Omega-6 polyunsaturated oils (found in nuts and seeds, sometimes along with smaller amounts of omega-3 oils) are also beneficial (provided that the nuts and seeds are not stale or rancid) but should not dominate the diet. Evidence points to a low ‘ideal ratio’ of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. It is likely to be between about 1:1 to 4:1. The ratio tends to be over 15:1 in the typical Western diet, and this appears to promote inflammation and chronic disease. This is because omega-6 fats, which are more commonly available in foods than omega-3 oils, are actually able to imbalance fatty acid metabolism and disturb the pathways needed to dampen down inflammation. Inflammation in the body is associated with all chronic diseases, including Parkinson’s as well as conditions like arthritis, depression, psoriasis, and blood clots.
Polyunsaturated oils should be used in salad dressings etc and should not be heated. Once they reach a certain temperature, their numerous ‘double bonds’ become mis-shapen or ‘trans’. Trans fats are harmful fat molecules, unable to serve any useful purpose in the body. They can damage health, are associated with breast cancer, can promote inflammation and are banned from food products in some countries.
Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, though still damaged by high temperatures, are a safer option, as they contain only one ‘double bond’ on each molecule that may become ‘trans’. Trans fats (and hydrogenated fats – also proinflammatory) are typically found in many processed foods, fries, and bakery products, pies and confectionery. Try also to avoid pro-inflammatory saturated fats in cheap and processed meats.
Medium chain triglycerides (which occur in high amounts in coconut oil) are also, of course, another very important group of health-promoting fats. They are valuable as an easily digested and absorbed, and metabolically stimulating energy source. Coconut oil is great for cooking.
Finally, phospholipids are another type of fat compound, and a major component of cell membranes and myelin sheaths surrounding nerve cells. Soy lecithin is a useful source of the phospholipids, phosphatidylcholine and phosphotidylserine, although these differ slightly from those found in animal sources. Despite this, lecithin has various health benefits, including those of memory and brain function. Lecithin can be usefully sprinkled on various foods such as salads.
Fat soluble vitamins may be obtained from fish and fish oils, eggs, and to a certain extent from the fat traces in lean meat.