Balancing PUFAs in Your Diet
You may be unsure of what PUFA stands for, but if you’re not following a Paleolithic diet, it’s highly likely that you’re consuming too many of them in your daily diet. PUFAs are polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are one of the three main subsets of fats, also including saturated fats and monounsaturated fats.
PUFAs are commonly found in many vegetable oils, often in combination with saturated fats and monounsaturated fats. With the exception of olive, palm and coconut oils, most vegetable oils actually have a very high amount of PUFAs. Omega-3s, as well as Omega-6 fats are PUFAs, and while your body needs both of these types of fat to function at its highest level, it’s important to maintain a balance between these two types of fats to avoid toxicity in the body.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids have a double-bonded carbon chain, which means they are lacking a hydrogen atom. What this means, in basic terms, is that PUFAs are unstable and can lead to oxidation in the body, when consumed.
Heating a PUFA can set the process of oxidation into action, as can exposure to air, light and moisture. When the oxidation process begins, free radicals begin to run rampant through the body, causing damage to the cells that comprise our organs and bodily systems. With an excessive amount of exposure to free radicals in the body, we can become susceptible to premature aging, liver damage and cancer. Eating an excess amount of PUFAs can also lead to chronic inflammation, which is thought to be the basis of most modern diseases.
PUFAs are found in even paleo-friendly foods, including nuts, seeds, olive oil and fish oil. While some Paleos may choose to eliminate foods containing PUFAs altogether, it’s important to remember they do make-up the essential Omega-3 fats, which are so valuable in any diet.
In order to follow a paleo diet, and avoid excess PUFAs, there are a few important tips to keep in mind. The first is to only consume the freshest products possible. For example, it’s a good rule of thumb to buy the freshest, raw nuts you can find and refrigerate them as soon as you bring them home. When purchasing olive oil, look for cold-pressed oil, and use the bottle as quickly as possible, to avoid excess oxidation. When using fish oil, make sure to refrigerate the product, and use it in a timely manner.
To balance your intake of PUFAs, make sure to eat a lot of antioxidant rich foods, like berries and leafy green vegetables.