FATS YOU NEED TO EAT- Edited from 500 of the Most Important Health Tips You’ll Ever Need. ©  Hazel Courteney October 2013

For more than 16 years I have been telling people about the health benefits of essential fats – as have many other health writers, doctors, scientists and nutritionists – and at long last the message is finally filtering through. It needs to.

After all, your brain is almost 60% fat, but it needs more of the right type of fats to function effectively. Essential fats (EFAs) are essential to life, hence their name, and as we cannot manufacture them in our bodies we must take them in from external sources through our diet. Most people consume approximately 42% of their calories from fat, but unfortunately it’s usually the wrong type of fat.

Dr Udo Erasmus, a Canadian-based bio-chemist, and world renowned authority on fats and oils, says “A huge proportion of degenerative health conditions are triggered not only by eating excessive animal fats, but also over-consumption of mass-produced fats and oils. The majority of vegetable oils found in supermarkets have been refined, bleached and deodorized and then used for frying, which introduces huge amounts of ageing free radicals into the body.” To compound the negative health affects, a commercial practice called hydrogenation, in which liquid oils are turned into spreadable fats called trans-fatty acids, found in some margarines, mass-produced cakes, biscuits, cereal bars, flapjacks, chocolates, crisps and so on, are also unhealthy fats.

Some stores such as Marks and Spencers have taken the positive step of banning trans and hydrogenated fats from their ready meals. Let’s hope more follow.

Erasmus adds to this list sweet and starchy foods: desserts, high-sugar fizzy drinks, filled pastries, chocolates and so on, which tend to be high not only in sugar but also saturated fats. If it is not utilized during exercise, sugar converts to fat in the body and sits on your hips, thighs and stomach.

But before sugar turns into fat, it triggers cross-linking in the skin, which means you develop wrinkles faster; bacteria thrive on sugar, which will impair your immune system; and sugar increases inflammation in the body, and inflammation can trigger practically every disease from arthritis to Alzheimer’s, cancers to Parkinson’s.

Having said this, some children, especially young girls, are becoming obsessed with eliminating all fat from their diets – this is dangerous. If the body becomes too low in fat, then chronic depression and a host of skin disorders, such as eczema, can result. Children (and adults) need fats for vital functions, such as the manufacture of hormones and energy. That said, I would not encourage really overweight children, who do little or no exercise, to eat lots of junk-fatty foods; but I would never recommend that normal-weight children give up all fats. We all enjoy treats, but we do need to stop living on them. The body also needs essential fats to encourage weight loss, as EFAs help to burn stored fat.

There are two main types of EFAs, omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) and omega-6, which comes in two forms, linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). There is more about GLA under Useful Supplements.

The best source of omega-3 is oily fish, which contains EPA and DHA (easily utilised types of omega-3 fats). Eating lots of oily fish is why Eskimos rarely suffered heart disease – until they began eating a Western diet. Linseeds (flax seeds), walnuts, hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds also contain omega-3 fats, which the body then converts into the useful EPA and DHA forms; in fish oil this has already been done by nature. There are a few people who cannot easily convert the essential fats in seeds and nuts into EPA and DHA, which is known as atopic tendency, and common characteristics of this condition are asthma, eczema and hay fever.     Therefore if you suffer these conditions take fish oils as your first line of defence. Omega-3 fats help to transfer oxygen around the body, relax blood vessels, and are vital for hormone production, healthy eyes, gut function, weight loss, reducing inflammation, speeding wound-healing, and so on. Unfortunately because most people eat 80% less oily fish now than we did in the 1940s, 60% of people are deficient in omega-3 EFAs.

The second type of EFAs, omega-6, are found in evening primrose, starflower, blackcurrant, walnut and sesame oils. Walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, almonds, and sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds are also rich in omega-6 EFAs. These fats help to lower blood pressure, thin the blood, and help insulin to work, which keeps blood sugar levels in balance and helps reduce the cravings for sweet foods.

Most people ingest plenty of omega-6s from nuts and non-hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarines, but normally from poor quality sources like bread, biscuits, cakes etc which are usually made with vegetable oils.

To absorb any essential fatty acids,  the minerals zinc and magnesium, plus vitamins  B3 and B6 are necessary and are often depleted by our over consumption of Omega 6’s.

