by Kenny Sunshine and Holly Paige
These days within the raw food movement there are numerous different approaches as to how one can attain vibrant and dynamic health, some of them sane and some of them other than sane.
In regards to the latter, e.g. "You should cut down drastically from your fat intake and predominantly eat fruits and maybe a few greens here and there", we felt it necessary to express our concerns and highlight not only the massive importance of having healthy fats in one's regime of eating but also some suggestions that are perhaps new to you and some strategies for you to implement them into your culinary adventures.
ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS
We think this is a good place to start because having the right balance of these essential fats is crucial in allowing ANY nutrient to transmit its signals correctly to our cells. Omega 3 - omega 6 ratios have impact on brain, endocrine, cardiovascular and mental health,they are defined as essential fatty acids because we cannot function as healthy human organisms without them, we cannot manufacture them from other raw materials and we have to get them from food. Scientists have quite recently termed omega 3 deficiency as: FADS. Fatty Acid Deficiency Syndrome.
The typical western diet has insanely unbalanced omega 3 - 6. ratio's, generally around 1- 20 or even as high as 1- 30. It is thought that a healthy ratio is 1- 3 or 1-4. Doctor Tom Gilhooly a researcher from Edinburgh who markets an essential fatty acid blood test called the ideal omega test. http://www.idealomega.com/ suggests that a healthy ratio is 50% omega 3 going up to an optimal level of 70% omega 3 in the cellular membranes. The point is WE NEED MORE OF THEM IN OUR DIET.
An inflammatory response is created in the body by large amounts of omega 6 and that inflammation is counteracted or dampened by omega 3's. The raw food diet is already much improved from the standard western diet by the fact that there is a reduction in omega 6's and the quality of these fats is also improved. Often though adequate amounts of omega 3's are not present unless people aggressively supplement with flax and or algal oils, even then, depending on your genetics, you may not be able to convert the short chain (18 carbon) ALA(Alpha Linolenic Acid) into EPA (Eicosapentanoic) and DHA (Docosahexanoic Acid)
Generally only about 5% of ALA s converted to the necessary EPA and DHA anyway! Certain ethnic groups including: British Columbian Inuit (Eskimo), Scandinavian, Scottish, Welsh and Irish cannot convert plant based ALA's into the usable forms of EPA and DHA. Compounding this is the fact that 80% of the population ( Definitely in the USA and probably most other western countries) have elevated insulin levels. This in effect means that the ability to convert these 18 carbon short chain ALA's into the 20 and 22 long chain EPA and DHA is reduced due to the fact that the enzyme delta 6 desaturase is inhibited
In order to have proper neurological function the brain needs EPA and DHA. Without an adequate supply, the cell membranes/synapses etc do not work properly. Proper absorption of nutrients depends on cellular membrane functionality. The omega 3-6 ratio also affects the nuclear and mitochondrial membranes. The bottom line is when these ratio's are askew our ability to deal with inflammation at a cellular level is compromised. It is thought that inflammation is at the source of almost all diseases that afflict western society.
IMPORTANCE OF ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS FOR BRAIN FUNCTION AND MOOD
Everything we have said about the importance of the omega 3 fatty acids in relation to body cells in general applies to the cells in the brain with extra significance. The brain is the fattiest organ in our bodies consisting (after water) of about 60% fat. The omega 3 fatty acid DHA makes up about 15% - 20% of the cerebral cortex (“grey matter”) of the brain. It also makes up about 30% to 60% of the retina of the eye. DHA has an important role within the membranes of brain cells as well as in the cells of the rest of the body. “Brain cells” otherwise known as 'nerve cells” or “neurons” are electrically excitable cells that transmit information in the brain through electrical and chemical signals. If there is not enough DHA available in the membranes of these neurons (“neural cell membranes”) then cholesterol and omega 6 are used to make up the neural membranes instead. The nerve cells then become too rigid and the transmission of electrical and chemical signals becomes compromised. Low DHA levels have been linked to memory loss, Alzheimer's disease, depression and bipolar disorder. DHA has been found to significantly improve cognition in the elderly.
