Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Good Fats-Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

Trans Fat(bad), Omega 6, and Omega 3

This picture minus the trans fat shows a healthy balance of omega 6 and omega 3 essential fatty acids, the picture below shows the ratio more common in American diets.

This month I learned about "good fats". We used ground flax seeds, flax oil, coconut milk, avocados, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and of course extra virgin olive oil!

I thought of a fun way to explain the big deal about omega 3 fats and trans fats to my kids, so here it is. I said good fats are our bodies building blocks. Squares were omega 3's, Rectangles omega 6's, and homemade silly putty were trans fats. A trans fat is when you take a liquid fat and make it a solid fat. Its fake though and doesn't make a very good building block for our body. For analogoy, I explained the silly putty was home-made and nowhere near as good for building towers as real Legos.

I explained that we need between 1:1 and 4:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids, but most Americans get between 10:1 and 25:1. I gave the kids 25 "Omega 6" Legos, trans fat, and one "Omega 3" Lego and asked them to build as many little buildings that had 2 "Omega 6" blocks as the base and an "Omega 3" as the chimney as they could. "We can only build one! What do we do with the rest of the "Omega 6" and the trans fat ? they asked. Then I explained that our bodies have the same problem. I asked them to try building with some "trans fat".

"You can't build anything with trans fat, its gross, it makes as mess!!!" They said.

"Yes, trans fat makes a mess of our bodies too" I said. "Would you like some more "Omega 3" instead"

"Yeees!" they said, lesson over.

They went around talking about Omega 3 for a week. It was cute.

These foods have omega 3 fatty acids:

These foods have omega 6 fatty acids:

We went on a scavenger hunt to clean out the kitchen of trans fats, usually it had the pillsbury dough boy on the label.

FYI on EFAs:

EFAs support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems. The human body needs EFAs to manufacture and repair cell membranes, enabling the cells to obtain optimum nutrition and expel harmful waste products. A primary function of EFAs is the production of prostaglandins, which regulate body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood clotting, fertility, conception, and play a role in immune function by regulating inflammation and encouraging the body to fight infection. Essential Fatty Acids are also needed for proper growth in children, particularly for neural development and maturation of sensory systems, with male children having higher needs than females. Fetuses and breast-fed infants also require an adequate supply of EFAs through the mother's dietary intake.

EFA deficiency and Omega 6/3 imbalance is linked with serious health conditions, such as heart attacks, cancer, insulin resistance, asthma, lupus, schizophrenia, depression, postpartum depression, accelerated aging, stroke, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, ADHD, and Alzheimer's Disease, among others.

Essential Fatty Acid imbalance isn't a historical problem because in the olden days we didn't have an over-processed diet and people ate more wild meat and fish. Grain fed rather than grass fed livestock and hens provide omega 6 fatty acids in the meat and eggs instead of omega 3. (Now you know why I always beg my hunting friends for venison, tasty source of omega 3...)


Andrea said...

I love this post. I really like the idea of the legos for visual aid.

Regina said...

Okay, I don't know if venison really has omega 3. I read once that animals raised on green grass instead of hay had omega 3 fats, but I have no source to cite. However, I do know it isn't a factory-farmed source of meat! My family loves venison. I put it in a slow cooker and season it well. Then we serve small portions as a side dish with our salad or use it stir-fried with lots of veggies.