Welcome back to the American Partisan Nutritional Empowerment Guide! Hopefully, readers are ALREADY putting this information to use, as I’ve written all of it in a way that should be immediately actionable for readers. Today’s post is about healthy fats. Pay carefully attention, Partisans seeking to lose body fat! This section is for you.
Macronutrients Part II: High-Quality Sources of Nutritious Fats – Essential & Non-Essential
High-Quality Fats I: General Overview
Fat is the body’s preferred source of energy at all levels. Healthy dietary fat is a very dense source of biological energy that burns slowly, evenly, and cleanly. On the other hand, simple sugars of the type found in grains, starchy foods, and especially sweets and refined sugars, burn very hot and fast, and lead to a “scorching” effect that can actually damage the tissues of the body. Fast-burning sugar is a very inefficient energy source for most people.
Let’s recall the example of the burning marshmallow to better understand the process of sugar-burning vs. fat-burning. A marshmallow practically vaporizes when it ignites and leaves a charred mess behind, while an oil lamp, when lit, burns in a sustained, controlled way for a long time and leaves little residue. In a simplified, general sense, the same is happening in the body with the combustion of fast-burning sugars vs. high-quality fats. Both the scorching effect and the residues left over are a problem that the body has to deal with, and over time, this can lead to bad health effects. A good example is how diabetics may go blind due to bad sugar metabolism over a lifetime – think about the accumulation of all the scorching and residues of the consumption that got them diabetic to begin with! Fats are the way to go for energy in an ideal sense.
When it comes to fats, a “high-quality” fat (as I define it here) is the type of fat basically found in the same form in nature and/or a fat that is minimally processed. Some good examples of high-quality fats are: nuts, the fat of salmon, avocados, butter, and healthy, unheated oils (olive, flax, or coconut oil – to name just a few).
A Partisan that is serious about health and fitness should, to the greatest extent possible, replace his consumption of fast-burning sugars with fats (and proteins) instead as his main sources of energy. Also, take healthy fats and proteins together whenever possible – fats and proteins should be mixed together for best digestive absorption effects.
High-quality, nutritious fats come in two varieties: “essential” and “non-essential”, as explained below.
High-Quality Fats II: Essential Fats
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids (“EFA’s”)
Essential fatty acids are vital for the generation, growth, health, and composition of every single one of the roughly 100 trillion cells of the body. Healthy cells mean a healthy body, period. EFA’s are… essential, which means that the body needs these to live and function properly; essential also means that these fats must be obtained from the diet, since the body cannot make EFA’s on its own.
- EFA’s are involved in:
- All hormonal health
- Skin health and skin moisture levels
- Cellular integrity, energy levels, and inter-cell communication
- The health of the cardiovascular and circulatory system
- Many, many more aspects of the body’s health
- Most of us are not getting anywhere near the amount of EFA’s we need, particularly omega-3 essential fatty acids: when was the last time you had some fish oil or flax oil? When was the last time you had chia or flax seeds? How often do you eat salmon and fish in general?
- If you are craving fatty foods, chances are good that you are not getting the amount of EFA’s you need
- EFA’s (especially omega-3 fatty acids) are not present in most foods in great amounts – they are rather scarce in nature, and need to be deliberately included in a food lifestyle
- Many vegetable oils contain omega-6 fatty acids, but these oils are highly processed and any remaining nutritional value of the omega-6 fats is mostly destroyed when these are cooked by the end consumer
- EFA’s must be obtained from the diet, but the body will use whatever is available! As such, cravings will arise and the body will seek to satisfy its need for fat from the low-quality food most people consume.
- Remember: Junk In, Junk Out. If you are deficient in EFA’s, your body will seek to use, say, pizza grease or potato chip fat to perform vital functions. Does this sound like a good thing to you? Get in your EFA’s!
- Based on my previous research (for whatever it’s worth!), a good balance of omega-3 to omega-6 EFA’s is anywhere between 1:1 to 1:3, although the exact ratio has not been scientifically established
- Most Americans are getting a 1:10 or even 1:20 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 essential fats, which can be a serious cause of inflammation and disease due to the heavily imbalanced ratio
- Avoiding vegetable oils while at the same time using EFA supplements such as flax oil and/or EFA gel caps can be helpful in getting a proper balance of essential fats in the diet if you aren’t consuming healthy oils or fish
AP Nutritional Empower Program Suggested Sources of Essential Fatty Acids (especially omega-3 fatty acids):
- EFA Gel Capsules (available sources: flaxseed; fish; borage; evening primrose)
- Take 3 – 12 capsules per day, depending on need and budget; don’t skimp on quality here!! Think: steel ammo cases vs. brass ammo cases, no joke.