WHY WE NEED ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS IN UNDAMAGED I.E. RAW FORM
Now we come to a very important point, the significance of which is often lost. The omega 3 fats are part of a class of fats called polyunsaturated fats which are very volatile and easily affected by interaction with heat or other substances. They are particularly susceptible to the changes that all foods are subject to when they are heated above biological temperature (i.e. about 40 degrees). Cooking, heating or processing fats produces chemical reactions and the molecules of the fats are changed into forms that cannot be properly assimilated by the body since there are no enzymes adapted for their digestion. Basically they accumulate in the body and brain and potentially cause problems. In particular they can become part of neural cell membranes and compromise electrical signalling in the brain as described earlier. For example French researchers found that dietary trans-fatty acids (processed fats) find their way into the myelin of the brain cells where they change the electrical conductivity of the cells especially when the cells are already deficient in essential fatty acids. Therefore it is important that we consume these essential fats in pristine fresh and raw form.
WHY RAW FOODISTS STILL NEED TO BE AWARE...
Simply not cooking or overheating food does not guarantee that we will be taking in the types and rations of fats that we need for optimal function. We need to ensure that we are taking in adequate undamaged omega 3 oils and as mentioned, in the forms DHA and EPA. It is speculated and very possible that humans once got their omega 3 essential fatty acids from leaves plus some seeds but clearly we do not have the capacity to assimilate the fats that we need from these sources in our current situation.
Even on an apparently 'healthy' raw food diet it is easy to neglect the need for omega 3's and particularly EPA and DHA. Most seeds and seed oils for example sunflower, pumpkin and sesame are predominantly omega 6. Fatty fruits such as avocado and olives are predominantly omega 9 (mono-unsaturated) oils. So although by eating our fats raw we may avoid the worst of the damaged and damaging fats such as trans-fats we may still be consuming an unfavourable ration of omega 6 to omega 3 and be consuming very little amounts of DHA and EPA. Traditionally flax seeds and flax oil have been used by raw fooders to up the ratio of omega 3's in their diets. Flax seeds make great crackers and supply fibre which can cleanse our digestive tracts but whether we can actually extract undamaged omega 3 from them is doubtful. Dehydrating them potentially causes the oils in them to turn rancid especially if they are ground. Flax seed oil has many beneficial properties in its own right but still only gives us ALA not EPA and DHA. The same can be said of chia seeds and oil.
GOOD SOURCES OF OMEGA 3.
Marine phyto plankton is a very small single celled micro algae that makes up a quarter of all vegetation on the planet (land and sea) and is responsible for 90% of all oxygen production, more than all forests on the planet (according to NASA). It is 9 times smaller than a red blood cell making it the smallest food source that is known anywhere. It has a very impressive nutritional profile. It contains all amino acids, vitamins, minerals,vital trace elements, anti oxidants, phospholipids, nucleic acids, pigments, enzymes etc. An amazing thing about phyto plankton is that is does not have to be processed through the mitochondrial "machinery" of our cells in order to be utilised as energy! It contains nucleotides that feed our cells directly with ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) which most food we eat has to be converted into in order for our body to use it as energy. An analogy would be, like going to a foreign country with a universal currency that allowed you to spend money with out needing to go to a bank or a bureau de change.
In regards to the subject matter of this article we are very intrigued by its profile of essential polyunsaturated oils, particularly its EPA and DHA content. The whole food algae as opposed to the liquid "oceans alive" product contains 10% EPA by dry weight matter (according to David Wolfe). We intuitively feel like this is a better choice as a source of omega 3's than ALA based flax, chia or even hemp but it seems like there isn't enough scientific data upon which to come to an irrefutable conclusion, it may be an excellent choice for people who adamantly want to remain raw vegetarian/vegan. We think it is very promising and sincerely hope it works as an adequate medium for supplying these essential human building blocks. It has to be said though that these ways of getting our fats are at an experimental stage and haven't been tried and trusted over generations.
