One of the questions I get asked most often is, “Inger, what is the healthiest cooking oil?” As I sat down to write a article sharing the five oils I keep on hand and use regularly, and why none of them are Crisco or other popular vegetable oils, I realized I couldn’t explain all of the reasons why without going into some detail around the different types of fats and how omega 3 fits into the equation.

So in this article, I am going to cover that information along with why I believe supplementing with omega 3 is essential for most everyone. Then next time, I’ll tell you how the information here plays into choosing the best cooking oils and I’ll share some oils that if made a regular part of your diet can actually improve your health and enhance your wellness.

Research shows that 99% of us are omega 3 deficient, and a recent study at Harvard directly linked omega 3 deficiency to death in an estimated 72,000-96,000 people a year. To put that in context, there are approximately 40,000 deaths a year from breast cancer. Clearly, we need to start paying more attention to omega 3!

Omega 3s help reduce internal inflammation, which is linked to almost every chronic condition that plagues us. They play a very important role in heart health: inhibiting thickening of the arteries, lowering the amount of lipids that circulate in our bloodstream, and helping arteries to relax.

Omega 3s can reduce obesity by stimulating the hormone leptin, which regulates food intake, body weight and metabolism, and helps prevent cancer cell growth. Omega 3s can also reduce depression, improve mental clarity and focus, reduce dry or itchy skin, improve hair and nails, and help prevent autoimmune disorders and Type 2 diabetes.

Three Types of Fatty Acids

Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid. Fatty acids fall into three groupings: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Each type is made up of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms that fill in the spaces around them. All fats have a combination of all three of these elements, but are identified by their most prominent fat type.

In saturated fatty acids, all of the spaces around the carbon atoms are completely filled in, i.e., saturated. As a result, they are very stable regardless of temperature. Saturated fatty acids are found mainly in dairy, red meat and chicken, but they can also be found in tropical oils like red palm oil and coconut oil. Our bodies can also make some saturated fat from eating carbohydrates. Despite what you may have been told about saturated fat, our bodies require saturated fat to function properly, and saturated fat has been shown to improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels when eaten in moderation.

Monounsaturated fats have a double bond between two carbon atoms and are missing two hydrogen atoms. They are called mono because of their single carbon double bond and unsaturated because not all of the spaces are filled—two hydrogen atoms are missing. Because the chain can bend at the double bond point, when you mix a large number of these chains together, it won’t be dense or compact; there will be room in between.

As a result, these acids are usually liquid at room temperature and are relatively stable, though not as stable as saturated fats because they are not packed as tightly. The most common monounsaturated fat is oleic acid and examples are olive oil, avocados, peanuts, cashews, pecans and almonds. Your body can also make monounsaturated fat from saturated fat.

Polyunsaturated fats are missing several hydrogen atoms and they have two—or more—double bonds. As a result, since there is more than one double bond, they are called poly, meaning many. At each double bond, there is a kink in the chain, so they tend to be very loosely packed and remain liquid, even in colder temperatures. They are highly unstable fats and they can go bad (turn rancid) easily when exposed to heat and light.

When polyunsaturated fats turn rancid, free radicals are created and travel around in your blood causing damage to just about everything they interact with. Free radical damage has been tied to cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons’s, cataracts, tumors and aging. The most common polyunsaturated fatty acids are omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. They are called essential fatty acids because our bodies cannot make them; we must get them from the food we eat.

Omega 3s can do a lot of good. But rancid omega 3s can do a world of damage. We need omega 3s, but we need to ensure that they do not turn rancid in our bodies. Antioxidants will mitigate this, so it’s important to take antioxidants regularly along with omega 3s. If you don’t want to buy both, there are fish oils out there that add the antioxidant Astaxanthin to the oil, which alleviates this concern. Or you can try krill oil.

Krill oil is a very pure omega 3 source and also contains antioxidants to help mitigate any free radical damage that may occur if oils turn rancid in your body. Recent studies on Neptune Krill Oil have documented its benefits on a number of health conditions, so I do recommend Neptune Krill Oil.

Balancing Act: Omega 6 Versus Omega 3

Let’s go back to omegas 3 and 6. Omega 6 sometimes gets a bad rap but the truth is that we need both of these essential fatty acids. The challenge in today’s food supply, however, is that omega 6 acids are used heavily in processed foods. Vegetable oils such as corn oil, sunflower, soybean, canola, cottonseed and safflower oil contain at least 50% omega 6 and very little omega 3. Beyond the vegetable oils in packaged and prepared foods, most people rely heavily on these vegetable oils for their in-home cooking, which is a concern (I do not even have a bottle of any of the above oils in my house).

