Since I've introduced the "Pie Diet", which sets out to help you figure out where your fuel is coming from and then make a move to push the fat content in the face of carbs, most are asking how and where I get all of this fat. Ideally, you should aim to start around 60-70% of your calories to come from fats and 10-15% from carbohydrates (sugar, grains, potatoes, rice, fruits and vegetables in order of priority of what to cut down most on). Most can identify their carb sources (although beans, fruits and vegetables are not obvious ones to everyone), but figuring out where all this fat should come from is less intuitive.
There are two main goals of daily fat intake:
- Get more than you think you should
- Aim for a low omega-6:omega-3 ratio
Omega-6/3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that are essential, meaning we cannot make them and must consume them. The difference ultimately between them is what happens to them in our bodies. Omega-6 fats tend to drive a pro-inflammatory state as opposed to the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. While we need both, the ideal ratio is to be less than 4:1. Above this the risk starts to increase. The average American eater is felt to be around 15 to 20: 1, thus the incredible amount of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and Type 2 diabetes we are seeing.
In a 2008 article by Simopoulos about the importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio the author states:
"The higher the ratio of O6:O3 fatty acids in platelet phospholipids, the higher rate of death from cardiovascular disease"
The way to optimize this ratio is to both lower omega-6 (O6) fats and increase your intake of omega-3s (O3).
Here are common oils and their content of O6 and O3:
As you can see, the major driver is seed/vegetable oils. This is most of what is used in processed foods, restaurant preparation and fast food production. The more you do not prepare your own meals, the more your O6 intake. Start by cutting down on your intake of O6 by eating more meals from home.
The downside of a high O6 diet? Let's look at a study of Israeli Jews who have one of the highest intakes of O6 on the planet. Its titled the "Israeli Paradox" as it dissects the dangers of high O6 eating. The heavy consumption of soybean oil has them consuming on average 8% more O6 than the USA and 10-12% more than most of Europe. This population also does some things thought to be "healthy" in the nutrition world:
- Relatively low consumption of saturated fat (most fat coming from the polyunsaturated soybean oil)
- Lower calorie intake than most other countries
- Mean total cholesterol levels are at 210 mg/dL
The benefits of high O6 consumption? In the chart below, deaths rates are listed for each group. Note that the Jewish population consumes the high O6 in comparison to non-Jews who were studied that consume most of their oil from olive oil.
There is a very high prevelance of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, type2 diabetes and obesity. The complex of these diseases are rooted in hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. Getting lean and healthy is not just about getting the carbs down and fats up, it's about eating the right fats.
Omega-3 fats come from cold-water ocean fish (Salmon, Halibut, Black Cod), grass fed beef, ground flaxseed and nuts like walnuts and pistachios. Pushing the intake of these, particularly the seafood and grass fed beef, will help with bringing down your O6:O3 ratio. Nuts, while a good source of fat, do not necessarily have a great O6:O3 ratio. Remember that you do need some O6, so let this be your source and not the seed oils above.
- Free range eggs: make sure to eat the best part: the yolk which when sourced from a local farm has no nutritional rival is amber or bright orange in color. I use raw eggs in my post-workout nutrition and frequently consume them over easy cooked in grass fed butter with my favorite salsa.
- Grass fed beef: the O6:O3 ratio is near perfect at around 2-3:1 and is loaded with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), known to increase lean body mass and support immunity. Those in the GladdMD local area can find it here and here.
- Wild caught fish: very high amounts of O3 fats. Sockeye salmon is always wild so is a best choice. Halibut, black cod, sardines, mackeral are others. If in a pinch, smoked sockeye salmon makes a great snack as does canned sockeye salmon. Limit wild tuna to once a week.
- Free range pork: the O6:O3 ratio is not as strong as grass fed beef and fish, but a more natural diet and raising practices make a big difference. Paul Janimet of the Perfect Health Diet has written extensively regarding pork consumption, dispelling myths and providing certain cautions in consumption.
- Grass fed dairy: See the beef comment regarding the CLA and O6:O3 profile. Grass fed is key. I only consume raw sources of dairy. Worried about infection? You have to make your best decision for your family. A resource like this can help. Butter, whole milk plain kefir/yogurt and heavy cream are my top sources of fat from dairy in addition to raw milk cheese.
- Coconut and coconut milk/oil: Included in this is MCT oil which is often derived from coconut oil and deserves a special mention in its own post for its role in Bulletproof Coffee and benefits to fat loss and brain support. I use shredded, unsweetened coconut with dark chocolate for a snack with heavy cream as well as canned coconut milk in smoothies and cooking.
- Raw nuts: I prefer raw nuts to protect the fats and not overheat them risking oxidation. My favorites are Brazil nuts (limit to 3-4/day to not overdo selenium intake), macadamia nuts (I make mayo and aoli with mac oil), walnuts and pistachios. Almond butter makes up the main ingredient of my favorite meal replacement on workout day.