Fats! Good, Bad and the Ugly

        To begin to tackle the understanding of fats and how they relate to our health, our fitness and our overall survival, lets start with a “myth buster”, then move into some 101’s and wrap up with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  Main point of this is to take away the importance of getting your Omega 3 and 6 (n-3 and n-6) ratios to a 1:1 as you will read about below.  Hope you enjoy! I will explain easy to do steps to ensure your getting balanced levels everyday.
     To establish a good “base” for your diet (way of life) we recommend:  Lean meats (preferably from clean sources such as grassfed, locally raised beef, wild caught fish, etc.), lots of veggies (from local or organic sources), some fruits (from local farms, “in-season”, and/or organic), some starch (sweet potatoes, yams, etc.) and nuts and seeds (macadamia nuts, walnuts, almond butter, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds – all with NO Salt and minimal processing).  NO SUGAR or very little (once or twice a month).  No Breads, Pasta or other processed foods.  Limit going out to eat at restaurants.  Cook at home and with friends!
       1) Intro to Fats: the Fat myth by Ancel Keys. (http://www.stop-trans-fat.com/ancel-keys.html)
First, we need to start this discussion by debunking a myth that fats are bad for you and that all fats are created equal.  Read the link above and continue your own research on this subject to determine for yourself if fats are “Bad” for you.
      2) Types of Fats and their definitions

When it comes to fats, it’s hard to keep it too simple.  You need to have a basic understanding of a few terms:

Lipids – fats and oils.  If it’s solid at room temperature, it’s a fat.  If it’s liquid at room temperature, it’s oil.  Lipids are a collection of molecules called triglycerides.

Triglycerides – a molecule comprised of three fatty acids attached to a glycerol.

Fatty Acid – carboxylic acids (COOH for you chemistry junkies) with carbon chains running 2-24 carbons long.  The most abundant fatty acids in food are 16-18 carbons long.

Saturated Fatty Acid – a fatty acid in which all the links between carbons on the chain are single bonds, leaving no free electrons to potentially share with something else.  This is the most stable form of a fatty acid and is generally solid at room temperature.

Unsaturated Fatty Acid – fatty acids with one or more double bond between carbons.  If there is only one double bond, it is a monounsaturated fatty acid; two or more and it is a polyunsaturated fatty acids.  The fatty acids in the families of omega-3, omega-6, omega-7, and omega-9 fall into this category.  These are not as stable as saturated fatty acids, which is why they are liquids at room temperature.  Note that this is why we suggest cooking with Coconut Oil (Saturated Fat = more stable). Cooking with Olive Oil (Monounsaturated Fat) has carcinogenic characteristics with heated.

Trans Fatty Acid – an unsaturated fatty acid that has undergone the process of hydrogenation or partial hydrogenation.  The fatty acid is bombarded with hydrogen atoms until those double bonds are broken up and the resulting free electron is shared with a hydrogen.  These are really weird fats that look saturated, but the body generally doesn’t know how to work with them.  There are some naturally occurring trans fats in ruminant animal fats, but these are different than the redheaded stepchildren coming from the hydrogenation process.

Melting Point–  the temperature at which a lipid goes from solid to liquid.

Smoke Point – the temperature at which a lipid begins to break down to glycerol and free fatty acids.  This is a bad place for fats as they can potentially turn into very toxic substances from here. http://www.clovegarden.com/ingred/oilchart.html.

3)  what we want to make sure we get in our diet, what we want to avoid. 

  Saturated Fat sources: animal fats, coconut oil/ flakes/ milk.
  Unsaturated Fats (Mono, Poly) sources:  Nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, etc.
  Avoid:  Trans Fat and interestified (man made) fats
What are Good, Bad, and Ugly?
Good:  Saturated Fats from animals (15% of fat intake), Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats (1:2, 1:3 fatty acid ratio of n-3:n-6) – 1:1 is best!
Bad:  Trans Fats and interesterified fats (man-made fats that are harmful from Processed foods).
Ugly: Too much omega 6: (This is the take away for most of us!  We need to be cognitive of our Omega (n-3,n-6) intake each day and make sure we are doing what we can to level these ratios out to again a 1:1 preferably but 1:2, 1:3 will be ok.) How to get there? First, know that having the proper balance between n-3 and n-6 fats is very important for optimal health. From there, increase your omega-3 (which most of us are sorely deficient in), then you will also want to decrease your consumption of n-6, found primarily in:

  • Corn oil
  • Soy oil
  • Canola oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower oil
These oils are found in many foods we eat and don’t even realize it.  Chances are, every time you go out to eat, you are ingesting one of these oils. The overabundance of these oils in processed foods of all kinds explains our excess n-6 levels. Why?  When our n-3 to n-6 ratios are at 1:20 (research shows most Americans are in this range) then your blood gets “sticky” and causes it to be more likely to clot which will increase your risk for heart attack and stroke.  Benefits of taking n-3 include helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain and other rheumatoid problems, as well as certain skin ailments. Some research has even shown that n-3s can boost the immune system and help protect us from an array of illnesses including Alzheimer’s disease.

