Just like there are good eggs and bad eggs, so too are there good fats and bad fats. And Sally Beare suggests that you stick to 'good fats' for 'best health'. According to Beare, 'bad fats' include your standard vegetable oils found on many grocery store shelves (most are chemically processed rather than expeller or cold-pressed), the fats used for frying and cooking in many chain restaurants (often the cheapest kind available) and saturated fats in diary products and red meat. Sally Fallon, who co-founded the Weston Price Foundation in 1999, will argue that saturated meat and diary products are not unhealthy per se, but just as is the case with eggs, the QUALITY of the meat and diary product is the determining factor. But back to Beare. We all need EFAs or essential fatty acids to survive. These are fats our bodies are not able to generate on their own. EFAs come from fresh, unspoiled polyunsaturated oils found in nuts, seeds, and oily fish. Nuts, seeds, and cold-pressed oils from nuts and seeds deliver mainly linoleic acid or omega-6s. The oil from oily fish is omega-3 or alpha linolenic acid. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are found in abundance in the diet of blue-zone people. Oily fish enjoyed by blue-zoners include sardines, mackerel, herring, salmon or anchovies that are grilled, gently sauteed in virgin olive oil, cooked in soup or roasted. Fish obtain their omega-3s from marine algae. Omega-3 fats are converted to DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA. We need both kinds. 60% of our brain consists of DHA. According to studies at Harvard and Oxford University, the symptoms of children with ADHD and adults with manic depression were significantly reduced when omega-3 intake was increased over several months. Beare recommends eating oily fish up to three times per week. Apparently the Standard American Diet or SAD is not only deficient in omega-3 and omega-6, but the ratio between these two fats is severely out of balance. A healthy balance would be a ratio of between 1:2 to 1:5 of omega-3s to omega-6s, the SAD has a ratio of 1:20.
Another point made by Beare is that our omega-3 rich brains are susceptible to free radical damage, and she recommends green tea, red berries and red wine as good sources of antioxidants. EGCG or epigallocatechin gallate is the fat-soluble antioxidant in green tea, proanthocyanidin is the powerful antioxidant found in red berries and red wine.
I often cook salmon at home, both farm-raised and wild (the wild has less fat and tastes different than the farm-raised) so I thought I'd look around the local supermarkets for another oily fish to try. I prefer fresh over canned and decided that since I have enjoyed mackerel in local restaurants, I would easily find fresh mackerel in the grocery store. I was mistaken. My first stop was Sunflower Markets where I was informed by the fishmonger that the store very rarely carries mackerel. Demand is non-existent and due to the fish oil the fish can quickly turn rancid. No problem, I thought. Surely a store that focuses on health foods such as Whole Foods will have mackerel? "No, we don't carry it. It does not sell. But we can special-order it for you!" the helpful young man at the Highlands Ranch Whole Foods fish counter offered, "but I know that Whole Foods in So-Cal carries it". No luck at Whole Foods, Colorado, so I decided to try the local specialist in meat and fish: "Tony's Market" -- www.tonysmarket.com. "No, we do not carry mackerel; you might want to try the Asian supermarkets down on Alameda or Pacific Mercantile in Denver". If the local Caucasian population does not include omega-3 rich mackerel on their standard menu, maybe I was going to have better luck at the places where Asians shop? Pacific Mercantile (1925 Lawrence Street, Denver, CO 80202; 303-295-0293) is a Japanese grocery store in downtown Denver. Bingo! I found three gorgeous, large mackerel on display at the seafood counter. $4.99/lb or $6.99 for the most beautiful, fresh specimen I had ever seen. I was going to take a picture of the mackerel for this blog but when I returned home and had cleaned and gutted it, rubbed it with some finely-chopped fresh ginger, broiled it for 5 minutes on each side and presented it for dinner, the entire fish was eaten in no time. It was delicious. It tasted better than any grilled mackerel I have ever eaten at any of the local Japanese restaurants. So if you live in Denver and would like an easy, fast dinner loaded with omega-3s, pick up a mackerel at Pacific Mercantile! A one lb. mackerel is enough for two adults and two young children.
Take-home: make sure your diet includes plenty of EFAs - both omega-3s and omega-6s. Try to keep the ratio between omega-3s and omega-6s closer to 1:2 than 1:20. Good sources include cold-pressed nut and seed oils, nuts, seeds, and oily fish. Look for sources of fresh, oily fish in your town. The fish is fast and easy to prepare and very tasty.