The ideal ratio of EPA to DHA is supposed to be 3-1. It seems like proponents of these products have latched onto the scientific observations that view the brain and see that it is mostly comprised of DHA.
What they fail to mention is that this DHA has been oxidised from EPA through its natural process and pathway. Algal oils have a far greater representation of DHA than EPA and our body needs them in the right proportions (3-1) in order to function optimally. This is not said to diminish the efficacy of vegan DHA and algal supplements, as we are sure they have benefits in their own right, but as means of supplying us with these compounds all the evidence points to the fact that they are other than adequate
NON VEGAN SOURCES:
KRILL AND PHARMACEUTICAL GRADE FISH OIL.
For those who don't have spiritual, ethical or moral issues regarding the consumption of animal products there are other options that do supply these essential nutrients in adequate proportions.
Like marine photo plankton krill doesn't have a massive amount of independent scientific studies to warrant us hanging our hat on it. It appears based upon the research that has been published that krill oil could perhaps be potentially a better source of omega 3's than the more common fish oil, based upon claims that say the phospholipid content allows for more efficient absorption and thus smaller dosage etc.
Pharmaceutical grade fish oil on the other hand does have a massive amount of published and independent scientific studies that have been conducted (over 10,000) and there are due to the exponential technological expansion of recent decades ways to process it that remove all detectable particles of mercury, cadmium, PCB's, PVC and the various other toxic components that make up today's waterways, seas and oceans. We thus recommend that if you seek out such a product, that you find a source that has been molecularly distilled or uses molecular distillation as a means of filtering out the potential harmful components that otherwise could be there.
It's recommended that we consume at least 1500 mg of EPA and DHA per day. Whilst cod liver oil has many benefits we cannot consume it in this kind of quantity as we would likely overdose on the large amounts of vitamin A that are present within it and so we need to consume the oils that have been taken from the whole fish as opposed to just the liver.
Professor Saldeen of university Uppsala Sweden along with various associates concluded that some ordinary fish oils on the market may due to their unstable nature produce free radicals and can ultimately be detrimental to the cardiovascular system. There are stable good quality brands on the market which have noticeable effects in humans and have demonstrably significant advantages over ordinary more commercially available brands. Here are some of the reported benefits of pharmaceutical grade fish oil according to Dr. Dave Woynarowski author of the book The Immortality Edge.
Helps prevent recurring heart attacks better than any pharmaceutical drug it was tested against
Probably the most effective protection against sudden cardiac death
Makes the blood thinning properties of aspirin look like a joke
Is used effectively in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease
Improves memory IQ and age related memory lapses
Helps with MS
Plays a key role in brain development
Lowers blood pressure
Reduces the incidence of stroke caused by clotting of the brain blood vessels
Lowers triglycerides and raises good HDL cholesterol lowering the risk of heart disease
is a potent anti oxidant and one of the few that cross the blood brain barrier
Improves personality mood and mental disorders
Improves cartilage and joint health
Since experimenting recently with over a teaspoon (over 1500mg of EPA and DHA) pharmaceutical grade fish oil a day and encouraging family and friends to do the same we have reports of noticeably softer skin and hair, sharper memory, improved mood and reduced chronic inflammation. What a wonderful gift to bring to loved ones. In particular we are excited about potentially giving a new lease of life to the older generation and also the benefits for children.
Fish oil is absorbed much better with food and so we have been incorporating it into our meals and have been creating delicious salad dressings along with flax oil (for the plant based ALA's) so as to up the amount of omega 3's in our diet.
Anyway we hope this information helps you make the right decision in regards to choosing the best source of omega 3 fatty acid for your particular constitution. We have tried our best to convey the facts that are out there in as succinct a way as possible so that the information is comprehensible and easy to act on.
Holly has been passionately engaged in a raw food lifestyle in the British Isles for over a decade and has brought up two children this way, giving her a unique insight into the practicalities of making raw nutrition work here. Kenny returned to Britain after a decade of adventures in the cutting edge US raw food scene and now shares the wealth of nutritional and culinary expertise he acquired there.You can find more content from them here: