This blog is fifth in a series on implementing an anti-inflammatory lifestyle (If you’d like to start at the beginning please see Inflammation – An Epidemic posted March 31, 2013).
The typical North American diet is full of inflammatory fat. And I don’t mean the ‘bad’ saturated fat that you hear so much about (please see Saturated Fats – The Myth posted August 8, 2012). It is all those ‘healthy’ commercial vegetable oils that are the real culprits. Soy, corn, canola and other commercial vegetable oils are highly processed and often exposed to high temperatures, bleached and stripped of all valuable nutrients. Buying organic can help but keep in mind that these vegetable oils contain Omega-6 essential fatty acids that are essential and important BUT are used by the body for inflammation. You need some Omega-6 but not a lot. Vegetable oils can be found in so many processed products in the grocery stores including salad dressings, mayonnaise, margarine, crackers, muffins and potato chips. And take-out and restaurant foods are full of these oils.
On the other hand Omega-3 essential fatty acids found in cold-water fish, hemp, chia, walnuts and flax are anti-inflammatory. The ideal ratio of these two essential fats in our diet is approximately 1:4 (Omega 3:Omega 6) yet the typical North American diet consumes these fats in a ratio of 1:30. A very inflammatory diet!
So for an anti-inflammatory diet increase your intake of Omega-3 and decrease Omega-6. Fish is the best source of Omega-3 so if you cannot get a few servings of cold water fish into your diet each week I highly recommend a fish oil supplement.
When you do buy vegetable oils make sure that they are organic, unrefined and cold-pressed and are sold in glass jars.
Did you know that most vegetable oils CANNOT be used for cooking? When oils are heated to the point in which they smoke the oil starts to break down and harmful free radicals are formed. Cellular damage and inflammation then occurs and all health benefits of the oil is lost.
When cooking at high temperatures only use avocado or coconut oil. Avocado oil is a healthy monounsaturated oil with a very high smoke point. Coconut oil is a medium-chain saturated fat that is used by the body for energy (it does not get stored as fat) and it does not break down when heated.
And finally, avoid products that contain hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (hydrogenation is the process of turning liquid oils into semi-solid fats) as they contain trans-fats which also increase inflammation.