Essential Fats!

Sometimes I hear about good fats.

I usually don’t pay attention.

I haven’t worried much about my fat intake because I’m active and have digestive issues, so I always figured any fat is probably okay for me. But now that I’m trying to heal myself through diet modification with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I want to make sure that I am eating enough of these good fats.

Good fats are monunsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like essential fatty acids. At the molecular level, unsaturated fats have a double bond, which makes the molecule easy to break. Molecules termed mono- have only one double bond, but those called poly- have multiple double bonds. (If you want more information about “good” fats vs “bad” fats, go here.)

Do you know how important essential fatty acids are?

When I refer to good fats, I am talking about essential fatty acids. These are polyunsaturated oil molecules known as omega-3 (alpha linolenic acid) and omega-6 (linoleic acid). They are necessary for good health, but the body cannot synthesize these, so we must ingest foods rich in essential fatty acids.

There are other fatty acids that aren’t known as “essential” because humans possess all of the enzymes required for their synthesis. These are incredibly important, like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), (these are found in fish), and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) and arachidonic acid (AA), (these last three are derived from omega-6 linoleic acid).

Essential fatty acids serve many functions such as:

  • mediate inflammation (extremely important for those of us with IBD)
  • play roles in cellular functions
  • make healthy, flexible cell membranes
  • affect mood and behavior
  • protect us from cell damage by neutralizing free radicals

Really, these fatty acids affect our whole bodies. If you want to learn about them, go here and here.

People can be deficient in their essential fatty acids. It is most obvious in the skin; dry skin (who doesn’t have dry skin?), scaly or flaky skin, cracking/peeling fingertips or heels, lackluster skin, and small bumps on back of upper arms. There are many more symptoms. In order to see a more complete list, visit this link.

Is easy to be deficient in the omega-3 fatty acids because alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA) is tough to get. It is such an important micronutrient that I have begun to specifically search it out. It is found in these food sources:

  • Flaxseed oil and ground Flaxseeds (the oil is legal, but the seeds are SCD-illegal)
  • English Walnuts (higher concentrations), Walnut oil, Black Walnuts (lower concentrations
  • Canola oil (SCD legal but not recommended)
  • Soybean oil and firm Tofu (both SCD-illegal)
  • Kiwi fruit seeds
  • Purslane (an herbaceous weed that grows almost everywhere in the U.S. – unsure if this is SCD legal)

ALA easily oxidizes, which is why producers partially hydrogenate oils that contain it. According to The Green Kitchen Handbook, by Annie Berthold-Bond, “manufacturers removed essential fatty acids from oils in the interest of preserving their shelf life.”

The omega-6, Linoleic acid (LA) is much easier to acquire. It is in various oils, seeds and nuts like:

  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower seeds and oil
  • Pine nuts
  • Corn oil
  • Soybean oil (SCD-illegal)
  • Pecans
  • Sesame oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Other sources include almonds, chicken fat, egg yolks, lard and butter.

The oils containing LA also have saturated fats. These are fat molecules with structures of single bonds are more difficult to break. They are stable and have longer shelf lives. This has led to their widespread distribution and thus, are much easier to incorporate into your diet.

These good fats are so important, but don’t take my word for it. Here is an excellent article that explains much of this information in greater depth and also gives intake recommendations.

See you later, I’m going to run out and pick up a bottle of flaxseed oil!

Theresa ~ SCD Griddle

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Essential Fats!

  1. Omega-3s can also be found in grass-fed meats and wild fish!

    • PIP – The essential fatty acids (alpha-Linolenic acid and Linoleic acid) are found in beef. Thanks for pointing that out. 🙂 When it comes to aLA (the precursor to omega-3 fatty acids), you are right, there are higher concentrations in grass-fed beef as compared to conventional beef, but it does exist in conventional beef, none-the-less. Refer to this research paper: http://www.nutritionj.com/content/9/1/10

      With fish, however, they are high in omega-3 fatty acids, but not the precursor, alpha-Linolenic acid (the essential fatty acid). The fatty acids in fish, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosapetaenoic acid (DPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) aren’t classified as “essential”. Check it out: http://www.wvu.edu/~agexten/forglvst/humanhealth.pdf

      These are important, but my post is really about the essential fatty acids, aLA and LA.
      Thanks for the opportunity to delve deeper into the subject!

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