The Harsh Realities of PUFAs

The Harsh Realities of PUFAs

Now that both Thing 1 and Thing 2 are happily napping in the sun on my bed (with Thing 3 about to be released from the hospital finally!) I have the time to sit and write a much overdue post.  For those of you who have tried to reach me to schedule a consultation or follow on appointment, please know I am not ignoring you and will be back to business as usual within the next few weeks but now am happily adjusting to three beautiful new additions to our home and am happily falling in love with my growing family.

As we have gotten deeper into discussing estrogen dominance, thyroid and adrenal health you probably have seen the term PUFA bandied about a lot by me.  Since I am about to blow your mind with a revelation about fish oils I thought we should talk firstabout the definition of a PUFA and why they have little to no business being in your eating plan.

Let’s define dietary fat first and foremost.  They are divided into three main categories; saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. All oils used in cooking or eating (indeed pretty much all oils except perhaps engine oil) contain one or a combination of these fats.

For example:

*Coconut oil, palm oil, and animal fats contain mainly saturated fats.

*Olive oil, macadamia oil, and avocado oil are largely monunsaturated fats with some saturated and a very small ratio of polyunsaturated fats.

*Corn oil, safflower, canola, flax (yes, you heard me right!), sunflower, cottonseed (used in many packaged foods), and soybean oils are largely polyunsaturated fats.  Having said that, most nuts (except for macadamia nuts), all grains, corn, grain-fed animal sources, (including farmed fish and factory eggs), and even green leafy vegetables (though I am not saying don’t eat your leafy greens) are sources of PUFAs.

The fact is, it is virtually impossible to avoid PUFAs altogether but we are here to bring balance back into eating, health, and life, right?

PUFA 101

A fat molecule is basically a chain of carbon molecules.  Every link in this chain has the ability to hold a hydrogen atom and if that happens, the fat is a saturated fat.  If some of the links are missing hydrogen atoms and have double bonded carbon molecules then the fat is unsaturated.  If, in this chain, there is only one double bonded carbon molecule, the fat is a “mono”unsaturated (mono meaning one) fat while if there is more than one the fat is a “poly” unsaturated fat (poly meaning more than one).

Polyunsaturated fats are not stable fats.  These molecules are like magnets for free radicals and oxidative stress.  Remember, oxidative stress can lead to inflammation in the body  which can lead to arthritis, accelerated aging, (sugar gets a bad rap, however it is actually PUFAs present in most sugary snacks that cause glycation and collagen loss), hormonal imbalance, thyroid issues, cancer and many more illnesses and symptoms.

PUFAs are highly reactive to heat and light.  They go rancid quickly on the shelf (especially since most are packed in clear plastic jugs).  Canola, as an example, is touted as heart healthy for it’s Omega-3 content.  Because canola oil is processed at temperatures hovering at 500°F and Omega-3 is  fragile, breaking down quickly at temperatures above 120°F.

Most oils, when heated above their smoke point become extremely toxic (as they officially cross over into a rancid state) which means they oxidize quickly and whenever we incorporate something like a rancid oil into every cell in our body  we are inevitably putting ourselves at huge risk for oxidative state diseases like cancer.  Also, beauties, this oxidative state causes metabolism to lower (that’s a bad thing), affects your thyroid negatively, and causes your estrogen levels to shoot up (and blocks liver detoxification to lower them).

Some PUFAs, as discussed, such as canola, flax seed, and walnut oil, have some, even a lot of Omega-3 (an essential fatty acid found in fish, olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables, flax, garlic, wheat germ and to a marginal extent olive oil) fatty acid. The problem here is, with the exception of wild caught fish, most nut and seed oils also contain high amounts of Omega-6, a fatty acid that, when consumed in ratios far above that of Omega-3 (the ratio should ultimately be 1:1) is highly inflammatory, even responsible for such illnesses such as inflammatory autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis, lupus, and even Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.   High ratios of Omega-6 to Omega-3 has been linked to colorectal and breast cancers, cardiovascular disease, and asthma.  Our Standard American Diet (SAD) suggests the average ratio is around 16:1, however, those who consume a high grain, nut and seed diet or a highly refined diet with fried foods can have ratios of upwards of 40:1.  (Vegans and Vegetarians, I am not picking on you but if you are eating a lot of nuts or trying to get your Omega-3 from oils such as flax, chia, or hemp, you may actually be doing your body more harm than good since many of these oils are often rancid before you even get them home.  The seeds, if harvested and packed within a few months and kept refrigerated are a much better option but even these contain PUFAs.)

If the above information isn’t ENOUGH to make you think about your PUFA use then let me remind you PUFAs block the ability of glucose to be absorbed by the cells.  This causes, inevitably, insulin resistance which leads to weight gain and even conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, and other hormonal disturbances.

Where are PUFAs?

