Fort Worth Vegetarians, Dallas Vegetarians, and all DFW Vegetarians need fatty acids: Omega 3 and Omega 6.
vegan and vegetarian children.
Omega 3 and
The assumption that fat is bad has permeated our society for twenty years. Fat phobia may be even more prevalent among vegetarians and vegans. Overwhelming information exists to show this is a serious flaw in our thinking.
Dont rush to fill your ice-cream bowl, wolf down some tempura, or consume a breakfast of eggs and pancakes, however, because the types of fat eaten still remain at the root of our health problems.
However, in our rush to throw out the bad fats, we have also disposed of the good fats AND created an unhealthy ratio of essential fatty acids.
Brenda Davis, RD and Vesanto Melina, MS, RD in their excellent book "Becoming Vegan" write that our current food supply provides 10-20 times as much omega-6 fatty acids as omega-3 fatty acids.
Whether we are vegetarians and vegans consuming a predominantly all-plant diet with no fish, or omnivores who eat grain-fed meats, dairy, and fish, we are at risk of serious implications for health and chronic diseases without special care.
QUICK FAT PRIMER
The main components of all fats are the fatty acids which are saturated (SFA), monounsaturated (MUFA) or polyunsaturated (PUFA). Trans fatty acids (TFA) are man-made.
Fats containing a high proportion of saturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids are solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are usually derived from animal sources e.g. lard, suet, and butter. That steak and chicken you avoid as a vegetarian is filled with saturated fats as are dairy foods and eggs that you also avoid as a vegan. Surely every vegetarian knows that saturated fatty acids from animal products have consistently been linked to vascular diseases and many forms of cancer. We will skip that for now.
Trans fatty acids are produced when liquid oils are hydrogenated to form hard, stable fats. The hydrogen atoms are rearranged during food processing to improve shelf life of foods, increase the melting point of fat (good for deep-frying), and permit high temperature cooking. Excellent for shelf life at Kroger and HIGHLY damaging to your health.
In the US diet, about 90% of trans fatty acids come from hydrogenated fats in processed foods while only about 10% come from meat and dairy products. Davis and Melina write, "Gram for gram, trans fatty acids appear to be 2 to 4 times as damaging as saturated fatty acids."
Unfortunately, trans fatty acids often form a large part of a vegetarians diet as eaten in dairy products, margarine, french fries and other deep-fried foods plus crackers, cookies, supermarket bread, and snacks. They are less prevalent in vegan diets since many baked goods contain eggs or milk. Healthy people avoid trans fatty acids!
Most plant fats are high in either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats--except palm and coconut fats which are highly saturated.
Saturated and monounsaturated fats are not necessary in the diet as they can be made in the human body.
Two polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which cannot be made in the body are linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (LNA). They must be provided by diet and are known as essential fatty acids. Within the body both can be converted to other PUFAs such as arachidonic acid (AA), or eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
American diets, whether vegetarian or omnivore, get more than enough Omega-6 fatty acid and its offspring AA or arachidonic acid. However, all American diets lack Omega-3 fatty acid and its offspring eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Unfortunately, fish is the most well-known source of omega-3's EPA and DHA, especially cold water fatty fish. Plants provide little, if any, long-chain fatty acids (with the exception of single-celled ocean plants and some seaweeds) so vegetarians and particularly vegans must be careful here. Eggs supply a small amount of EPA and DHA while dairy products supply AA. Hold on to that information, ovo-lacto vegetarians; it is important.
Fish get EPA and DHA from algae (microscopic plants) that are consumed by small fish which in turn are eaten by larger fish. We can do this also by taking microalgae supplements. Three problems here:
Since eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is definitely preferable to pills and eating a vegetarian diet is preferable to most of us for many reasons, which foods supply vegetarians with the essential fatty acids we need?
chose a vegetarian lifestyle for health, compassion, environmental, or spiritual reasons.
The choice was yours. The results, however, are all-encompassing.
| WHAT SHOULD VEGETARIANS EAT?
Seaweeds contain small amounts of EPA with Wakame being the highest in EPA (186 mg per 100 g raw). Consumed in quantity (100 grams is about 3.5 ounces), they can be good sources of EPA.
And that is about it for plants!
Fortunately for vegetarians and especially for vegans, EPA and DHA can be converted from the LNA found in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Legumes, nuts, and seeds to eat for LNA include soybeans, tofu, walnuts, butternuts, pecans and (ground) flaxseed. The best oils are canola, walnut, hempseed, and flaxseed with soybean oil and olive oil having small amounts of LNA.
Dark green leafy vegetables, avocados, broccoli, and olives also contain VERY small amounts of LNA.
One tablespoon of flaxseed oil (expensive with limited life even in refrigerator) contains 8 grams of LNA compared to .8 grams of LNA in olive oil, 2.7 grams of LNA in hempseed oil and 1.6 grams in canola oil
Two tablespoons of ground flaxseed (inexpensive and keeps well in refrigerator) contains 3.8 grams of LNA. Compare this to 2.6 grams of LNA in ¼ cup of walnuts, 0 grams in almonds, .7 grams in ½ cup of tofu, .25 in one medium avocado, .10 in one cup of greens or .02 in 10 large olives.
THE STAR OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Flaxseed is certainly the super star here for two reasons. It is vegetarian and it contains high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids (57%) and low amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids (17%). The ratio of Omega-3 fatty acids to Omega-6 fatty acids is important. It will be discussed in the next email newsletter. In the meantime, start adding flaxseed to your diet with the following recipes and ideas.
.....More next month
Vegetarian equals Healthy Lifestyle.
Must Vegans Supplement Omega-3 Intake by Virginia Messina,
Dallas-Fort Worth Vegetarian Education Network.
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