Fats and Oils

Fats and oils are essential but the wrong ones can literally be 'the death of you'. Besides adding calories to your diet they provide a protective layer to your body, lubricating the bowels, encouraging the release of bile from the liver, transporting the fat soluble vitamins, lining the nerve cells, supporting correct cellular division, supporting the adrenals and forming sex hormones.

In general the fat content of your body is regulated by your liver. It will metabolise or emulsify the fats if there is too much and produce more in the form of cholesterol if not enough. This helps to explain why a 90 year old man who has been eating fry-ups all his life can have a low blood cholesterol whereas a 30 year old woman who has been on a lot of fat free diets can still have a high blood cholesterol level. Therefore the condition of your liver is vital in maintaining the correct fat levels.

There are three main types of fats and oils to be considered, which are as follows:-

Saturated fats
Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature such as butter, lard and coconut butter. They are a natural product, which the body can utilise as energy and for cellular growth. If you eat too much of them they can make your platelets stickier, increase your risk of heart disease; interfere with insulin production, lead to diabetes; and increase your risk of certain cancers.

Monounsaturated oils
Monounsaturated oils are those that are semi-solid at room temperature such as olive oil and rapeseed oil. The process of extracting the oil is usually performed with the aid of heat. Unfortunately this can destroy some of the nutrients in the oil as well as causing free radical damage. Monounsaturated oils are more stable than polyunsaturated oils and cold pressed extraction helps prevent their oxidation. If you wish to use oil to cook with it is safer to use olive oil but keep the heat low or better still add it to your food just before serving.
Extra virgin cold pressed olive oil is made from the flesh of ripe olives. It is high in the omega-9 fatty acids and many minor elements including vitamin E, magnesium and some that are unique to olive oil. It helps brain development and function, improves liver detoxification and fat digestion, reduces bad LDL cholesterol and raises good HDL cholesterol, can help heart disease and promote bowel function.

Polyunsaturated oils
Polyunsaturated oils are those that are liquid at any temperature and include sunflower oil, soya oil, sesame oil and all vegetable oils. They are highly unstable and are destroyed by heat and light. Try to buy them cold pressed, don't cook with them and store them in a cool dark place to stop them going rancid. It is best to avoid the typical supermarket oils as they are heat-treated.
This also applies to margarine and vegetable suet, which are solidified vegetable oils. The process of turning the oil into solid fat involves a long chemical process in which the oil becomes hydrogenated. (For further information refer to 'Fats that Heal, Fats the Kill' by Udo Erasmus in the bibliography). When you eat margarine it leads to the formation of free radicals (see antioxidants above) in your body, which have been linked to heart disease, cancer, arthritis and the ageing process. Your body then requires large amounts of antioxidants to reverse the damage.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFA)
The most beneficial fats are the Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) which, as their name suggests, are essential to life. They can not be manufactured in the body and are found naturally in all the different types of oils mentioned above and are most abundant in nuts and seeds. In order that your body can make full use of them it needs to take them with vitamins B3, B6 and C, magnesium and zinc.

There are three main types of EFA's – omega-3, 6 and 9. According to Udo Erasmus the best ratio between omega 3 and 6 is 2:1.

Omega 3 – EPA and DHA - found mainly in oily fish; hemp, pumpkin and rape seeds; soybean; wheat germ. They help your eyesight, nervous system, heart and circulation, pain control and act as a mood enhancer. ALA found in flax seeds helps the skin, heart and circulation. It can also be converted to EPA and DHA by the body.

Omega 6 – LA - found in oils such as sunflower and corn and is converted in the body to GLA. Helps to balance the hormones, the skin, heart and immunity. Also found in hemp, flax (linseed), pumpkin, soybean, wheat germ, grape seed, sesame and rape seed oils. GLA is found in ready form in Safflower (borage) oil and Evening Primrose oil.

Omega 9 – found in monounsaturated oils and in almonds, olives, rape seed, sesame and pumpkin seeds. It is also found in all the oils mentioned for omega 6.

Lack of EFA's has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis and high cholesterol levels. In their natural state they are also required to antidote the negative effects of damaged oils.

Taking unrefined, cold pressed EFAs may help the above conditions and could also help with weight loss, menstrual problems, the menopause, constipation, eczema and arthritis. The best oils are flax, pumpkin, soya, walnut and wheat germ, black currant, borage, followed by safflower, starflower, sunflower and evening primrose oil (EPO). It can not be stressed too often that these oils must be unrefined and cold pressed.

Films to watch -
'Lorenzo's oil' demonstrates the strong connection between EFAs and nerves -epilepsy, MS.
'First do no Harm' demonstrates the strong connection between fats and brain activity (Epilepsy).

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