In addition, factory farming reduces the amount of omega 3s in meat, fish, eggs and vegetables. I’ve read that a chicken that is free to eat its normal diet of grass and bugs will lay an egg that is a perfect balance of omega 6 to omega 3. However, the traditional vegetarian grain-fed chicken will yield an egg that is more like 20:1 omega 6 to omega 3. Nature undisturbed knows to work in perfect balance, but our changes in farming have disrupted that balance and left us with an overabundance of omega 6.

Ideally, we need a 1:1 ratio of omega 6 to 3, but our bodies can still cope fairly well with up to a 4:1 ratio. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is more like a 20:1 and can be up to a 50:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3. This is one reason it’s so important to supplement omega 3s. Not only do we need them in isolation, but we need them to balance our omega 6 intake.

An imbalance of omega 6 and omega 3 will prevent all of the wonderful health benefits I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. In addition, an unbalanced ratio that favors omega 6 over omega 3 can lead to weight gain, sterility, high blood pressure, digestive concerns, blood clots, inhibited immune function, inflammation and even cancer.

Three Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids

How do we get omega 3s back in balance? I recommend you eat a varied whole food diet to get the three types of omega 3 essential fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA.

ALA or Alpha-Linoleic Acid is found in dark green leafy vegetables, flax and hemp seeds, walnuts and vegetable oils. EPA or EicosoPentaenoic Acid is found in cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, cod and mackerel and in seaweed. It can also be found in grass-fed beef and free-range (non-vegetarian fed) eggs in smaller amounts. DHA or DocosaHexaenoic Acid is found in the same foods as EPA.

Eating abundantly from these food groups will ensure that you have ample healthy fatty acids and a good balance of them in your body. If needed, the body can convert ALA to EPA or DHA, though the conversion process is slow. While we probably cannot overdo our dark leafy green vegetable consumption, supplementing ALA at high levels has been shown to have some adverse effects on the body. So when taking omega 3 supplements, EPA and DHA are generally recommended.

Increasing omega 3 consumption overall is important, but so is ensuring that we have a healthy balance of omega 6 to omega 3 at every meal. I try to pay attention to my omega 3 food sources, as well as restrict my consumption of omega 6 laden foods and oils, but given modern farming practices and the overabundance of vegetable oils in foods, I still feel the need to take an omega 3 supplement with every meal to ensure I stay in balance.

While I prefer pills because they tend to be more stable and they are more portable, my daughter hates pills but will drink a spoonful of fish oil. Today, fish oil often has a citrus flavor and is no longer a challenge to swallow, especially when mixed into a drink. Choose a brand that screens for impurities like PCBs and mercury and keep it in the refrigerator or away from heat and light. If it smells funny or changes color, throw it out.

Because of its proven absorption and extensively studied research benefits, as I mentioned earlier, Neptune Krill Oil may be a great supplement option. Many people I know have switched from taking fish oils to only krill oil, while others take both, but choose a fish oil with antioxidants or take an antioxidant supplement such as astaxanthin along with it.

Because we take omega 3s with every meal, we choose to use both omega 3 supplements and krill oil as well to balance the benefits and the cost. Whatever option you choose, adding fish or krill oil into your supplement routine has proven benefits. Making sure your diet is rich in antioxidants is also a good way to prevent potential damage from any oil that may go bad.

One caveat: Omega 3s can exaggerate the effect of prescription medications that are trying to do the same thing. For example, if you are on blood thinning medications like Coumadin, Plavix or even aspirin, you should discuss omega 3 consumption with your physician because it can be a blood-thinning agent. And while omega 3 can be a helpful part of insulin and diabetes management, it can raise fasting blood sugar levels, so if you are on blood sugar medications such as Glucotrol and Glucotrol XL, Micronase or Diabeta, Glucophage or insulin, talk to your doctor as your dosage may need to be adjusted.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


I recently had dinner with a friend who is fit, active, healthy and tries to eat well; he’s doing everything right. We got to talking about food labels and marketing claims. He told me that he reads the labels and that he thinks he’s making good healthy food choices.

It soon became apparent that he was reading the product claims on the front labels and occasionally, the nutrition facts label, but not the list of ingredients. I challenged him to read the ingredient list on the foods in his cabinets.  We pulled out the first item handy, Progresso Bread Crumbs, and I showed him the high fructose corn syrup and trans fats in the ingredient list.

We discovered 95% of the food in his house contained at least one, sometimes two or even all three, of the most harmful food additives: high fructose corn syrup, trans fats and MSG. It was a challenge to find anything in a box, bag, plastic bottle or jar that did not have one of these unhealthy additives, even product labeled as “natural.”

