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Harnessing the power of dietary fats

Fats are more than just an essential food group; they hold the key to achieving vibrant health, optimal energy and a glowing complexion. However, it is important to know that not all fats are created equal. In our current food system one type of fat, known as polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), has become alarmingly ubiquitous. PUFAs have been linked to a range of health concerns including heart disease, inflammation, inflamed skin, brittle hair, premature ageing, increased susceptibility to illness and more. Knowing which fats to use abundantly in your diet and which to avoid is crucial for vital health and longevity.

PUFAs are a type of fat that includes omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Some examples of health-promoting PUFAs include walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and eggs. These foods in their whole, unaltered form are incredibly beneficial for your overall health as they contain a higher omega-3 ratio to omega-6 ratio. In contrast, another type of PUFA known as vegetable oils, which include soybean, corn, canola, sunflower, safflower, rice-bran and grapeseed, have a significantly higher ratio of omega-6 fatty acids, which are associated with a number of health concerns when consumed in excess.

Another challenge associated with PUFAs lies in their inherent instability. Each type of fat possesses a specific temperature at which it becomes prone to oxidation, leading to instability, rancidity and potential toxicity. PUFAs have an exceptionally low threshold for oxidation. This process of oxidation gives rise to harmful free radicals, which wreak havoc on your body’s cells, both internally by damaging organs and glands and externally by accelerating the ageing process of your skin. Worryingly, these fats may encounter instability even before entering your body. During processing, vegetable oils undergo exposure to high heat which often leads to rancidity. Additionally, the oils may experience heat exposure during transportation, further compromising their integrity and stability.

How PUFAs can negatively impact your health

Inflammation

Omega-6 fatty acids, when consumed in excess, promote the production of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to numerous health issues, including cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, autoimmune conditions and neurodegenerative diseases. The imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids exacerbates this inflammatory response, contributing to the development and progression of these chronic conditions.

If you’re seeking radiant skin, shiny hair and to age gracefully, then you will want to do all you can to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is associated with several skin issues including acne, dermatitis, psoriasis, redness and irritation. Moreover, chronic inflammation can contribute to premature ageing, resulting in fine lines, wrinkles and a dull complexion.

Just as your skin can suffer from inflammation caused by excess omega-6 fatty acids, your hair can also bear the brunt of their detrimental effects. Excessive omega-6 fatty acids can disrupt the scalp’s natural balance, leading to dryness, itchiness and dandruff. Vegetable oils lack the essential nutrients and fatty acids that nourish and strengthen hair and, as a result, hair may become brittle and prone to breakage and lose its lustre.

Weight gain

Vegetable oils being highly refined contain harmful additives and trans fats. Trans fats, found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, have been linked to weight gain, heart disease and increased cholesterol levels. Excessive consumption of vegetable oils can also lead to insulin resistance and metabolic issues.

Energy levels and vitality

Trans fats not only increase the risk of heart disease but can also affect your energy levels. Consuming foods containing trans fats can lead to sluggishness, fatigue and decreased overall vitality.

Healthy alternatives for cooking and consumption

It is crucial to recognise that vegetable oils are not limited to just cooking oils. They are hidden in numerous processed foods such as salad dressings, sauces, snacks, chips, crisps and breads, and the list continues. By reading labels diligently, you can identify the presence of vegetable oils and make conscious decisions about the foods you consume. Look out for ingredients such as soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and grapeseed oil and consider alternatives that use healthier fats or oils. Here are some recommendations:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil: Rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats, extra-virgin olive oil supports heart health and offers benefits for the skin and overall wellbeing.
  • Coconut oil: With its antimicrobial properties and healthy saturated fats, coconut oil can boost energy levels and contribute to a healthy metabolism.
  • Avocado oil: Loaded with monounsaturated fats and vitamin E, avocado oil supports skin health, reduces inflammation and aids in nutrient absorption.
  • Ghee or organic butter: This traditional fat provides essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.

Article Featured in WellBeing Magazine 207

Ema Taylor

Ema Taylor

Ema Taylor is a naturopath, clinical nutritionist and certified fertility awareness educator. For more, visit emataylor.com or @emataylornaturopathy on Instagram.

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