For decades, the emphasis has been put on reducing fats in our diets in order to prevent obesity, decrease cholesterol, lower blood pressure and to generally improve our health. Turns out that reducing fat intake isn’t truly the key to good health, after all. Instead, it is learning the difference between the types of fat we consume and making sure that we eat good fats rather than bad fats.
The proliferation of cheap, easily produced vegetable oils has led to a major imbalance in the diets of most people today. These oils, while not containing cholesterol, do contain a huge amount of omega-6 fatty acids. While these are essential to the body, research has shown that if the proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is too high, it causes inflammation in the body. This type of chronic inflammation is the basis for almost every disease that man is prone to, including heart disease, strokes and even cancer
The typical western diet has a ratio of 15:1 omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats, while science reveals that a ratio of 2:1 is the highest we should be consuming. Experts say that early man ate a diet that provided an equal ratio of these two essential nutritional groups. If we wish to reduce chronic inflammation and our risks of disease, we must pay attention to the fats we eat.
Good Fats – Types and Effect on Inflammation
Unsaturated fats are the good guys when it comes to getting the fats our bodies actually need to survive. There are two types of unsaturated fats: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. For a long time, it was thought that these two types were the same when it comes to health but research has now shown that we should be focused on monounsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats are the ones found in most vegetable oils. They help to lower bad cholesterol and contain omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory as well as being beneficial in many other ways. Recently, however, research has shown that these fats also contain huge amounts of omega-6 fatty acids. While just as essential as the omega-3 group, when you take far more of the 6s than the 3s, your body is put into a pro-inflammatory state. In other words, this can increase chronic inflammation that leads to cell and tissue damage.
Monounsaturated fats, on the other hand, maintain a much better balance between the two vital fatty acids, as well as being high in things like vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant. This type of fat is found in olive, canola, sesame, avocado and peanut oils. Simply switching from ordinary vegetable oils to these heart-healthy oils can go a long way towards reducing inflammation in the body.
Bad Fats – Types and Effects on Inflammation
Saturated fats and trans fatty acids are the real bad guys in the world of fats. They increase cholesterol, clog arteries and generally increase the risk of serious heart disease and stroke. Studies have recently linked these bad fats to an increased risk of prostate and colon cancer, as well.
Trans fats are only present in dairy and meat sources in small amounts. If this was the only source, we wouldn’t have to worry much. Unfortunately, artificial sources make up a large portion of most modern diets. Artificial trans fats are created when liquid vegetable oils are hardened, transforming into what is called partially hydrogenated fat.
The major problem is that partially hydrogenated fats are hidden inside much of today’s highly processed foods so people are getting far more of these bad fats than they are aware. These fats create a huge imbalance in the fatty acid groups as mentioned in the last section. Those whose diets consist largely of processed foods have been found to have omega-6 to omega-3 ratios as high as 40:1.
Understanding the difference between the omega fatty acids, and balancing your nutritional health diet in a way that it isn’t highly inflammatory from eating excessive amounts of bad fats, is critical for controlling inflammation and your risks for serious health problems.
The balance between good fats and bad fats is a major determinant for whether your diet is highly inflammatory and low in nutritional quality.
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