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The Skinny On Fat

Jayson Kroner

Contrary to what we hear on the tube every day, not all fat is bad for us. In fact, we need fat. Dietary fat ultimately makes it possible for us to produce the energy we use to sustain life. Unfortunately, many otherwise healthy individuals have been brainwashed into believing that fat is nothing more than a dietary enemy that packs on pounds while robbing us of slim bodies and youthful vigor. And while this isn’t completely untrue, there’s more to the story. Let’s examine.

Fat falls into one of two categories -- saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fat is derived mainly from animals, and commonly found in butters, margarine, deep fried foods, partially hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise and more. This is a bad fat that gets lots of negative press. Some saturated fats hold little nutritional value, and is far more difficult to burn than unsaturated fats. Highly processed fast foods are loaded with saturated fat, which makes avoiding them a wise move any way you slice it.

And then there’s unsaturated fat -- the good fat. These are accordingly grouped into two sub-categories, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fat is typically found in oils from olives, nuts (including macadamia nut oil), canola and avocado. Unlike saturated fat, monounsaturated fat won’t increase our levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol, and can actually help increase heart healthy HDL cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated fat plays a similar role in the body, but high levels are associated with higher risks of inflammation and some cancers. Like monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat provides energy without raising LDL cholesterol.

Based on their chemical structure, fats are classified into two groupings --  Omega-3 from fatty fish and some plants like flaxseeds, and Omega-6 from common plant sources. The most common oil sources are corn oil, safflower and sesame and soy. Omega-3 and -6 supplements have become incredibly popular in recent years, as they’re teeming with heart healthy essential fatty acids (EFAs). In fact, the FDA recently released a qualified health claim for Omega-3 fatty acids. It states that supportive evidence suggests that omega-3 essential fatty acids may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

Cholesterol Blockages

Which brings us to cholesterol. This waxy fat-like substance is produced by the liver, and is present in virtually every human cell and essential to life. In 1938, a Norwegian clinician by the name of Carl Müller determined that high blood-cholesterol levels and premature heart attacks were unquestionably connected. Twelve years later, in 1950, a biophysicist at the University of California at Berkeley by the name of Dr. John Gofman proposed the theory that not only were heart attacks correlated with elevated levels of cholesterol, but that the cholesterol risk factor was contained in one lipoprotein particle, LDL. He went on to deduce that subjects with elevated levels of HDL (a beneficial cholesterol-carrying lipoprotein), were also less likely to suffer a heart attack.

So what does this all add up to? It’s simple. Avoiding fat is not the answer. Neither is skipping meals or eating once a day to excess. The secret is balance. It’s been estimated that the typical American diet operates at a 15:1 saturated/unsaturated ratio and a 30:1 Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio, the imbalance of which promotes chronic health problems. This makes it very clear that we need to start consciously limiting the amount of low-quality saturated fat we consume, while making an effort to take in more unsaturated, essential fats.

NOW carries one of the most extensive selection of nutritional oils, including Omega-3 Fish Oils, Flax, Macadamia, Virgin Coconut, Evening Primrose, Omega 3-6-9, Borage, Black Currant, DHA and more. Each one is of superior quality, and most are available in both softgels and pleasant tasting liquids. Our molecularly distilled Omega-3 fish oil is the newest addition to the NOW line of nutritional oils. This enteric-coated softgel was designed specifically for individuals with sensitivity to odors and reflux. It’s also ideal for expecting mothers who wish to pass the benefits of Omega-3 EFA to their child.

Omega-3 Softgels

Regardless of which formula you decide on, don’t make the mistake of not deciding on one. Supplementing your diet with a quality source of essential fatty acids is a healthy and convenient way to provide the balance so crucial to the diet. Our oils exceed all state, federal and international standards, and undergo a series of meticulous screenings for heavy metals, pesticides and microbial contamination. We go to these extreme measures for one reason -- to ensure that you receive nothing less than the best nutritional oils on earth. With NOW on the label, you can rest assured that what’s inside is of unparalleled quality.

Health Disclaimer. Content provided by NOW Foods. Copyright ©2006-2020. Published with permission. Jayson Kroner is a health and fitness journalist, a certified sports nutritionist, and co-author of the book "7-Syndrome Healing."