What Are “Essential Fats”? – Brand New Vegan

What Are

I had a Facebook comment pop up yesterday that mentioned a phrase that never fails to make me cringe. A topic that I feel needs further discussion.  

So without further ado, let’s talk about “Essential-Fats“.

First off, let me preface this by saying – I am mainly directing this post towards new people and those of you who have health issues and are trying to lose weight.

As you may know, I am a huge supporter of eating a Whole Food, Plant-Based Vegan Diet with no added oils or fats.  Specifically, a LOW-FAT, high carb, starch-based diet. It’s good for our bodies, good for the animals, and good for our environment.

And while it’s true we DO need some fat in our diet, that need can easily be met by eating a WFPB Diet.

Every plant we eat has some ratio of protein, carbs, and even fat. Every single one. Some foods have more fat than others, like nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados, but even…

Potatoes have fat.
Spinach has fat
Bananas have fat.

And while these foods may not seem like they have a LOT of fat, that small amount they do have easily satisfies our needs. 

Nature designed our food this way – perfect in every way, to give us exactly what we need in the proportions we need them.

So What Are Essential Fats?

Essential fats are basically the 2 fatty acids we absolutely HAVE to get from our food, as our bodies do not make them on their own.  

And they are Omega 6 and Omega 3.

More importantly, the ratio of these two is critical, with the ideal ratio being 2:1 – Omega 6 to Omega 3. 

Just for reference, the average American eating a SAD diet usually have a ratio closer to 15:1 upwards to 50:1. Also, keep in mind these 2 fatty acids are Polyunsaturated fats.

So where do we get Omega 6?  

Omega 6 fats are very easy to find. They are found in a LOT of foods, some healthy, some not-so-much. Walnuts, sunflower seeds, tofu, even peanut butter are the healthier examples.

But our greatest source? The foods with the highest concentrations of Omega 6?

Are processed foods and fast food.

Think oils, especially processed soybean, palm, corn, and sunflower oil. Look at the ingredient labels of any processed junk food – it’s everywhere.

Obviously, we get plenty of this fat, so bringing these Omega 6 levels DOWN is more important for our health than worrying about not having enough. 

What about Omega 3?

We often hear about the benefits of fish or fish oil for increasing our Omega 3, but there are plenty of plant-based sources as well.

Flaxseeds, chia seeds, spinach, and even broccoli are all very high in Omega 3.

Bringing these levels UP, while bringing Omega 6 DOWN, will get us closer to that 2:1 ratio.

And that can easily be done by adding a little Flaxseed or Chia Seed to your morning oatmeal and eating a bit more greens.

Those Are Our Only Two ‘ESSENTIAL’ Fats

The ONLY fat we really need to worry about, our ESSENTIAL fats, are Omega 6 and Omega 3.  That’s it.

And it’s really more about eating LESS Omega 6 and a little more Omega 3.  

One more reason I highly discourage using ANY oil here in the group. Most of them are high in Omega 6 and ALL of them are nothing more than bottles of pure fat. 

What about Olive Oil?  

Olive oil does have SOME omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, in a ratio of about 10:1. But mainly, it is a MONOunsaturated fat.

Remember the essential fats are POLYunsaturated.   So sorry EVOO lovers, it’s not essential.

What about Coconut Oil?

Coconut oil is one of the few plant foods that is high in SATURATED fat. The artery-clogging kind.   I do not use it.

What about Nuts, Seeds, Avocado?

This is a mixed bag as they all have different ratios of fats including omega 6 and omega 3. 

Avocados DO have some omega 3s – but also have a lot more omega 6 with the ratio being around 13:1. And most of the fat is monounsaturated – so again, not essential. 

And almonds? Their Omega 6 to 3 ratio is 2000 : 1. Yikes!

All of these are high-fat foods that will pack on the pounds if you are not careful. So be wary. And with the exception of the aforementioned Flaxseed & Chia Seeds – they really aren’t essential. 

Bottom Line

Yes, we do need healthy fats in our diet. The two “essential fats” being Omega 6 and Omega 3.  

But just like the protein myth, these requirements can easily be met by eating a wide variety of veggies, starches, legumes, and whole grains and supplementing with a little Flax or Chia seed, 

And like I said, don’t discount leafy green as a source of healthy fats in your diet either. A large salad can go a long way towards meeting your daily intake for Omega 3s.

For more information on this topic, I highly recommend researching the collective works of Dr. John McDougall, MD, Dr. Caldwell Essesltyn, MD, and Dr. Neal Barnard, MD.

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