Nutritional and Dietary Fats:
Fatty Acids (Omega3 and Omega6) and Cholesterol

By getting the right balance of omega3 and omega6 fatty acids, one's good cholesterol will increase. Good cholesterol reverses heart disease by cleaning out the arteries. Doctors now know that the higher your level of good cholesterol, the lower your chance of having a heart attack.

The very best way to raise your good cholesterol is to consume omega3 foods, including 100% grass-fed dairy and meat products, and especially, wild, not farmed, seafoods. It has long been known that traditional dairying and cattle-raising cultures have very good heart health. Why? Their cattle are 100% grass-fed, not grain-fed. Could this be the answer? (Do bears live in the woods?)


What are Omega3 Fatty Acids?

"Omega-3 fatty acids are one of two groups of fatty acids--the omega3's and the omega6's--that are vital to human life. They are called Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), which the body cannot make but absolutely needs for normal growth and development. These fats must be supplied by diet. People living in industrialized western countries eat up to 30 times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids, resulting in a relative deficiency of omega-3 fats. Omega-6 metabolic products (inflammatory prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes) are formed in excessive amounts causing allergic and inflammatory disorders and make the body more prone to heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. Eating diets rich in omega-3 acids or taking fish oil supplements can restore the balance between the two fatty acids and can possibly reverse these disease processes." [Galenet Record Number: DU2603000095]

How do we get Omega3 Fatty Acids?

Omega3's are derived from animals which consume green, living plants in quantity. Omega6's are derived from animals which consume seeds in quantity. Almost all of our standard food animals are fed either exclusively on grain-based mixtures, or if they're allowed to eat grass, they are "finished" on grain. That is, they are put into a pen and forced to eat only grain for two months or more, to fatten them up before slaughter. During this time, the omega3 in their system drops drastically; it's as if they had never eaten grass at all, in some cases. If meat is grass-fed all the way to slaughter, it is called "grass-fed and grass-finished".

Fatty acids are very long chain-like molecules that behave in elaborate ways. A double carbon bond in this chain determines much of their chemical behavior. If that bond is 3 links back from the "omega" end of the chain, those fats are called "omega3." If the double bond is 6 links back, they're "omega6." The two types of fat cannot be interchanged in the body. We need to have approximately equal amounts of omega3's and omega6's in our bodies, to be free of degenerative disease. But by eating grain-fed animal products (American beef and dairy cows are almost completely grain-fed), our omega6's go sky-high, and compete with and block the omega3's. Americans typically have 30 to 60 times more omega6 in our bodies than omega3. We need to have, at most, perhaps 4 times more omega6 than omega3. People are now speaking of this as the "6-to-3 ratio." Research in this is still very new, and quite exciting.

Paleontologists note that when man began cultivating grains (roughly 4 to 10 thousand years ago), degenerative disease begins to appear in the fossil record. Before that time, man's food came almost entirely from grass-fed animals (and fish), and man was free of degenerative disease. Research is showing that having a good balance of omega3's and omega6's dramatically protects against many forms of degenerative disease.

Omega3 fats come from the green parts of plants. There is only a very tiny amount of omega3 in each plant, so to get a good quantity, we need to eat animals that consume quantities of green plants and thus have high omega3 counts. Plankton, the "grass of the sea," gives high omega3 counts to all fish. The fattier the fish, the higher the levels of omega3 it contains. Flax-seed, unlike almost all other seeds, is naturally high in omega3's, and can be fed to poultry that otherwise would not have any way of being high in omega3's (very few grass-fed chickens ever reach the commercial market --- a situation that is, happily, about to change).

Sources of available animal products that are high and well-balanced in omega3's

Grass-fed chickens! Otherwise known as "pastured poultry." Get out to the country and buy from the farmers! No matter if they use the catchy marketing term "free range" on their packages, very few commercial chickens really get to eat grass. You need to speak with the farmers to ascertain if their poultry is really grass-fed. Look at our Farms That Sell Eggs page to find a farm near you.

