Fabulous Fats for a Healthy Heart and Mind!

“Thinking is the source of problems. Your heart holds the answer to solving them.”
–Wayne Dyer

The heart is not simply the muscular organ responsible for pumping blood throughout the body. In everything from great literature to everyday speech, the heart is often synonymous with feelings, the very opposite of thought, generated by another organ: the brain.

We know that thoughts and feelings affect our health. However, many people don’t realize there is a strong nutritional link to both feelings and mood.

The way we feel about life and our perspective on life is related to a very important nutrient — the one often demonized — fats!

First of all, what are “fats”? Of course, the word itself has a negative connotation, a word people often use derogatorily when referring to specific body parts in front of a mirror.

Fats are a form of lipid, a substance not soluble in water (think of oil and vinegar). Lipids are found in plants, animals and humans and are commonly referred to as “fats”.

Whether we like it or not, there are many reasons we need fats in our diet and fats in the body. We cannot enjoy good physical and mental health without them.

Fats perform six (6) important functions in the body:

1. Provide energy (9 calories per gram) at rest and during physical (cardiovascular) activity; 30-70% of energy for organs comes from fat.
2. Store adipose (fat) tissue for energy.
3. Add texture and flavor to foods.
4. Transport the fat-soluble vitamins (D,E,K,A)
5. Necessary for healthy cell membranes and functioning of cells; pads body and organs from
6. Provide EFAs (Essential Fatty Acids) such as EPA [eicosapentaenoic acid] and DHA [docosahexaenoic acid] for the reduction of inflammation and proper brain function, including mood and concentration.

This last function, providing the EFAs, is important for your mind. EFAs have a role in preventing anxiety and depression and create the ability to focus and concentrate. In essence, these essential fats have everything to do with happiness and our perspective on life.

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), specifically EPA and DHA, may reduce the risk of heart disease and other inflammatory conditions.

Many people know a lot about the less heart healthy fats which are solid at room temperature: saturated fats (unhealthy if too many fatty animal products are consumed; found in butter, lard, cream, whole milk, cheese, beef) and trans fats (the most unhealthy form of fat; usually a man-made chemical fat found in processed foods; small amounts occur naturally in beef, dairy and lamb). Too many saturated and any processed trans fats in the diet are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

“Healthier” fats which protect the heart and the brain include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature. Although it’s traditionally considered “good” to replace saturated and trans fats with polyunsaturated fats (omega 6s), most Americans already do not consume enough omega 3s. Therefore, when further increasing their omega 6s, the result is the skewing of the ratio of omega 6s to 3s. The ratio should be 1:1 of omega 6 to 3; the standard American diet ratio is about 15:1 or 17:1!

What does this mean for brain and heart health?

An imbalanced ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 may result in poor mood, depression, anxiety, psychiatric conditions and challenges with focus and attention. To compound the issue, this imbalance is now emerging as a link to inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and asthma.

Nuts do not contain cholesterol, and are considered “healthy fats”, as they contain both omega 3 and 6. However, an imbalance of Omega 6 to 3 may result from over-consumption of nuts and nut butters.

What is the best way to consume more EPA and DHA?

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the omega 3 found in olive oil, green leafy vegetables, walnuts, flax oil, soybean oil and canola oil. However, the human body only partially converts ALA to EPA and DHA. Therefore, the best direct source of EPA and DHA is fatty fish.

So, contrary to popular belief, consuming milled flax seeds and flax oil alone may not accomplish improved mood and relief from depression, anxiety, heart disease and other inflammatory conditions.

If you already consume too many omega 6s — and it’s hard not to — they are everywhere in our food supply, you may want to consider an omega 3 fish oil supplement that has both EPA and DHA. (Vegetarians may acquire DHA supplements extracted from seaweed.)

Specially formulated fish oil supplements are the most direct way to consume and EPA and DHA. Consult your nutrition professional or health care provider for the best brands and ratio of EPA and DHA for your specific needs.

Taking EPA and DHA to heart is a win-win. You may reduce your risk of chronic inflammatory diseases and quickly notice an improvement in your mood, focus and concentration.

About Romy Nelson
Owner and operator of Essential Fitness, Inc., Romy is a nutritionist, media consultant and author. Her main goal is to teach individuals how to make long-term lifestyle changes, and break free from unhealthy eating patterns and the cycle of yo-yo dieting

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