Tag Archives: fat

Q&A: Sources of Omega-3’s

Q: Is it okay to take a flaxseed oil pill and a fish oil pill (omega 3 fatty acid) both at the same time? Or is one a better supplement than the other?

A: Great question!

We need to first talk about fats. There are 3 kinds of fats for our discussion: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.

Saturated fats: Generally bad for our health, we want to limit these kind. They are found generally in animal products and solid fats, like butter, whole milk, meat.

Monounsaturated fats: Generally good for our health. They are found in olive oil and avocados, among other foods.

Polyunsaturated fats: There are several kinds of polyunsaturated fats. These are generally good for our health as well, but we want to have the right “mix”. In our diets, we mainly talk about omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. As Americans, we eat too much omega-6 fats, which are found in vegetable oils. Omega-3 fatty acids also have several types, including ALA, DHA, and EPA. These are also found in some vegetable oils and fish.

Now, how much do we need to eat each day?

Saturated fat intake should be kept to less than 7-10% of calories. For an 1800-200 calorie diet, that would be 14-22 gm per day.

There aren’t specific recommendations for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat intake. However, total fat intake should be 25-35% of calories. If you account for saturated fat intake as above, that leaves 15-25% of calories for unsaturated fats.

The World Health Organization has recommend some daily amounts of omega-3’s. They recommend 0.3-0.5 grams of EPA and DHA and 0.8-1.1 grams of ALA daily for general health. For specific conditions, you can read more information here.

With all that information, back to the original question.

First, it is probably fine to take both supplements at the same time. However, I don’t know that it is entirely necessary. I’d compare the amounts in each one with the above recommendations.

I might say the fish oil is better DEPENDING on the composition. Flaxseed oil is high in ALA, but not EPA and DHA. Fish oil should have EPA and DHA as well as ALA. To truly compare them, I’d look at the labels and see the total amount of omega-3’s and types in each one.

AND, I would feel remiss if I didn’t say you don’t HAVE to take a supplement. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice weekly as well as other food sources of omega-3’s, such as tofu, walnuts, and canola oil.

Hope that helps!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Sugar coated research

Image from shutterstock

Image from shutterstock

A friend recently sent me this article from the NY Times: “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat“. The article details how researchers recently found documents showing that (more than 50 years ago) sugar industry executives paid and provided articles to scientists. The scientists were “encouraged” to write review articles highlighting fat as the main culprit in heart disease and downplay the role of sugar. Many believe this is why for decades fat was the focus of so much media attention, and that only now is sugar getting it’s day in the lime light as a bad guy in heart disease.

I highly encourage you to read the article and form your opinions, as always. Here are my thoughts.

1) I think the scientists industry leaders acted unethically IF things played out exactly as this article details. Scientists are allowed to receive funding from industry groups. However, this funding needs to be disclosed. Also, scientists have a duty in their research to present the whole picture, especially in a review article. Now, this happened before today’s current ethics rules were in place. But I don’t know that that entirely excuses the behavior. Again, I say IF this article is not skewing what really happened to make a better story.

2) While the review article in question likely did influence scientific and public opinion, researchers were already focusing on fat as a culprit in heart disease. If we could go back in time and take away the review article, fat still may have emerged as the prominent bad guy in nutrition world.

3) While the behavior was unethical, the American public is still somewhat to blame. We are the ones who turned to refined sugars and highly processed carbs. We could have turned to protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, etc. We as a people are looking for an easy solution. Fat is bad? Ok. I’ll just avoid that. There is not ONE bad nutrient. Good nutrition is a balance. We always seem to forget that, then blame science for telling us the wrong thing.

4) This highlights the importance of not only looking at the funding behind research but thinking about how we fund research. Scientists take money from private industries because research takes money and that is a good source of it. If we as a people want good, unbiased research, we need to help come up with the money to fund it. End of story.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the article, sugar vs fat, and research funding. Please leave thoughts in the comments. And I’m always happy to respond to your questions or articles you send me! Just email me at: kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com.

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The skinny on fats

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Earlier this year, a study challenged the long-held belief that eating a diet low in saturated fats was bad. Combining the results of many previous studies, it concluded that low consumption of saturated fats and high consumption of polyunsaturated fats (the current diet recommended by the American Heart Association) did not actually lower risk of heart disease. How can that be?

First, the article was not done very well and has drawn a lot of criticism. The details are very technical and beyond the purpose of this blog. We will just leave it with the opinion that their conclusions may not be the most accurate.

But the results do remind us to look more closely at individual food choices when replacing saturated fat. Research has documented that replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates is not beneficial to health, but replacing them with mono- or polyunsaturated fats is. So, we don’t necessarily need to eat a diet lower in total fat. We need to eat a diet with a different mix of fats.

How do we do that?

-Replace butter or margarine with oils when possible. Olive oil, canola oil, and other vegetable oils are a better choice.

-Nuts can be a good choice of healthy fats. Walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, and hazelnuts all seem to be heart healthy.

-Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats. They also are great sources of fiber, antioxidants, and plant sterols which can also be beneficial for heart health.

-While eating carbohydrates is ok, try to keep it in control. I like to think of dividing the plate into quarters and keeping carbohydrates to one quarter of the plate.

The bottom line is fat in general is not as bad as we used to think. The most important thing is keeping the proportion of types of fats in balance.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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