Wellness Pathway #254 The Fatty-Acid Balance

Perhaps you saw the news report on television, in print, or on the Internet. On Monday, in yet another obscene act by America’s fast-food industry, the Hardee’s food chain unveiled its new “Monster Thickburger.” With enough calories (1,420) and fat grams (107) to feed a family of three in many countries, and at a time when most Americans are either overweight or obese, many are calling Hardee’s both immoral and irresponsible.

“Probably no nutritionist ever imagined that a product like this would be marketed,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “This is beyond the pale.” It is also beyond the new U.S. government diet and fitness recommendations which came out two days later, emphasizing physical activity and calorie control more than ever before.

Long-time readers of our Wellness Pathways will recognize many of the new recommendations, such as the recommendation to exercise 60-90 minutes a day or to eat fiber-rich whole foods and lean meat with little or no added salt or sugar. It’s great to know that these guidelines will guide school lunches and other federally supported programs over the next five years. They are a step in the right direction. 

Even though the full text of the guidelines is 84 pages long it hardly spells out all there is to know about health and wellness. Take the section on fat. The new guidelines recommend that less than 10% of our daily calories should come from saturated fat (the kind in meat, dairy, and Hardee’s Monster Thickburger) and that trans-fats (the kind in margarine, shortening, deep-fried foods, and foods made with hydrogenated vegetable oil) should be kept “as low as possible.” That’s excellent advice.

They do not, however, explain the importance of watching the fatty-acid balance in our daily intake of calories. What’s the fatty-acid balance? It’s the proper ratio of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. A bad ratio is worse than too much fat, since a bad ratio makes it hard for our bodies to process the fat properly. The ideal scenario is not a low-fat diet but a healthy-fat diet, with a 1 to 3 or lower ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

Unfortunately, the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in most Western diets is more like 1 to 20, which aggravates the risk of many diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. To change that, we have to increase our consumption of foods containing omega-3 fatty acids while we decrease our consumption of foods containing omega-6.

Here are some of the foods that will assist you to get your essential fatty acids into balance. Increase your consumption of fatty fish (e.g., salmon, black cod, trout, mackerel, herring, and sardines), wild game, seeds (especially flax, chia, psyllium, and hemp), walnuts, soybeans, whole grains, omega-3 eggs, dark-green leafy vegetables, and, if you cook with oil, cold-pressed canola or olive oil. Decrease your consumption of conventional meats and eggs, dairy fat, peanuts, processed grains, fried foods, and all other conventional oils.

Coaching Inquiries: How does your diet measure up in terms of the fatty-acid balance? How could you start paying attention not only to the quantity but also to the quality of the fat you eat? What changes would you have to make to get into balance?

To reply to this Pathway, use our Feedback Form. To learn more about our Wellness Coaching programs and to arrange for a complimentary wellness coaching session, use our Contact Form or Email Bob.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
2010-2011 President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org

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