Many of the patients I see have started taking Omega 3’s, Omega 3-6-9 or fish oil because they heard or read that it was good for them. These oils can be a healthy addition to your regimen or they may actually be detracting from your health. Here’s how to choose a good, healthy EFA (essential fatty acid) supplement:
- Choose Omega 3’s, rather than Omega 6’s or Omega 3-6-9’s. Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils are both “essential fatty acids”, meaning they are essential for us to obtain through out diet, our bodies can’t manufacture them. Omega 3 oils tend to be lacking in our diets more so than Omega 6’s, so I tend to have people supplement then Omega 3’s, not the Omega 6’s
- Choose Pure Fish Oil. Omega 3 EFA’s usually come from fish oil, or seed oils like flaxseed oil. Fish live in a polluted environment, so you want fish oil that has been properly purified. North American standards are not as high as Norwegian standards for purity, so look for fish oil that was sourced from Norway.
- Choose Fresh Fish Oil. Most manufacturers don’t adequately measure their product for freshness. There are two levels that should be checked to ensure fresh oil, peroxide level and anisidine level, most manufacturers only measure peroxide. The problem with that is peroxide levels will be low when the oil is fresh, but also once the oil has gotten beyond rancid.
- Choose a Natural Triglyceride form. The natural triglyceride form is 30% better absorbed, so you get more out of it and less burping up the fishy taste.
(Nordic Naturals fish oil products meet all of the above criteria which is why we recommend them at Forces of Nature)
What about Flaxseed Oil?
Flaxseed oil and most other forms of plant based omega 3’s require significant conversion in the body to get where fish oil is already at. Which means if you don’t convert it well, you get no benefit of taking omega 3’s from flaxseed oil. Stress, lack of zinc and B vitamins and other nutrients mean you can’t process plant based oils into EPA and DHA, the components of omega 3’s that your body needs. My other issue with flaxseed oil is rancidity. Freshly ground flaxseeds have a pleasant nutty taste. Flaxseed oil (in my opinion), tastes terrible which would be one reflection of rancid oil. Plant oils go rancid very quickly once extracted from the seed, most flaxseed oil (again, in my opinion) is already rancid when you buy it.
What about using freshly ground flaxseeds?
Ground flaxseeds are wonderful for providing fiber, phytoestrogens and preventing breast cancer. However, 1-2 tablespoons per day doesn’t provide a significant amount of omega 3’s.
According to the Mayo Clinic, women should aim to get 21-25 grams of fiber per day while men should get 30-38 grams per day.
Here are some of the best (and healthiest) ways:
- 1 cup of raspberries: 8 grams
- 1 cup of cooked split peas: 16.3 grams
- 1 medium artichoke: 10.3 grams
- 1 medium pear: 5.5 grams
- 1 cup of broccoli: 5.1 grams
In comparison, 3/4 cup of bran flakes contain 5.3 grams of fiber, just barely better than broccoli and not as good as a pear and no where near the nutritional value of either. Per serving the above foods provide far more vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and bioflavonoids, along with the fiber than bran flakes ever will. In fact, bran is considered an ANTI-nutrient because it binds to minerals in the gut robbing you of the ability to absorb them.
A high fiber diet has been proven to have a number of health benefits:
- Lower risk of cancer
- Lower risk of diabetes
- Lower risk of heart disease
- Lowers blood cholesterol
- Keeps bowels regular
- Helps nourish cells that line the digestive tract and maintain a healthy bowel environment
“I have to eat grains in order to have a high fiber diet”
No you don’t! In fact the very things you may want to be eating a high fiber diet for may be caused by the grains you are eating to obtain the fiber – ironic isn’t it? Grains contribute to cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol and bowel problems like irritable bowel syndrome. Grains contain proteins like gluten and gliadin that can damage the digestive tract. They also contain anti-nutrients called phytates that bind to minerals so that you can’t absorb them. Chronically have low iron? Try cutting grains out of your diet and see what happens. Want to read more anti-grain sentiment? Check it out here.
Soluble Fiber vs. Insoluble Fiber
Soluble fiber is the type found in nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables and some grains like oat bran. Wheat bran on the other hand is insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber does not break down in the gut and has a harsh abrasive irritating effect on the gut, that’s how it works to keep bowels moving, it irritates the crap out of it, literally. Soluble fiber works by absorbing water in the gut causing the gut to expand and sense that there is food there to move through. Soluble fiber is the one that binds to excess cholesterol to remove it, lowers risk of gallstones, slows increases in blood sugar and nourishes the lining of the digestive tract.
Diabetes nutrition information has, until now, been terrible! Nutritionists are still trying to follow the Canada Food Guide recommendations, which just doesn’t work with diabetes. A new study by a consortium of physicians and nutrition researchers suggests the need for a reappraisal of dietary guidelines due to the inability of current recommendations to control the epidemic of diabetes. In other words, what they have been telling people to do (low fat, calorie restriction, avoid saturated fats etc), isn’t working.
The 12 points of evidence from the study backed up by other clinical studies are:
- High blood sugar is the most salient feature of diabetes. Dietary carbohydrate restriction has the greatest effect on decreasing blood glucose levels.
- During the epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes, caloric increases have been due almost entirely to increased carbohydrates.
- Benefits of dietary carbohydrate restriction do not require weight loss.
- Although weight loss is not required for benefit, no dietary intervention is better than carbohydrate restriction for weight loss.
- Adherence to low-carbohydrate diets in people with type 2 diabetes is at least as good as adherence to any other dietary interventions and frequently is significantly better.
- Replacement of carbohydrates with proteins is generally beneficial.
- Dietary total and saturated fats do not correlate with risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Plasma-saturated fatty acids are controlled by dietary carbohydrates more than by dietary lipids.
- The best predictor of microvascular and, to a lesser extent, macrovascular complications in patients with type 2 diabetes is glycemic control (HbA1c).
- Dietary carbohydrate restriction is the most effective method of reducing serum triglycerides and increasing high-density lipoprotein.
- Patients with type 2 diabetes on carbohydrate-restricted diets reduce and frequently eliminate medication. People with type 1 usually require less insulin.
- Intensive glucose-lowering by dietary carbohydrate restriction has no side effects comparable to the effects of intensive pharmacologic treatment.
These are things I’ve been telling patients for 15 years! Finally, conventional medicine has caught up.
Source: Nutrition July 2014 and diabetesincontrol.com.