Chickens, being birds, naturally need to eat grains along with their grass, so free-range chicken is not as high in omega3 as is grass-fed beef and lamb. The best omega3 levels in chicken come from a poultry diet to which abundant fish meal has been added. By marketing chickens with "all vegetable diet," we are throwing the baby out with the bath water. Chickens need bugs and animal protein! Fish meal brings about great poultry health ~ English farmers who feed their chickens fish meal report their chickens live and lay eggs for over 10 years.

In some leading-edge restaurants in the US they are beginning to use the "grass-fed" label in their menus. Do a Google search for the words "grass-fed" plus your city name plus "restaurant" to see if there are any such restaurants near you.

When you make restaurant reservations, ask if their chickens are grass-fed. Have the executive chef return your call if they don't know at the moment. Many big-city chefs and butchers have heard a rumor that "chickens cannot eat grass." Pastured poultry farmers just love to hear about things like this ~ they roll around laughing ~ it makes their day. Chickens that are really free range will consume about 30% of their calories from grass. Since grass has very few calories, that translates to a LOT of grass.

Omega3 eggs. Eggs with the highest levels of omega3's come from chickens raised on grass and/or fed fish meal, with the grain component greatly minimized. But lacking this, some commercial enterprises are producing eggs from chickens fed on flax seed. They use the words "omega3" on the egg carton, and state the omega3 levels in their eggs. If your heart health is important to you, try to get fish-meal-fed, grass-fed eggs. Better yet, raise your own. Most cities allow 5 "domestic" animals. If you keep your 5 chickens clean and in a large, caged area, with lots of grass growing behind wire so they can't kill it, just eat off the tops, and feed them fish meal and good bugs along with their regular diet, you will have some really good omega3 eggs, up to 5 per day. (I'll never forget looking over a Denny's menu, and asking the waiter, "Do you have omega three eggs?" He looked at me for a second then replied, "Sure, we can make it three eggs.")

Grass-Fed Dairy Products In California, you can find this wonderful type of milk, cream and butter, chock full of omega3's and myriad other health-promoting strengths, at Organic Pastures Dairy, or through a healthfood store near you. This dairy will ship UPS anywhere in the US, also (they freeze the milk, and it arrives fresh at your door). Phone them at 559-846-9732 with any questions; they love to talk to customers. Trader Joe's also has ground beef, cheese, butter and milk that is 100% grass-fed, but for some reason they do not put that on the label. Since Trader Joe's products change from month to month, it's best to phone them to know for sure - 626-599-3817 or -3768 (8 to 5, Monday thru Friday, Pacific Time).

If people reading this page will take a moment to phone just one commercial establishment and ask for grass-fed products, that marketing pressure will be communicated to those in positions to change things! The Katrina Disaster has shown us all that we cannot sit complacently and wish "someone" would do something. We are that "someone"! We all need to take actions in our daily lives. Communication is one of the most important actions any of us can take.

Buffalo Much of it is grass-fed until the last 60 days, which still leaves some omega3's in their system. Some buffalo is grass-finished as well (that means they've eaten nothing but range grass, no grain finishing). Search for the words "buffalo" and "grass-fed" in Google to find many other sources that will ship varieties of cuts.

Lamb. Most lamb is grass-fed and grass-finished. Inquire to make sure. Click here for Google's results.

New Zealand meat of all kinds. In New Zealand, they still practice grass-feeding exclusively. Their meats are gaining world-wide fame for this reason. Pricey, but if you save these steaks for that special treat, it evens out to be well-worth it. We found the New York steaks, painted lightly with an olive-oil vinaigrette dressing, barbecued on real mesquite charcoal, are simply divine.

All wild, not farmed, fish and seafood. Fatty fish such as salmon are especially high in omega3's. But beware. Lots of salmon and other fish are now being "farmed" and may not be any higher in omega3's than feedlot beef, because corn is part of the farmed fish diet. By law, fish sellers must state on the display if seafood is farmed. If it says "Wild," it is not farmed.

What are Cholesterol, Triglyerides, and Lipoproteins (HDL and LDL)?

"Cholesterol and triglycerides are fat-like substances called lipids. Cholesterol is used to build cell membranes and hormones. The body makes cholesterol and gets it from food. Triglycerides provide a major source of energy to the body tissues. Both cholesterol and triglycerides are vital to body function, but an excess of either one, especially cholesterol, puts a person at risk of cardiovascular disease.

