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Fats: What to Eat and What to Avoid

There are good fats and there are bad fats, but it can be difficult to remember which are which. Plus, even good fats should be consumed in moderation. Dr. Michael T. Murray, author of THE MAGIC OF FOOD, offers 5 pieces of advice about fats to keep in mind at the grocery store and when planning meals.

Tip #1: Be aware of the fat content of foods. Your total daily intake of dietary fats should be no more than 30% of calories consumed (400 to 600 calories a day from fat, based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet). Eliminate omega-6 fatty acid sources as much as possible and focus on the “good” fats, particularly monounsaturated fatty acids, coconut oil, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Tip #2: Increase the amount of monounsaturated fats in your diet. While most nuts and seeds are relatively high in fat, the calories they supply come mostly from monounsaturated fats. Consume about ¼ to ½ cup or a small handful of nuts and seeds at least every other day.

Tip #3: Eat more fish; eat less meat and fewer dairy products. Particularly beneficial are cold-water fish, including wild salmon, mackerel, herring, and halibut, because of their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Though almost all fish contain trace amounts of methyl mercury, those most likely to have the lowest levels of methyl mercury are salmon (usually nondetectable levels), cod, mackerel, cold-water tuna, farm-raised catfish, and herring. Swordfish, shark, and some other large predatory fish may contain high levels of methyl mercury, so limit your intake of them to no more than once a week. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, limit such fish to no more than once a month.

Tip #4: Take a high-quality fish oil supplement. Highly concentrated fish oil capsules providing long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that are free from lipid peroxides, heavy metals, environmental contaminants, and other harmful compounds are readily available. Today’s pharmaceutical-grade fish oil concentrates are so superior to earlier products that they have literally revolutionized nutritional medicine because of the health benefits they provide. Though there is no official standard for pharmaceutical- grade fish oil, read the label on the bottle to see if the capsules have the following characteristics:

  • It should be manufactured in a certified GMP (good manufacturing practices) facility approved for pharmaceutical products as certified by either a government organization or the USP (United States Pharmacopeia).
  • It should be manufactured according to pharmaceutical standards that include quality control steps to ensure that the product is free from lipid peroxides, heavy metals, environmental contaminants, and other harmful compounds.
  • It must provide at least a 60% concentration of the most active long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA).

If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, there are now algae-based EPA+DHA supplements on the market.

When using fish oil or algae-based supplements, the dosage recommendation for any form is based not on the amount of total fish or algal oil but rather on the amount of EPA and DHA combined. For example, the front label may say 1,000 mg of fish oil per capsule, but the Supplement Facts panel may say that it provides only 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA for a total of 300 mg of EPA+DHA. So read labels carefully. For general health, the dosage recommendation is 1,000 mg per day of EPA+DHA; for more therapeutic purposes, such as reducing inflammation, lowering triglycerides, or improving brain function and/or mood, the dosage recommendation is 3,000 mg per day of EPA+DHA.

Tip #5: Consume 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil or 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed daily. Purchase flaxseed oil in opaque bottles to limit oxidation, and refrigerate after opening. Buy ground flaxseed in a vacuum-sealed package to ensure freshness, and refrigerate after opening.

Ready to improve your nutrition and health? Read Dr. Murray’s book The Magic of Food to learn what to eat for health and longevity, and to discover tasty Synergetic Diet recipes.

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Food can even help us heal: Here’s why you should eat watermelon to relieve sore muscles.

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Excerpted from The Magic of Food by Michael T. Murray, ND. Copyright © 2017 by Michael T. Murray, ND. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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