Eating whole unprocessed foods is best, so I always recommend you stick to the outside aisles of the supermarket and avoid packaged and processed food.  But for many of us, it is simply not possible to avoid all processed foods completely. When you must buy prepared foods, how can you make the best choices?

While it’s easy to believe food manufacturers’ marketing claims, the only way to know if you’re making good food choices and know exactly what you are really eating is to read the ingredient list. Avoiding harmful additives could add years to your life.

Trans Fats or Partially Hydrogenated Oil

New York City made headlines when it banned all trans fats from foods. California then became the first state to do so.  Many European countries have done the same, or passed legislation for future elimination. What is it about trans fats that is so concerning? What led the National Academy of Science to say there is no safe level of trans fat consumption and to call for a full ban of its use at the city, state and country level?

Trans fats are made when a hydrogen atom is added to unsaturated fat. During this process, hydrogen gas bubbles through the oil in the presence of a nickel catalyst. Originally just an interesting science experiment, the result became attractive to food manufacturers looking to increase profits. Trans fats don’t spoil as readily as other oils, they don’t break down when heated repeatedly, and they can turn a liquid oil into a solid, which makes transport easier, and offers a cheaper substitute to solid animal fat.

The fast food industry saw the appeal, and almost every major chain found a use: Dunkin Donuts used them to fry donuts and McDonald’s used them to fry its french fries. (They and most others have recently eliminated trans fats due to public pressure).  Margarine, baked and snack goods sales benefited from increasing concern over the use of butter and lard several decades ago before healthy fats were fully understood and there was a desire to shift to a vegetable-based oil product. But as trans fat consumption increased radically, researchers grew concerned about its effect on health.

Awareness of the harm of trans fats began in the 1990s, though a study done in the U.K. as far back as 1981 raised some questions.  In 1993, Harvard concluded that the intake of partially hydrogenated oils increased the likelihood of a heart attack. That study suggested that replacing just 2% of energy from trans fats with healthy unsaturated fats could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by a third.

In 1999, a joint study by Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital reported that  “at least 30,000 and as many as 100,000 cardiac deaths a year in the United States could be prevented if people replaced trans fats with healthier non-hydrogenated” oils.  The New England Journal of Medicine reported that same year that trans fats are directly linked to the development of diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Today we know that trans fats increase LDL, the low-density lipoproteins, especially the smaller denser particles that we now know are more damaging to the arteries. At the same time, they reduce HDL, the high-density lipoproteins that are responsible for taking bad cholesterol and waste that needs to be returned to the liver for processing and disposal. (For more detail, see the chapter on cholesterol.) They also create inflammation, which has been shown to lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and many other chronic conditions. Trans fats have also been linked to obesity and insulin resistance as well as Alzheimer’s disease.

At one point, the FDA estimated 95% of prepared cookies, 100% of crackers and 80% of frozen breakfast products contained trans fats.  They have also said that the average American consumes 5.8 grams of trans fats a day. While some companies are shifting their manufacturing processes, the majority of foods still contain some amount of trans fat.  (It breaks my heart every year when the Girl Scouts come calling because I’d love to support their cause, but their cookies all include trans fats, so typically, I make a donation and tell them to keep the cookies.)

When you eat at bakeries, restaurants, schools and cafeterias there is no way to monitor trans fat presence, so it’s likely that you’re consuming them. Trans fats do occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, so it’s hard to avoid them completely.

The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 1% of your calorie energy come from trans fats. If you eat a 2,000 calorie a day diet, that is 20 calories, or less than two grams of trans fats a day. Given what you likely ingest through your daily meat and dairy consumption, you are most likely reaching or exceeding that amount through natural sources.

Prior to 2006, when it was required to list trans fats on labels, it was hard to tell which foods contained them. Now it’s a little easier, but you still cannot depend on truth in labeling with regard to trans fats. In fact, many products claim to be trans fat free while still containing trans fats. Portion sizes under .5g per serving do not require listing on labels. (In Canada, it’s .2g.) So some manufacturers simply reduce portion sizes in order to meet the minimum requirements, but continue to process foods the same way.

The only way to know for sure is to read the label and to look for partially hydrogenated oils on the ingredient list.  Despite the fact that the FDA has banned them saying they are unsafe, they remain in many foods today. It may surprise you where you find them: in addition to the obvious breads, cookies and crackers, I found them in a jar of marinated artichoke hearts!

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

Almost everyone knows they should avoid MSG, so food manufacturers have gotten smart about hiding it. But it astounds me how many times I see it listed openly as monosodium glutamate in the ingredient list of a common kitchen staple.  It’s in so many foods because it’s a flavor enhancer that leads you to want to eat more, and which is exactly what food manufacturers want.

