Seed oils also known as vegetable oils are commonly used in cooking and food preparation. The wrong essential oil balance in our diet can drive inflammation pain and illness risks. Seed oils come from a variety of plant sources, such as sunflower, soybeans, canola, olives, and flaxseeds. These oils contain many different types of fatty acids, including saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are divided into omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are essential because we cannot produce them on our own and must get them from our diet.
Inflammation is a natural body response that helps the body fight infection and heal wounds. However, chronic inflammation is linked to a variety of health problems, including chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in large amounts in flaxseed oil and fish oil and are known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Omega-6 fatty acids, found in higher proportions in oils such including corn, soybean, and sunflower oils, have pro-inflammatory effects. These are also the predominate fats in most USA diets. Unfortunately, far too many processed, fried, and baked foods contain seed oils.
These are present in so many labeled "healthy" foods, plant-based milks, and dairy substitutes. Worse yet, crackers, chips, cookies, and common foods in diets these days.
The way seed oils are used in cooking can affect their nutritional properties. High-heat cooking methods, such as frying, can cause fatty acids to oxidize, leading to the production of harmful compounds. There are laboratory tests we often use to check for diseases and inflammatory states. These include include C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). ESR is still used but less so than in the past. Sadly, we sometimes find CRP elevated in patients with poor diets in pre-disease states.
So what is the answer? A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein along with Omega-3 can positively impact markers of inflammation and help most of us feel a whole lot better! It is so crucial to read labels when we shop, even in a "health food" store, and avoid seed oils!
In general, choose foods with higher omega-3's. Plant-based foods include walnuts, edamame, kidney beans, seaweeds, flax & chia seeds. There are smaller amounts in leafy green vegetables. Higher sources include oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Of course supplements can be used with caution, but never add these on your own if you regularly take aspirin or any blood thinning drugs!
For cooking and daily usage, choose oils in small quantities with a higher amount of monounsaturated fats (e.g. olive oil), coconut and avoid overconsumption of any oil.
Incorporating a variety of healthy oils into your diet and focusing on whole, unprocessed foods can help maintain a healthy balance of inflammatory markers.
However, each individual's needs and responses may vary which is why we so often advocate for nutrition evaluations and counseling in our practice. If you are a patient all you need to do is ask!
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