PUFAs: The Facts Mom Never Told You About

Don’t blame mom. Actually, I probably need to revise that statement, since so many of you are now much younger than me. More aptly, I might say, “don’t blame great grandma”. Since I’m talking about a generation that lived back in the sixties, when TV commercials were loaded with ads for vegetable oils…

In any case, mom, grandma, whoever it might be- she only knew what she heard on the television. She didn’t have the internet to use as her research library. Even now, a lot of my friends don’t know what PUFA is. Noting the apparent increase in many diseases, a friend remarked, “It must be all the saturated fats in the American diet”. She majored in nutrition and dietetics back in the late seventies. But let’s take a closer look…

PUFAsHow things have changed! In my virtual world online, I come across countless latest findings from grass-roots studies. It’s not info you found in our text books thirty years ago, for sure!

Let’s look at vegetable oils– touted as being “heart-healthy” in twelve or more ways. But chemicals and high heat and intense mechanics have extracted the oils out of stuff like cotton, canola, safflowers, soy and corn, and it gets added to almost every commercially-prepared food on the planet. Those very processes make the oils highly unstable; they become oxidized and rancid quite quickly. Not that you would notice; so many oils have been refined and “deodorized” enough that you’d never taste anything off. Ew.

Not scared yet? Oxygen and heat turn those PUFA oils into some scary substances: toxic lipid peroxides, carcinogens and mutagens (much more than what’s found in saturated or monounsaturated oils). (See this full report on “healthy oils”, at KU Medical Center.)

That’s why I get sad if a friend says they add flax seed oil to their smoothies. That flax seed oil is not likely to stay fresh. I imagine that if it’s in capsule form, it will stay fresher, as it’s protected from oxygen. It’s probably been cold-pressed too, so that helps. But, I’m giving you flack about flax! Unless you grind it fresh in a little electric coffee/spice grinder, or in a Vitamix or the like, it’s probably rancid.

Besides rancidity, PUFAs have another problem: They are inflammatory, due to their high Omega 6 content. I mentioned something about the Omega 6 to 3 ratio in this post. To sum it up, that ratio is highly unbalanced due to the average modern diet. Food industry advertising doesn’t mention that. But you can decide who you’re going to believe: Profit-seeking companies producing “infomation” (in the form of commercials), or individuals, speaking from personal experience. Do word searches and you’ll find countless blogs written by folks who have challenged the conventional wisdom, have applied new food rules, and have seen victory over all kinds of symptoms.

I’ve posted here, on the PUFA content in various oils, and what that can mean for you in the kitchen. (How do you cook and keep it healthy?!) And I’ve posted on whole-food sources of PUFAs here (some nuts and seeds are lower in Omega 6s than others). Not that they are our bad guy today, since they have a far greater chance of being fresh.

For now, ignore the commercials for processed foods, snacks, fast food… that is, if you’re looking to be healthy!

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