We need to consume good quality fats in our diet to provide the body with the building blocks for hormone production, bile production, cell membrane structure and gene expression. We get our fats from Saturated fat, Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats. Only the Polyunsaturated (PUFAs) are considered ‘essential’, as the others can be synthesised in the body. The PUFAs are comprised of the Omega 3 and Omega 6 variety. As well as these fats, we also have the manmade fats which are damaging to our health in any quantity, i.e. trans fats and hydrogenated fats. Fats heated to high temperatures can alter their structure and become damaging to our cells.
So with the Omegas, generally we need to increase our Omega 3’s as Omega 6 is found more frequently in our typical Western diet today. When the ratio of 6 is excessive to the ratio of 3, it can metabolize to pro inflammatory compounds.
Sources of Omega 3 are highest in oily fish like herring, mackerel, wild salmon and sardines and also found in plant sources like flaxseeds, walnuts, chia and dark leafy green vegetables. The plant sources require various minerals and B vitamins to convert them to the more active metabolites whereas the animal sources are in the EPA and DHA metabolites already.
Saturated fats are the most stable fats and are best to cook with as they are least likely to get damaged. Coconut oil is one of the healthiest, butter, lard, ghee and olive oil are also good to cook with. The other plant based oils like rapeseed, sesame, sunflower and avocado are best used cold pressed, unrefined and organic as their fats are less stable and more prone to oxidation. Omega 3 oils is very unstable and should not be heated, so best used cold in dips and salad dressings. Rapeseed has good amounts of Omega 3 and I prefer to use it raw and not heat it to high temperatures.
It’s a good idea to consume a diet rich in fruit and vegetables to provide antioxidants to protect the fatty acids in our bodies.