Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) are considered to be our essential or healing fats. These fats cannot be made by the human body. They only come from fats and so are missing in a fat-free diet.
Why We Need Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs)
Polyunsaturated fats are required for normal functioning of our cells, tissues, organs, and glands. Without PUFAs in the diet, a person will ultimately develop disease. Adding PUFAs to a deficient diet can often reverse symptoms and restore health. In fact, it’s more important to health to optimize the consumption of essential fats than it is to avoid any harmful fats.
PUFAs are especially important for brain function, nerve function, sense organs, adrenal glands, sex glands, and hormone production. Their presence allows us to consume more saturated fat and keep the body in balance. Their absence leads to inflammation. Many common health issues – including diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and autoimmune disorders – can be traced to internal inflammation.
Facts About Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs)
Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and when refrigerated. Compared to other fats, they are unstable and will spoil or become rancid easily. PUFAs are highly reactive and will oxidize quickly when heated. Cooking with PUFAs results in the release of free radicals.
Sources of PUFAs include seeds, nuts, and some fish. The chart below lists sources of PUFAs.
You have likely heard of the PUFAs referred to Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. The designations Omega 3 and Omega 6 relate to the structure of the PUFAs and reference the location of a double bond.
When talking about the Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, we usually refer to their ratio with the Omega 6 mentioned first. So the ideal ratio for these fats in our diet is 1:2.5 – meaning for every 1 unit of Omega 6 there should be 2.5 units of Omega 3. We want more Omega 3 than Omega 6.
Too often, our diets have ratios that are 20:1 to 40:1. So clearly they are lacking in Omega 3s. There are a number of reasons for that. One is that grains are high in Omega 6 fatty acids. Also processed foods often contain fats and oils chosen for shelf life rather than health that are low in Omega 3s (soy, rapeseed, canola). Greens, on the other hand, are high in Omega 3 fatty acids. So, maybe Mom was right after all when she told you to eat your vegetables?
Next week, I’ll be wrapping up the Facts on Fats series with some suggestions on what all of this means for you.
Are you getting any PUFAs? What about Omega 3s? What could you do to add more into your diet?