‘Undoubtedly’ says nutritionist and my co-author Gareth Zeal ‘ We need to take far more Omega 3, plus these co-factors daily and to address our modern dietary deficiencies we need to consume twice as much Omega 3 as 6.’

Another beneficial fat, omega-9, is found in unrefined extra virgin olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, which is far more stable for cooking (but never heat until it spits and produces smoke). A lesser-known EFA is omega 7  also known as palmitoleic acid. This polyunsaturated fatty acid is found in the sea buckthorn berry. It is useful for dry skin and dry eyes, and for mouth and vaginal dryness. (For more help with omega-7 call Pharma Nord on 0800 591756.)

Polyunsaturated fats (also found in seeds, nuts and their oils) are healthy in their cold, unrefined form, and they are rich in omega-6 EFAs. So if you use sunflower, walnut, sesame seed or grape seed oils in their unrefined forms in salad dressings they are healthy. However, once the polyunsaturated oils that you find in most biscuits, flapjacks, margarines, and mass-produced vegetable oils are heated, they become unhealthy.

Many people cook (mostly frying) with oils and margarines labelled ‘polyunsaturated’ believing them to be healthier, but it is not so. If the oils that you buy are mass-produced, all the processes I mentioned earlier will have long ago destroyed the majority of any health benefits. Butter is actually better for cooking at low temperatures, as it does not turn rancid like the essential fats.  Coconut oil/ butter (raw and organic) has similar properties. Butter contains vitamin A and butyric acid, which has anti-cancer properties, and a little butter, preferably organic, is OK, if you have sufficient EFAs in the body.

All essential fats need to be kept cool and never heated, as the heat destroys the delicate EFAs – this includes all oil-based supplements that should be kept in the fridge.

Typical symptoms of insufficient EFAs are dry skin and eyes, cracked lips, water retention, increased thirst, physical and mental exhaustion, mood swings, inflammatory conditions such as eczema and arthritis, frequent infections, hay fever, allergies, mental health problems including depression, poor memory and learning difficulties and cardiovascular disease. Most of these conditions we tend to accept as we age, but if you take sufficient EFAs then you should avoid such symptoms for many more years.


Foods to Avoid

  • Reduce your intake of full fat milk, cheeses, chocolates, crisps and refined mass-produced cakes and biscuits, which are usually high in hydrogenated or trans fats and which are not good for your health.
  • Avoid as much as possible all refined vegetable oils typically found in margarines, biscuits and cakes, and of course mass-produced vegetable oils.
  • If you like red meat, just eat lean organic meat once a week. Hugely reduce or eliminate meat pies, sausages and so on, and if you do eat meat choose a lean cut. With chicken, turkey, duck, venison, buffalo, quail, or other game, cut off the skin. If you eat bacon, make it only a rare treat, then grill it and cut off the fat.
  • Eliminate or greatly reduce the amount of fried foods you eat.
  • Remember that sugar, if not used up during exercise, converts to fat inside the body and many foods advertised as being low in fat are usually packed with sugar!


