Good Fats: Omegas 3 & 6
Your body can't manufacture EFAs, you must supply them in your daily diet. There are two types of EFAs: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, so choose unsaturated fats over saturated fats and trans fats whenever possible.
Polyunsaturated fats lower your total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help prevent heart attacks, amongst other health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring, and in fish oil. They're also found in some vegetable oils, such as walnut, soybean, canola, and flaxseed oil. Nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, and macadamia nuts.
Omega-6 fatty acids, another type of polyunsaturated fat, are also important for your health. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in safflower, corn, cottonseed, and soybean oils.
Like polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats lower your total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels, raise your HDL-cholesterol levels, and help keep blood pressure low. They ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and have other health benefits as well. Olive, canola, and peanut oils are rich in monounsaturated fats. Other good sources are avocados, nuts (like almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans), and seeds (such as pumpkin and sesame seeds).
Olive oil, in particular, has been studied and found to have many cardiovascular benefits. In addition to all the benefits of all monounsaturated fats (like improving cholesterol levels), it's been shown to help prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure, and improve the elasticity of arteries.
Using olive oil instead of unhealthy fats is one of the best things you can do for your heart and your health in general. Olive oil is high (80%) in monounsaturated fat, which is associated with a reduction in risk for coronary heart disease. Olive oil has been shown to lower your level of total and LDL-cholesterol, reduce the risk of blood clotting (and, consequently, of heart attack and stroke), lower your blood pressure, and even make your arteries more elastic. By contrast, saturated and trans fats (like butter, coconut and other tropical oils, and hydrogenated margarines) increase your risk of heart disease by increasing your total and LDL cholesterol levels.
The Food and Drug Administration suggests consuming about 2 tablespoons of olive oil a day to reduce your risk of heart disease, preferably by substituting it for saturated fats.
What Kind Should You Use?
Extra-virgin and virgin olive oils are pressed from olives directly and no chemicals are used to extract the oil. As the least-processed forms, they contain the greatest amounts of polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants.
How Can You Use Olive Oil?
- Use olive oil instead of other oils to fry or saute food. Brush on foods before grilling.
- Use an olive oil dressing on your salad. You can flavor olive oil by adding sprigs of rosemary, tarragon, or other dried herbs.
- Sprinkle cooked green vegetables with olive oil instead of butter.
- Dip bread in olive oil (flavored, if you like, with pepper, herbs, or a dash of balsamic vinegar) instead of using butter.
- Make pesto using nuts and olive oil, two of the most heart-healthy foods
Fish and shellfish are healthy alternatives to red meat and poultry, containing protein and important nutrients like vitamin D and selenium. What's more, they contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and to lower blood pressure. Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, swordfish, and herring are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Eating fish has also been shown to lower the risk of stroke, depression, and mental decline with age.
However, fish may contain mercury and other contaminants. Mercury pollution comes from two main sources: chlorine plants, which use mercury to extract chlorine from salt, and coal-fired power plants. Mercury pollution in the air rains down into oceans, lakes, and rivers, and the fish living in them become contaminated. Because of this, pregnant and breastfeeding women and very young children should avoid eating four types of fish: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and golden bass. Light tuna contains relatively low levels of mercury. Other commonly eaten fish, like wild and farmed salmon and shrimp, are considered safe to eat because they contain very low levels of mercury. Overall, except as noted, the health benefits of eating fish are so great that they outweigh the dangers of mercury contamination.
Understanding Wellness (VIDEO)
What Is Wellness?
Smoking & Your Arteries
Foods to Avoid
Foods to Enjoy
Fiber Helps Lower Cholesterol
Good Fats: Omegas 3 & 6
The Daily Nutrition You Need
Speed Up Your Metabolism
Benefits of Exercise
Related Health Centers:
The 9 Visual Rules of Wellness, Wellness and Prevention Part I, Wellness and Prevention Part II, Reverse Aging