The Queen of Fats

The quick answer:  This post provides tips on budget, how to get omega-3 in each meal, and good fat facts.


I try to post twice a week: the Healthy Change for the week is the Monday post; the Thursday post expands the discussion with practical tips often influenced by your comments.  (I apologize that due to other demands, this week’s Thursday post comes on Saturday.)  I gauge the success of posts by your comments and I learned a few things from this week’s comments:

1. Amy noted that omega-3 fats have a “profoundly anti-depressant effect”. 

2. Sacha observed that fish is “so darned expensive”.

3. McKenzie shared how “complicated it is to find healthy meat and eggs”.

4. Laura shared that “I stay full longer . . . when I have some good fat in my meals”.

5. Kristin said it wasn’t clear how to get omega-3 in every meal. 

6. There were fewer comments than usual, which tells me this is a difficult subject to translate to daily living.

Thinking further on your comments:

Budget Wisdom:  I had planned a post on value with the message that good food doesn’t cost more as long as you are organized (menu, shopping list) and willing to cook.  Healthy food is actually a steal if you consider the cost of dealing with chronic diseases.  Reader comments like Sacha’s have convinced me to include more frequent information on value under the heading Budget Wisdom.  

So this is the first Budget Wisdom:  Tips on affordable ways to get the omega-3s EPA (which works as an antidepressant and anti-inflammatory), and DHA (vital for brain and eye health).  EPA and DHA are found together in animal products, which can be expensive.  What is the weekly cost of DHA?  It’s not easy to figure, as the government has not yet set a recommended intake.  So I used a target of 0.1% of calories (attributed to a National Institute of Health workshop), which translates to 2 grams of DHA a week for the typical 2500 daily calorie diet.   

Here is my horseback estimate for the weekly cost of getting your 2 grams of DHA from common sources:

•  Eggs—it’s cheaper to buy the better eggs.  Two grams of DHA from Costco’s high-omega eggs (flaxseed is added to the diet) will cost $12.00.  The cost drops to $5.00 if you buy the Gold Circle eggs (algae is added to the diet).  Ordinary eggs will deliver two grams for about $20.

•  Fish—sardines are the best bargain.  Wild salmon deliver two grams for about $7; farmed salmon for $5; and sardines, the best buy, for about $3 (canned).  Tuna comes between sardines and salmon. 

It’s best to get nutrients from a variety of sources so we shoot for two servings of fish a week (perhaps salmon one meal or shrimp in a salad, plus tuna in a sandwich).   If we don’t get enough fish I take a fish oil pill; my guess is it’s better than nothing.  And we include high-omega eggs in Saturday night omelets plus hard-boiled eggs in salads or as snacks.   Following this plan, it costs only 5-6 dollars to get our weekly EFA and DHA.

Getting omega-3 in most meals:  Credit for this goal goes to Susan Allport and her excellent book The Queen of Fats; Why Omega-3s Were Removed From the Western Diet and What We Can Do To Replace Them.  The title pretty well explains the book, which I highly recommend.   A simple rule from the book is that omega-3 fats are found in greens, while seeds are higher in omega-6.  Simply put, we need to eat more greens and less foods processed from seeds (chips, crackers, cookies, seed oils).

Here is how we are trying to meet the goal of omega-3 in each meal in our home:

•  Breakfast:  The Breakfast Compote includes a generous serving of freshly ground flaxseed.  (Don’t laugh, but when I cut up the strawberries I also include those little green leaves, a good omega-3 source.)

•  Lunch:  I do the worst here because I don’t want to stop and eat if I’m working on something.  A favorite lunch for me is a slice of whole-wheat bread with tuna and/or cheese, topped with tomato and spinach. 

•  Snacks:  I include walnuts and Brazil nuts, rich in omega-3. 

•  Dinner:  We like to have a green salad with each meal plus a green vegetable.  As noted above, we try to get two servings of fish weekly, as well as 2-3 servings of eggs (two eggs are a serving for me, one egg for my wife).