Friendly Foods

  • Look for non-hydrogenated spreads such as Vitaquell, Biona and OLIVIO or try organic raw walnut, ALMOND, HEMP OR PUMPKIN SEED butterS. Higher Nature (HN) or Sun and Seed make these. Sun and Seed Tel: 020 7267 7799 for stockists.
  • You can also buy coconut oil/ butter spreads – coconut is unadulterated and helps lower LDL cholesterol. Only use raw organic products.
  • If you need to shallow fry use a little organic olive oil, coconut oil or butter. Although butter is a saturated fat, it does not turn rancid like vegetable oils when heated. I also use a little butter for baking cakes. For biscuits and flapjacks I use extra virgin olive oil.
  • If you like stir-fries, use a little olive, canola, coconut, ground nut (peanut) oil. Heat through (but not until ‘spitting or smoking’,  which means the oil has become carcinogenic) then add vegetables and so on and stir for a minute. Then add a little water and ‘steam fry’ for a couple more minutes. This helps to reduce the amount of free radicals that are produced when you fry food.
  • Oily fish, such as mackerel, organic salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies and herrings, are all rich in omega-3 fats.
  • Soya and kidney beans also contain some omega-3 fats, but try to use only GM-free and organic soya beans.
  • Walnuts, pecans and  almonds are all rich in omega-6 fats.
  • If you use linseeds (flax seeds) to increase your omega-3 intake, buy them ready cracked (available from most supermarkets). Keep cracked linseeds in the fridge. Or, grind them first. Use a coffee grinder, which breaks them up in seconds, or simply crush them with a pestle and mortar. Otherwise soak whole linseeds overnight in cold water and drain before eating.
  • Seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin high in Omega 6’s can be eaten as a snack or sprinkled on soups or salads, and added to meals.
  • Hemp seed is readily available and is a good blend of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. You can also buy excellent organic source hemp seed protein powders.
  • Eat more (but not to excess) monounsaturated fats, such as those found in avocados and olive oil.
  • Eat more raw wheat germ and rice bran, rich in vitamin E, which helps you to also absorb the EFAs more effectively.
  • Buy good-quality, unrefined and preferably organic sunflower, walnut and sesame oils and mix them half and half with olive oil to make delicious salad dressings, or drizzle them over cooked foods (once they are on your plate). Keep them in the fridge to protect the EFAs.
  • Once a week I pop a tablespoon each of sunflower, pumpkin, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, walnuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts into a food mixer and pulse for a few seconds. I then place them in a glass jar in the fridge and use them over breakfast cereals, yoghurts, desserts, fruit salads and so on. This is a great way to get more EFAs.

Useful Remedies

  • If you are not vegetarian, then take 1–3 grams of fish oil capsules daily. Many people no longer take fish oils as they worry about the concentrations of toxins, such as PCBs and dioxins, but Higher Nature, Bio Care, Pharma Nord, Seven Seas One-a-Day fish oils are all guaranteed to be free from toxins. HN BC FSC Eskimo 3 stable fish oil capsules are one of  the best and are distributed by PPC  Galway Ltd, 27-28 Mulvoy Business Park, Sean Mulvoy Road, Galway, Ireland. Tel: 00353 91 753222, or email info@ppcgalway.ie
  • GLA, gamma-linolenic acid, is an omega 6 EFA which is  found in evening primrose oil, blackcurrant oil and borage oil. It has anti-inflammatory properties and helps increase your metabolic rate, and reduces symptoms of PMT. Most supplement companies sell GLA and you can take around 250mg daily. Bio Care.
  • If you want pure linseed (flax seed) oil try Omega Nutrition from Higher Nature. HN
  • Udo’s Choice Oil is made from organic flax, sunflower and sesame seeds, plus rice and oat germ oils, in the perfect ratio for good health.  Dr Udo Erasmus says we need approximately 1 tbsp for every 50lbs (23kg) of body weight, and we need more EFAs in winter than in summer. It is available as an oil, which either can be blended with other oils for salad dressings, or a little can be drizzled over cooked dishes. It is also available in capsules. These oils are highly unstable, should never be heated, and need to be kept in the fridge. Udo’s Choice is available from health stores worldwide, or to find your nearest stockist in the UK contact Savant Distribution Limited, Quarry House, Clayton Wood Close, Leeds LS16 6QE, or call 08450 606070. Website:www.savant-health.com or e-mail: info@savant-health.com
  • Another good blend of omega 3 and 6 oils  is called ‘IQ’ a/v at chemists and health stores.
  • When supplementing with fatty acids, either in capsule or liquid form, it is very important to take a natural source, full spectrum  vitamin E at least 100iu a day
  • For anyone who has had their gall bladder removed, suffers Crohn’s disease or colitis, or has a sensitive gut or irritable bowel and cannot tolerate too much oil (as the liver has to metabolise all fats and oils) use DriCelle Omega Plex essential fatty acid powder by BioCare. The EFAs have been micro-encapsulated into water-soluble fibre and then freeze-dried using no oxygen or heat. This powdered formula is therefore  stable, which increases absorption dramatically. It bypasses the liver and is 100% absorbed in the intestines.
  • Read,  Dr Udo Erasmus’s book  The Fats That Heal and Fats That Kill (Alive Books). He has also written Choosing the Right Fats, which contains recipes that show you how to integrate healing oils and fats into your daily meals naturally. To order call 0845 060 6070, or log on to www.savant-health.com