- Good-quality EFA gel caps should already contain a good balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats
- EFA caps have the advantage of being easier to digest because of their small doses, vs. having EFA-rich oils, which some people with compromised fat digestion may have a hard time digesting and absorbing
- Solid Food (non-oil) Sources of EFA’s
- Chia Seeds
- A superb source of EFA’s, fiber, and complex sugars that are also good for the digestive system
- An excellent appetite suppressant as well
- Use one or more freshly ground tablespoons of ground chia on salads, in your protein smoothie, or however you’d like; I use four ground tablespoons with each protein smoothie and around 2 ground tablespoons on my salad
- Chia Seeds
- Ground Flaxseed
- Very similar to chia. Buy whole flaxseeds (either brown or golden) and grind them fresh in a small electric coffee grinder; they add a gritty texture and nutty flavor to your foods
- Use one or more freshly ground tablespoons on salads, in your protein smoothie, or however you’d like; I use four ground tablespoons with each protein smoothie and around 2 ground tablespoons on my salad
- Ground flaxseeds are rich not just in EFA’s but also in fiber; they are also very tasty, making ground flaxseed a highly nutritious and multifunctional food!
- Ground Flaxseed
- Liquid EFA’s in Oil Form – Very filling and ultra-nutritious, but beware of fat absorption / digestion issues – some people can’t handle large amounts of oil, and large amounts of oil may force a visit or two to the bathroom. Beware. This can be mitigated by using digestive enzymes specific to fat absorption; these are called “lipase” (more to come on digestive enzymes in a future post).
- Organic Flax Oil
- Organic flax oil is the best liquid EFA choice in terms of its EFA profile, price, and widespread availability
- Tasty in protein smoothies or on food, like salads or veggies – it has a nutty flavor to it
- Easy to buy locally or online
- Udo’s Blend
- Udo’s Blend is a very high quality EFA product, but it doesn’t taste that great
- Contains a scientifically-formulated blend of EFA sources to provide a good balance of different EFA types in a harmonious ratio
- Fish Oils
- Fish oils contain high amounts of DHA and EPA, which are EFA derivatives associated with good brain and nervous system health
- Krill oil – a very high quality and tasty form of fish oil, but tends to be very pricey!
- Cod liver oil – not very tasty, but super-nutritious; rich in vitamin D as well (superior to supplement vitamin D pills if you can absorb the oil without digestive issues)
- Again, fish oils do not contain full-spectrum EFA’s, but rather, healthy components of EFA’s. The better bang for your buck is to get plant-based EFA oils like flax, which have both “parent” EFA’s, from which the body can then synthesize its own DHA and EPA, so take note (more on this in the section just below)
The oils listed here typically contain a good balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats, as described above. Other EFA considerations:
- Make sure to store your EFA products in the refrigerator in a dark bottle so that you avoid rancidity and get the maximum shelf life (EFA oils tend to have a short shelf life, as do most truly healthy foods – remember, FRESH is king!)
- A mix of fish- and plant-based EFA oils works best, but if you can use just one type for whatever reason, go with the plant-based oil (more on this in the next section just below)
Getting the Best Bang for Your Buck When Buying Essential Fatty Acids:
- Plant EFA oils contain what are known as “parent” EFA’s that the body can turn into “derivative” EFA’s (EPA and DHA, touted for fish oil capsules, are good examples)
- Organic flax oil is perhaps the best, most cost-effective liquid EFA source: it contains “parent” omega-3’s which allow the body to synthesize a whole host of “derivative” EFA’s, as per its needs
- Fish-based sources of EFA’s (such as krill or cod liver oil) are good too, but can be expensive, and contain only “derivative” omega-3 types
- Krill oil is a form of fish oil containing Omega-3’s with certain biochemical compounds attached that are very beneficial for brain and nerve health, and is probably the gold standard in fish oil EFA supplements
- The main issue with krill oil is that it is very expensive and is usually not very cost effective, considering all the options out there
- Therefore, fish and krill oil should be used supplementally with flax oil or other EFA-rich oils, if at all
- Make sure that the bulk of your omega-3’s come from a seed oil like flax or hempseed, and use the fish or krill oil as a supplement afterwards, if so desired
High-Quality Fats III: Nutritious and Satisfying Non-Essential Fats
In addition to the all-important EFA’s for health, there are non-essential, yet healthy fats as well that are excellent for other health benefits (such as antioxidant content) and energy-boosting, as well as healthy fat loss without harmful snacking.
Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s)
- The digestion of ordinary fats (even healthy fats) requires some rather complex biochemistry and digestive activity, and people whose fat absorption is somehow compromised (and that is many people – around 1/3 of all Americans!) will have serious problems with fat digestion and the health problems resulting from them
- Most of the fats we consume are known as long-chain triglycerides, and these long-molecule fats have to be transported through the body’s lymph system and require a lot of work to be processed by the body
- MCT’s, on the other hand, describe a special kind of less complex fat molecule that the body doesn’t have to process in the same way that it processes ordinary long-chain triglyceride fats
- MCT’s bypass transport through the lymph system and can go right to work in the cell to provide energy quickly
- Besides easier digestion, MCT’s provide rapid energy – anyone who needs an extra energy boost from food will benefit from MCT’s
- MCT fats are also associated with antibiotic and antimicrobial properties in the body
- Because MCT’s go right to work, they are not stored and they largely will give you the benefit of fats without getting fat – that means energy and satiety, without adding to your “muffin top”
- If Partisans turned to EFA’s, MCT’s, or coconut oil every time we had a fat craving, we would find ourselves craving less and less fat, being leaner, and feeling better all at once!