Good Fat Facts:

Fats have been roughed up in the media but they’re actually vital to health and beauty.  Excuse me for noticing, but the higher fat content in women’s bodies (compared to men) makes for those lovely curves.  The wonderful flavors and appealing smells of food are found in the fat.  (Which is why low-fat foods were so unhealthy: they had to increase sugar and salt to retain taste appeal.)   A low-fat diet is not a healthy diet.  Natural fats—including butter and olive oil—have been safely enjoyed for centuries.   Good fats make for good medicine.  The omega-3 fats found in green plants (and animals that eat things green) reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack, lower blood pressure and inflammation, and improve the function of billions of (your) cell membranes.  A final reminder:  Eat more greens than seeds (especially seed oils) for a healthy omega 6:3 ratio. 

Please comment on your favorite affordable fats.

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Reader Comments (18)

suggestions especially for those of us ego don't eat fish, I wish I did but I've never liked it no matter how much I want to. Is a supplement my main solution and if so which fish oil pill is best?

May 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKalli

Kalli, I've heard really good things about Nordic Naturals fish oil. Supposedly it's high quality and super fresh.

I think one of the biggest tragedies in society is the misinformation about fats. Most people avoid them like the plague, when in reality they are so vital for your health! We eat a lot of eggs (pasture-raised from a local farmer), but we need to be eating more fish. What I love are the black cans of wild Alaskan salmon from Costco. Since it's canned, I can buy the fish in advance and not have to worry about cooking it right away. And it's delicious! The salmon that comes in the white labeled cans is not as good.

May 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Thank you for adding more about fats. I am trying to figure out the balance of fats and every post you do helps me with ideas of how to feed my family better.

May 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternaomi

Fats are just a complicated subject I think, and yes our culture prejudices us against them.

Also, I flipped through my Martha Stewart Living when it came this week and saw the article about your family. I actually just first read a caption and said 'Hey, I know that name!' Your family gathering looked lovely.

May 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I love coconut oil. I cook with it, use it an a body moisturizer and take it as a supplement. Next to coconut oil is extra virgin olive oil. I also use ground flax in smoothies or on oatmeal. And my daughter takes a cod-liver oil pill - our naturpath recommended it over other types of fish-oil supplements. As an interesting side note, he does not recommend flax-oil to girls because it is estrogenic, though the seeds themselves are typically fine and a good source of omegas.

May 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersimply heidi

I have enjoyed reading your blog - thank you. As a 32 year old woman, I feel like healthy living is all about balance. I am still trying to figure it all out...

I have always loved peanut butter. I am not sure where it stands these days in regards to being healthy. I play a lot of soccer and ultimate frisbee. I found the perfect pre-game snack is an apple with peanut butter.

May 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Kalli, we buy a big bottle of Spectrum brand "wild caught small fish" off of Making sure it has small fish ensures no mercury is in the oil which is especially important for me while I'm in my bearing/nursing babies stage of life. After some research amazon had the best price at the time (about a year ago).

In addition to fish oil, I've been adding flaxseed oil to my meals on occasion. I just squirt some in my pasta or salad. My husband loves salads (Italian style: leafy greens, with evoo, vinegar, and garlic) so we consume salad almost every day. I frequently make fruit smoothies for my kids and I always throw in a handful of spinach and a handful of walnuts. Thanks to you, Skip, I've started to "splurge" on the omega 3 eggs. I keep planning on eating more fish, but schlepping 3 kids to a busy Manhattan market is one of my least favorite things to do, so I usually go at 6am and the fish isn't out for sale that early. But I need to improve on that. My kids actually like fish. So, my goal this week: buy and eat salmon!

Skip, you were right regarding your last post. I kept thinking, "how am I suppose to get my omega 3s into every meal?!" So, thank you!

Also, my husband, who suffers from chronic back and hip pain (that the doctor's can't diagnose), noticed when he consistently takes fish oil, the inflammation and pain is greatly reduced. When he combines that with consistent exercise the pain is completely gone.

simply heidi, I'm wondering, even if flax oil is high in estrogen it may not effect the body's levels of estrogen (like cholesterol and eggs). Our doctor recommended that our son start consuming a lot of soy products when he stopped gaining weight at 1 year. I was concerned about the estrogen, but the research I read showed that even though soy is high in estrogen it did not effect the body's levels.

May 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKiasa

I think I've spent more time thinking about Monday's post than any others so far. I've also found it more difficult to engage people in conversation about it--good fats and the food chain kind of overwhelm them. This has shown me how ignorant we are about this so thank you for helping me learn.

