by Elisa Adams
and Fish Oils
Greenland, the consumption of fruits and vegetables is limited by the short
growing season of the far north. Rather than gather their foods from the land,
the residents of this northern land gather their food from the sea, and the
consumption of fish is nearly the highest on the planet. Greenland natives
traditionally have consumed over 300 pounds of fish per capita, per year, or
about a 5-ounce serving at breakfast, lunch, and supper every day.
In New England a hundred years
ago, when it was time to make bread, a small sack of flaxseed would be brought
to the local grist mill for grinding, and the freshly ground flaxseed would be
added to the other grains used in breadmaking.
What do these two cultures,
seemingly so disparate, have in common?
Both enjoyed life free of high
blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, and both enjoyed diets high in omega-3
The new science of nutrition has
sought links between diet and health, and the connection between omega-3 fatty
acids and heart health is now proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Flax and fish
oils are fluid at body temperature and serve as a solvent for saturated animal
fats in the diet.
As the consumption of
heart-friendly foods, such as deep-sea salmon, trout, mackerel, ground flax, and
flaxseed oil increases, HDL (the “good” cholesterol) increases, and the
amount of LDL and triglycerides in the bloodstream goes down. Omega-3 oils have
also been found to lower fibrinogen levels, reducing risks for blood clots and
Omega-3 oils from fish and flax
constantly work to dissolve cholesterol patches in the lining of the blood
vessels. They also work to reduce abnormally high blood pressure. One tablespoon
daily of flax oil, mixed in yogurt, salad dressing, or juice, was found to
reduce both systolic and diastolic readings significantly. For every 1% increase
in omega-3 fats in body lipids, blood pressure decreased 5 mm Hg overall.
These “magical” oils also
function in the body as the precursors to anti-inflammatory prostaglandin, which
helps reduce pain and the other inflammatory processes. Inflammatory
prostaglandins are now under examination as a potential cause of heart attacks,
Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other chronic disorders
that tend to appear later in life in modern societies. (See Time,
February 24, 2004, for an excellent article on the physiology of inflammation.)
heart-healthy oil is olive oil. The lipid in olives is called oleic acid, which
is one of the major sources of fat in the diet of the island of Crete, renowned
for the longevity of their older population.
Since it is
liquid at room temperature and body temperature, its fluidity helps keep our
arteries supple. It also resists damage by oxygen (oxidation) and is therefore
fairly stable, not needing large amounts of antioxidants to keep it from turning
rancid. Oleic acid is the major fatty acid in the oils secreted by our skin and
is used to keep skin soft and supple.
Creating your own heart-healthy
spread is easy. Just soften butter, add equal parts of flax oil and olive oil,
and add sea salt to taste. Place it in a tub in the refrigerator until chilled,
and use it without guilt for your bread and vegetables. Just remember not to
cook with it, as flax oil will oxidize at cooking temperatures.
By reducing your intake of
processed and heated fats, such as those found in crackers, hydrogenated peanut
butter, french fries and doughnuts, and by eating nuts, seeds, flaxseeds,
olives, avocados and fish for your daily supply of fatty acids, you will have
taken a giant step backwards into the time zone when heart disease was never
Return to main