How to get back to a 1:1 ratio?

1)  As stated above, avoid oils that have high concentrations of omega 6 by avoiding most processed foods that are covered in these oils. (look at ingredients)

2) Eat foods rich in Omega 3:  Coldwater Fish such as Salmon (wild caught), Tuna, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines.  Here is a LINK for amounts of EPA/DHA in each fish

Other sources of omega-3s include broccoli, cantaloupe, spinach, grape leaves, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, walnuts, and macadamia nuts which are also packed with n-3 and one of my favorites!

“About an ounce — or one handful — of walnuts have about 2.5 grams of omega-3s,” says an Registered Dietician from WebMD. “That’s equal to about 3.5 ounces of salmon.”

Besides getting more omega-3s, you can also help your heart by replacing some omega-6s from cooking oils with a third fatty acid known as omega-9 (oleonic acid). This is a monounsaturated fat found primarily in olive oil.  If cooking with Olive oil, get the “light” and not “Extra virgin” and cook on very low heat.   Use it on your Salads along with Vinaigrette. (my favorite!)

“Factors found in olive oil can also help boost the good cholesterol, which can also help your heart,” says Magee, another RD from WebMD.

3) Supplement with Omega 3 Fatty acids from Fish oil or Krill Oil (new preferred type) Why? Krill Oil has phospholipids which aid in transport of EPA/DHA because they are water-soluble and more bioavailable.

These are great sources:

– Progenex Krill Oil – http://www.progenexusa.com/Shop.aspx?afid=NEA10

– SFH Fish oil – http://www.sfh.com/products/omega_3-oil

Some notes of caution when taking these:  (Talk to your physician before taking high dosages of Fish oil – 7 or more grams a day) – Taking high dosages can thin your blood and cause you to bruise and even worse “bleed out” if you were fatally wounded (God forbid).  Be sure to refrigerate your fish oils and krill oil to ensure they don’t spoil.

Here is a list of Fish Oil/Krill oil Benefits for your enjoyment:

Heart Health
Fish oil helps:

  1. Promote healthy heart beat
  2. Moderate growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque
  3. Naturally balance triglycerides, an important heart health marker

This is why the American Heart Association recommends that you take 1000 mg of Omega-3 everyday.
Joint Care
Omega-3 is a powerful anti-inflammatory for your joints.


  1. Reduces joint discomfort
  2. Reduces morning stiffness
  3. Helps reduces the amount of painkillers needed
  4. Reduces enzymes that destroy cartilage
  5. Increases grip strength
  6. Enhances walking pace

Brain Health
More than half the fats in the brain is Omega-3 DHA. And the lining of the nerve cells in the brain is lined with Omega-3.  So, brain performance & function (cognition) is strongly influenced by the amount of Omega-3 in your diet.

Increased levels of Omega-3 helps:

  1. Enhance memory
  2. Support thinking speed
  3. Increase overall cognition
  4. Manage age-related brain decline

EPA Omega-3 is crucial in maintaining mood health. In several studies, EPA has been found to be as effective as prescription anti-depressants.

Several studies have shown that persons with depression have low Omega-3 levels and high Omega-6 levels.


The other fats you want to avoid are the trans fats. Trans fats are formed when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil during food processing in order to make it solidify. This process, known as hydrogenation, makes fats less likely to spoil, so foods stay fresh longer, have a longer shelf life and also have a less greasy feel. The end result of the hydrogenation process is a completely unnatural fat that causes dysfunction and chaos in your body on a cellular level……your body doesn’t know what to do with it.

Here is an interesting piece from the Agriculture and Commerce sites.

Interestingly, our health issues from these to time periods are dramatically different!  Chronic diseases that we deal with now were mostly non-existant during the late 19th century.


FOR THOSE OF YOU AT THE 1st NUTRITION CLINIC AT NO EXCUSES CROSSFIT:   1) We challenged everyone to get veggies in EVERY meal of the day.  Increase you veggie intake.

Something I do to help ENSURE I get the needed amount of micronutrients and phytonutrients in my diet everyday, I take Juice Plus.  Click HERE for more info on this product.



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