MSG is a neurotoxin that excites the brain. In addition to being toxic, it’s addictive. It can cause brain damage, lead to behavior disorders, learning disabilities, endocrine and reproductive disorders and neurodegenerative disease. It has been shown to lead to obesity regardless of caloric intake; it acts on the pancreas to secrete insulin and stimulate hunger, and if you are taking calcium blockers for high blood pressure, MSG acts as a calcium channel opener, counteracting that medication.

It’s in soups, salad dressings and dips, Hamburger Helper, frozen foods, prepared noodles and potato chips, it’s the secret ingredient at many big name fast food and chain restaurants, and it’s sold as the flavor-enhancing product, Accent. It’s not just a Chinese restaurant concern, though it gained attention after many people sensitive to its effects came down with headaches, dizziness and chest pains after eating it in Chinese food.

Glutamic acids are amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) commonly found in foods such as tomatoes, milk and mushrooms. They are also found in our cells and function as a neurotransmitter involved in a variety of brain functions. When we eat these foods, we break down the natural or sometimes called “bound” glutamic acid and it is delivered to receptors in our brain and body. It’s not harmful and in fact performs a valuable function.

But when glutamic acid is made in a factory, the “bound” glutamic acid in corn, molasses, beets or wheat is broken down by one of several processes: It is hydrolyzed, autolyzed, modified or fermented using powerful chemicals or specially engineered bacterias. (Most of the world’s production is made using bacterial fermentation, often with genetically engineered bacterias, but autolyzed and hydrolyzed processes are rampant in food products as well.)

It then becomes refined into a sugar-like white crystal form that is 78.2% glutamate, 12.2% sodium and 9.6% water. Anything 78%-79% processed free glutamic acid (MSG) will be listed as monosodium glutamate on the label. Other MSG-containing ingredients are listed in their technical form such as hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts and protein isolate. Labels reveal that these forms are pervasive in the vast majority of foods we buy and eat.

So what’s the difference between the naturally occurring monosodium glutamate and the processed form?

Unprocessed glutamic acid is L-glutamic acid. When the processed version is created in factories, it is both L-glutamic acid and D-glutamic acid, along with pyroglutamic acid and a number of impurities. Several of the impurities such as mono and dichloro propanols and heterocyclic amines are carcinogenic. But even more importantly, our bodies are made to process and utilize naturally occurring L-glutamic acid, not the created D-glutamic acid that results from factory processing.

The FDA considers MSG to be naturally occurring since the basic ingredient is found in nature. But naturally occurring doesn’t mean safe. Arsenic is naturally occurring but you wouldn’t want to eat it. The factory version of MSG causes sensitivities and toxicity in people, as our bodies have never had to process this form before. Look out for all forms of monosodium glutamate including autolyzed or hydrolyzed yeast, yeast or soy extract and protein isolate on your ingredient lists and avoid them all.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

Because we already talked about HFCS in The Truth About Sugar article, I’ll keep this summary brief.

Research has shown that fructose inhibits our leptin signaling and directly leads to obesity, type-2 diabetes and a myriad of other conditions including heart disease. It alters our sweetness set points and interferes with satiety signals, leading us to eat more. We need to minimize fructose in our diets because fructose cannot be metabolized by the cells and must be metabolized by the liver; excess fructose consumption taxes our liver.

But high fructose corn syrup is not only a harmful form of fructose; it often contains mercury, it’s made from corn syrup that is derived from genetically modified corn, and it adds to the overload of corn already rampant in our diets as corn has shifted from a vegetable into a grain.

High fructose corn syrup is commonly found in bread and bread products, ketchup, tomato and spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, jelly, salad dressing, crackers and cookies and myriad other items including seafood cocktail sauce, barbecue sauce, sweet pickles or relish … just about everything!

When I had dinner with my friend, he wanted to make a special turkey burger recipe for me. Searching for bread without high fructose corn syrup can be quite a challenge in many traditional grocery stores. On a recent trip, I found only one offering out of 28 breads that was made without it. But finding high fructose corn syrup -free bread products such as hamburger buns and hotdog rolls is almost impossible at a traditional grocery store.

It takes a trip to the organic section of my local grocery store (I am fortunate to have access to Hannaford, which has a great selection); Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to find products made without high fructose corn syrup. If your regular grocery store doesn’t carry non-high fructose corn syrup options, ask that they do. Or go without the bun.

Most of us consume large amounts of these three unhealthy food additives without knowing it. While we can’t control what’s in the food we eat in a restaurant or cafeteria, we can control what we cook at home. Once you start reading food labels, you’ll be surprised what’s actually in the products you’re buying. The good news is that there are healthy versions of every product out there that still taste great, if you take the time to look for them.


To your wellness and health: your true wealth!



Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art

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