with being important in reducing inflammation. There are 3 main categories of fats in our diet: saturated, mono-unsaturated, and poly-unsaturated. We find the saturated fats in foods mostly derived from animal products. The mono-unsaturated fats are found in foods like olive oil, avocado and most nuts (except for walnuts). The poly-unsaturated group of fats is further divided into two categories of omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acidss are found in corn, safflower, and sunflower oils and omega-3 fatty acids (FA’s) are found in flax, walnuts, and fatty fish (like salmon). According to the nutrition experts at Harvard School of Nutrition, the daily diet should contain a healthy ratio of omega-3 FA’s to omega-6 FA’s of 1:1 (or equal parts), but in reality most Americans consume a disproportionate amount of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. The over-consumed omega-6 FA’s are abundant in packaged foods and snack food. Omega-6 does have health benefits, but researchers have found that the lack of a sufficient amount of omega-3 in the diet can lead to higher levels of inflammation and less protection from heart disease.
The USDA food pyramid gives a general idea of what Americans should be consuming on a daily basis, but there is better and more complete food pyramid from Harvard School of Public Health at www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/. This pyramid from Harvard shows the complete daily diet including grains, oils, and protein.
One of the simplest ways to increase your omega-3 consumption is to eat fish twice weekly and eat foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid, such as walnuts, flaxseeds and canola oil. Include unrefined and whole grains into your diet and pay special attention to the types of oils you eat. Health professionals also recommend including at least 30 min. of exercise daily and fresh water (measured as half of your body weight in ounces daily). For more detailed information and a diet tailored to your needs or specific food sensitivities talk your naturopathic physician!
Your health care team at Northwest Natural Medicine