"Because cholesterol and triglycerides can't dissolve in watery liquid, they must be transported by something that can dissolve in blood serum. Lipoproteins contain cholesterol and triglycerides at the core and an outer layer of protein, called apolipoprotein. There are four major classes of lipoproteins: chylomicrons, very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). There are also less commonly measured classes such as lipoprotein(a) and subtypes of the main classes. Each lipoprotein has characteristics that make the cholesterol it carries a greater or lesser risk. Measuring each type of lipoprotein helps determine a person's risk for cardiovascular disease more accurately than cholesterol measurement alone.

"Bad" Cholesterol

"Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), often called "bad" cholesterol, is formed primarily by the breakdown of VLDL. LDL contains little triglycerides and a large amount of cholesterol (60-70% of a person's total cholesterol). Although the particles are much smaller than chylomicrons and VLDL, LDL particles can vary in size and chemical structure. These variations represent subclasses within the LDL class. Serum from a person with a large amount of LDL will be clear.

"LDL carries cholesterol in the blood and deposits it in body tissues and in the walls of blood vessels, a condition known as atherosclerosis. The amount of LDL in a person's blood is directly related to his or her risk of cardiovascular disease. The higher the LDL level, the greater the risk. LDL is the lipoprotein class most used to trigger and monitor cholesterol lowering therapy.

"Good" cholesterol

"High-density lipoproteins (HDL) is often called "good" cholesterol. HDL removes excess cholesterol from tissues and vessel walls and carries it to the liver, where it is removed from the blood and discarded. The amount of HDL in a person's blood is inversely related to his or her risk of cardiovascular disease. The lower the HDL level, the greater the risk; the higher the level, the lower the risk. The smallest lipoprotein, it contains 20-30% of a person's total cholesterol and can be separated into two major subclasses. [Galenet Record Number: DU2601000830]

How HDL Helps

"The counterbalance to the artery-narrowing effects of LDL are the garbage-collecting activities of HDL. HDL collects the cholesterol from tissues (including blood vessel walls) and transfers it to the liver for disposal, thus interfering with the early stages of this process and slowing plaque formation. Individuals with higher levels of HDL cholesterol are less likely to have heart attacks, probably because these increased HDL levels correlate with a more active scavenging system for cholesterol removal. Although many studies have shown that lowering LDL by diet or drug treatment can prevent heart disease (see Why Treat Cholesterol?) , very few studies have shown that raising HDL can do the same thing. This is largely due to the lack of effective HDL-raising drugs. The few completed studies support the notion that raising HDL will retard plaque development, and many specialists who treat lipid disorders try to find ways to help their patients raise HDL levels. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done." [Eat Pastured Poultry Meat and Eggs!] [Galenet Record Number: DU2618120179]

Trans Fats

"The food industry often Converts polyunsaturated fats into trans monounsaturated fats to improve a product's texture and extend its shelf life. While natural monounsaturates (found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts) are for the most part health-promoting, trans fats raise Cholesterol, produce plaque, and damage blood vessels. Because of their desirable commercial properties, trans fats are used in many processed and fast foods, Including margarine, French fries, chips, granola bars, salad dressings, and even bread. When the label says "Contains one or more of the following partially hydrogenated oils," the product has trans fat. (Log on to thewaytoeat.net for help in deciphering food labels.) The recommended level of trans fat intake? Zero." [ Galenet Record Number: A102340487 ]

Note: The knowledge above is largely from the Galenet website, which can be accessed by anyone with a card from Los Angeles County Library, or any of several other major library cards. I don't know if this is a nation-wide service, but it certainly should be ~~~ it is excellent!






[Chicken-Feed says: read Why Grass-Fed Is Best! for discussions of the HDL-raising and LDL-lowering effects of eating pastured chicken eggs and meat! Just adding two omega3-rich eggs a day to the diet raises the HDL and lowers the LDL levels of the consumers in just 18 days! Click here for EatWild.com's News about Pastured Farming products]

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