May 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAsh

My husband and I were vegetarian for many years but recently we began eating small amounts of meat because we were concerned about feeding our one year old a balanced, healthy diet. Last night I made salmon for the first time ever (neither of us like fish at all) and neither of us minded it and the baby LOVED it. She ate most of mine!

May 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWhistlepea

Another thing that is important for women is that having too little fat in your diet causes hormonal problems and menstrual irregularities, which lead to fertility and other problems. It's recommended that for a woman trying to get pregnant, consuming full-fat foods is important to help support her cycle.

I am also in the "never been fond of fish" camp! I try to have a lot of green vegetables, flax seeds, and sometimes a fish oil supplement in my diet.

May 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCindy Baldwin

This question may have gotten lost in the egg posting but here it is again...
Our Costco in NC only has the Egglands's Best DHA eggs...what is your take on that brand? Do you know anything about them...good vs bad?


May 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSush

Thanks for this post. The one before did leave me feeling confused too. One thing that maybe I'm just not understanding, but I think you said before that if the balance of 6:3 isn't equal then one is rejected?? I don't know.

Also, any ideas how to get my picky husband on board with fish? I'm interested in the sardines, but I've never tried them. What are some good recipes or ways of eating them?

May 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCamaronO

Sush, you asked about Eggland's Best DHA eggs. Imagine a new grading system for eggs. If you gave eggs a letter grade, an A would go to eggs from chickens who got wild greens and bugs at pasture, with a little organic grain. The B grade would go to eggs from chickens fed a vegetarian diet that included flaxseed, canola oil, or algae/kelp to enhance the omega-3 status. If the feed is free of hormones, antibiotics or steroids, a B+. Grade C would be the eggs we have been buying before feed for omega-3 enhancement started. Grade D would be eggs from chickens fed animal products and recycled feed.

So I give your Eggland's Best DHA eggs a B+, based on the information provided at their web site. Six eggs a week would provide about 20% of your DHA requirement, so you also need other sources such as fish, etc. Best to you.

May 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterSkip Hellewell

CamaronO, you asked about balancing omega-6 and omega-3, which compete for metabolic enzymes. An excess of omega-6 restricts or crowds out the digestion of omega-3 and vice versa. Omega-6 is higher in seed oils and processed foods like crackers, chips, cookies, etc. Omega-3 is found in greens, like spinach, and flaxseed (two seeds are high in omega-3, flaxseed and rapeseed, the source of canola oil).

You need both omega-6 and omega-3 but studies show our diet is unbalanced by too much omega-6 because of all the processed foods and seed oils we eat. Here's a basic rule for the average person: Eat twice as much greens and half as much processed foods. Does this help?

May 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterSkip Hellewell

Great post. I really enjoy the "why" behind what we should be eating and how much. However, the hardest part is translating that great intent into daily living. Any suggestions or recipes that help incorporate your healthy changes make it much easier to put into practice. Even pointing us to websites that offer menu or recipe ideas would be very helpful. (BTW, My favorite new breakfast is your breakfast compote - we add diced medjool dates when we cook it for a sweetener (with cinnamon and vanilla) and add cream, chia seeds, toasted almonds and flaxmeal to each bowl along with lots of fruit. It's my kids favorite meal now.) Thank you!

May 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

Stephanie, you made a brilliant observation: It's good to know "what" to do, but knowing "how" to do it is vital. Even better is a "how" that doesn't bust the food budget—it doesn't help to just say buy everything "organic." The request for comments is an invitation to share "how" tips; readers have shared really good ideas. I'll put more focus on recipes, menu ideas, and links to other sites. Thank you.

May 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterSkip Hellewell

Thanks for posting about the budget-friendly strategies for good nutrition. Because when it comes down to it, I think the higher costs are what's mostly keeping my family from overhauling our diets completely. But we're making small changes at a time.

Wouldn't an additional place for getting more Omega-3's and less Omega-6's be in Grass-finished meats?

I'd also add gardening to get maximum nutritional value as the leafy greens move quickly from garden to plate.

Both are on my wish list of goals for the next year.

May 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterConnie Z.

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July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBoss sunglass

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