by Dr. Tricia Pingel —
People are terrified of eating fat. Calorie counting and nonfat diets are a craze in the dieting world, but they make no differentiation between calorie sources. In those diets, all calories are created equal, but this is a dietary falsehood. Our bodies need fat.
The key to overall health is to consume a certain amount of good fat every day. The outer layer of each cell in the human body is a fat layer, which makes up the cellular wall and helps with absorption.
Without this layer, the body is unable to effectively absorb vitamins and minerals. Many people who are being treated for vitamin and mineral deficiencies are also suffering from a fatty acid deficiency.
Common symptoms and health problems associated with fatty acid deficiency include:
- Skin problems such as eczema and dermatitis
- Dry mucous membranes • Hair loss
- Changes in blood pressure and cardiovascular health
- Thyroid problems
- Immune system dysfunction
- Joint pain
- Brittle and cracked toenails and fingernails
Fatty acids boost metabolism. An increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids can help balance sugar levels, control appetite and reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that stores fat. Four important fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K. The body needs fat in order to absorb these vitamins, improve metabolism and lose weight.
The best detection test for fatty acid deficiency is to run your hand on the back of the arms or side of the thighs to feel for tiny bumps. If these bumps are present, there is usually a fatty acid deficiency. By consuming omega-3, the bumps will go away within a few weeks. However, in the case of a more severe deficiency, further testing may be required.
Fatty acids also improve brain function and development, and some evidence shows that ADHD may be associated, in part, with fatty acid deficiency. Studies have found that some children with a deficiency in omega-3 have more difficulty concentrating and more behavioral and health problems than other children.
Where calorie-counting diets go wrong is by counting all calories equally. No differentiation is made between good and bad fats. The secret to balanced health is in the nutrient value of each piece of food eaten. A bag of Doritos may have the same caloric number as an avocado, but the avocado is loaded with good fats that help boost metabolism and absorption.
Good fat and omega-3 sources for a well-balanced diet include:
- Avocados — Avocados are packed with 20 vitamins and minerals, and carotenoids such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene and lutein. Eighty-five percent of their caloric count comes from good fat. Eating one avocado a day supplies the body with essential fatty acids needed for cellular absorption.
- Nuts — Walnuts, almonds and butternuts are excellent sources. All nuts are good, with the exception of peanuts and cashews, which only contain trace amounts of fatty acids.
- Salmon — Salmon and other fatty fish supply the body with a blend of omega-3 fatty acids and minerals.
- Oils — Olive, grape seed, avocado, hazelnut, almond, flaxseed and evening primrose oils are excellent choices.
- Fish oil — Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 and is often taken as a supplement.
- The Mediterranean Diet — This diet is a healthy option for well-balanced nutrition. The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats, such as olive oil and fish.
For people who are deficient in fatty acids, supplements may be the best option. The amount of omega-3 supplementation may vary, depending on how deficient a body is. A person may consume between one and eight grams of omega-3 every day, depending on the needs of his or her body. Please consult your naturopathic doctor, herbalist or health care provider for your correct body dosage.
When purchasing omega-3 supplements or fish oil, it is important to look at the label. Most supplements purchased through conventional stores and pharmacies are 99.9 percent pure. This is not pure, however. A supplement should be 100 percent pure and free of toxins such as mercury and PCBs. Pure supplements can be found at a naturopathic doctor’s office or nutrition store.
Dr. Tricia Pingel is a naturopathic medical doctor located in Scottsdale, Ariz. She treats a variety of conditions, including menopausal symptoms with bio-identical hormone replacement, infertility, thyroid disorders, anxiety/depression and gastrointestinal concerns, such as gas/bloating, food allergies, celiac disease, IBD and more. www.drpingel.com.
Reprinted from AZNetNews, Volume 30, Number 6, Dec/Jan 2012.