- MCT oils provide a great pre-workout energy boost without having to eat a full meal
- Suggested sources of Medium-Chain Triglyceride oils (either as a supplement or from foods that contain saturated fats):
- Butter (10 – 15% MCT fats)
- Palm Oil
- Coconut oil – the best source for MCT; it’s over 50% MCT oils and tastes great! Cheap and easily obtained, to boot.
- Purchase MCT’s directly as supplements or in coconut oil; butter; lard; or palm oil
Suggested Applications of Coconut Oil
- With coconut oil, use a tsp. or two every day to handle hunger as needed, as well as get benefits
- Mix coconut oil in with protein and EFA-rich oils in your smoothie – it tastes awesome
- Mix the coconut oil with almond or cashew butter for an energy boost; the coconut oil helps liquefy these butters and makes them tastier by giving them a smoother quality
- Cashew or almond butter mixed with some coconut oil, sprinkled with a (very) few raisins makes a great, healthy, protein-rich snack that is delicious too; the fat will amplify the sweetness of the raisins
- Use coconut oil before you go to the gym (ex. coconut oil + cashew butter) for a nice energy boost
- You can also mix coconut oil with vegetables – pan roast vegetables with a bit of butter; throw some coconut oil on top of that mixture to give it a nice “coconutty” taste and also get the benefits of the MCT’s oils. Fill yourself up on this instead of pasta, potatoes, or rice for a few days, and watch what happens!
- Since coconut oil is inexpensive and non-toxic, it’s hard to overdo!
Other Suggested Common Sources of Non-Essential Fats and Oils
- Olives/olive oil
- Macadamia nut oil
High-Quality Fats IV: Summary List of Specific Recommendations for Healthy, Nutritious Fats
Note: There are no recommended portion sizes below for fats. This means you should add nutritious fats and oils (as described in detail in the sections above) to taste until you are feeling satisfied and/or until your cravings are suppressed. Gauging the proper amounts to use/consume will happen over time with experimentation and observation; tune in, and you will eventually settle on some average amount that will work for you.
Nutritious Fat Type I: Essential Fats – Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids (“EFA’s”)
- Supplemental EFA’s in Capsule Form – buy quality capsules! In the past, I’ve used Youngevity EFA Plus gel caps with good results. I haven’t tried them, but Udo’s Oil also makes EFA gel caps, which I wouldn’t hesitate to try.
- EFA-Rich Solid Food Sources
- Chia seed – purchasable at Walmart
- Flaxseed – purchasable at Walmart
- Wild-caught fish (esp. salmon and tuna)
- Grass-fed meats
- Liquid EFA’s (Oils): Can be used on salads, in smoothies, or in food as desired; 2 – 4 tbsp. per day should well exceed your body’s nutritional requirement for EFA’s (which is fine, as EFA’s are non-toxic, and hard to overdo)
Nutritious Fat Type II: Healthy NON-Essential Fats
Note: Some sources of healthy, non-essential fats do contain small amounts of EFA’s, but not enough to be considered a good source
- Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Oils and Fats – either as a supplement or from foods that contain saturated fats (saturated fats are fats that remain stable when cooked):
- Butter – butter is tasty and works very well with nearly everything; use to lightly roast/sauté your vegetables and much more!
- Coconut oil – coconut oil is the best source for MCT’s; it is composed of over 50% MCT oils and tastes great
- Palm oil – also a good source of vitamin E
- Other Sources of Nutritious, Non-Essential Fats (non-MCT)
- Avocado – contains small amounts of essentials fats, as well as fiber
- Seeds – sunflower; pumpkin
- Nuts and fresh nut-based butters, where available (Note: The peanut is not really a nut, but rather, a type of bean – peanuts are potentially problematic due to allergens, and are usually best avoided)
- Almonds/almond butter; cashews/cashew butter; macadamia nuts/macadamia nut butter
- Fresh Olives/Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – olive oil is packed with healthy fats and antioxidants (Note: do not cook with olive oil – it is an unstable fat, and becomes more toxic when heated due to destruction of fat molecules by high heat)
- Macadamia nut oil
And there it is: more nutrition info covering the all-important macronutrient of fat. This particular knowledge, if used, should go a very long way in either helping you avoid overeating during the holidays, or losing the weight afterwards (but best is to avoid the weight gain altogether, of course), so take note Partisans!
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for American Partisan Nutritional Empowerment Program Guide Part 4, which will cover healthy carbohydrates.
The American Partisan Nutritional Empowerment Guide Series