In a word, PUFAs are everywhere.  Nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, nut and seed oils,nut milks, grains and, again, any animal product (milk, butter, eggs, meat) that is grain fed are high in polyunsaturated fats.  Vegetables and even fruits have some but even though green leafy vegetables contain PUFA that does not give you a license to stop eating them.

An oxidative state causes metabolism to lower (that’s a bad thing), affects your thyroid negatively, and causes your estrogen levels to shoot up (and blocks liver detoxification to lower them).



So what can I eat??

This is the fun part.  Although I really don’t feel it is possible to avoid ALL PUFAs, eating nuts, seeds and their products in small amounts rather than large parts of your meals is a good start.  Avoiding commercial oils such as corn, canola, sunflower, safflower and even flax seed and peanut oil (buy very fresh flax seeds, grind them fresh and then add a teaspoon to something cold if you want to eat them).  When you do use oils like avocado, olive, and walnut, buy the highest quality cold pressed oils possible and use them over salads and warmed veggies or other dishes as a garnish.

The good news is eating saturated fats like coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, cacao butter (chocolate fat), cream (from grass-fed sources), and even red palm oil can actually block most of the negative effects of PUFAs.  Think butter on your broccoli, raw dairy ice cream (homemade with high quality sourced ingredients), cacao butter truffles, and if you must eat bread every once in awhile, a slab of sourdough bread with plenty of butter and jam.  Pastured eggs and grass-fed meats on the bone, bone broth are also great sources of heart healthy saturated fats.

Before you pick up your fish oil or cod liver oil supplements, think again.  Our next post will be about why you should leave them behind and will shock and awe you.

Until then.

Wishing you peace and balance,





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  1. mary says

    I’m shocked! But I’ll await your fish oils post before saying much more – I can’t believe fish oils aren’t good for me right now, I feel so much better when I take them so am curious as to what earth-shattering revelations are coming! Thanks!

    • thedetoxdiva says

      Bear in mind that the main concern is RANCIDITY along with the fact that much of the fish oil today is from farm raised (grain fed) fish. If you find a fresh source, cold extracted, refrigerated AND you keep it refrigerated you avoid the rancidity….. Just a thought.

  2. mary says

    Ah, I see. I will stick them in the fridge from now on then….and they are from a good source, from Jigsaw. But yes, I await the article with interest! thanks :)

  3. says

    Yes I agree that PUFA oil has this kind of impact. PUFA stands for Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acid. The most harmful side-effect of PUFA oils is the inflammation in the body caused by consuming them in excess. High levels of inflammation have been linked to all problems of serious issues, like heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. But yes it also true that some foods which contains PUFA can also benefit the body such as fish, beans, nuts etc.

    • thedetoxdiva says

      Nuts actually, not so much. Unfortunately most people don’t soak their nuts to reduce phytic acid so much of the incidental vitamin and mineral content is simply not absorbed. Fish is actually more unsaturated and less polyunsaturated unless it is farmed (in which case should be left alone anyway). I used to extol the virtues of nuts myself until I watched client after client come back with mineral deficiencies associated with being nuts over nuts. Clients with thyroid issues, estrogen dominance issues, inflammation markers, or autoimmune illness should vastly limit their nut intake and that includes oils, milks, butters, and pates. The only PUFAs that could be considered ok to eat at will are vegetables and fruits (and these do contain PUFAS) as part of a whole real foods diet.

  4. ace says

    Interesting…how do you feel about purslane? It grows like a weed in my garden (well, it IS a weed), and I use it in stir-fries and as a thickening agent in soups all the time. Supposedly it is higher in Omega-3s than flaxseed oil. People are always asking me what is my “secret” (I’m the only person in my family who is slender and has clear youthful skin and thick shiny hair) and I wonder if it’s the high amounts of purslane in my diet. Or maybe all the macadamia oil, which is my oil of choice. I think both are high in Omega-3s and comparatively low in Omega-6s. Or it might be a coincidence, or the fact that most of my food is organically grown from my own garden, or simply that I spend so much time toiling outdoors in the fresh air. Too many variables. Fwiw, I am a mostly-vegan vegetarian, but not for health reasons.

    • thedetoxdiva says

      Macadamia nuts are about the only nuts (in reason) I recommend for snack purposes and the only real oil I use when not using olive or saturated fat. Purslane is used as a garnish in many of our dishes and I quite like it…. It’s also detoxifying but should be used like most greens, cooked and with saturated fat.

  5. says

    I’m interested in reading your sources for this paragraph:
    “Polyunsaturated fats are not stable fats. These molecules are like magnets for free radicals and oxidative stress. Remember, oxidative stress can lead to inflammation in the body which can lead to arthritis, accelerated aging, (sugar gets a bad rap, however it is actually PUFAs present in most sugary snacks that cause glycation and collagen loss), hormonal imbalance, thyroid issues, cancer and many more illnesses and symptoms.”

    • thedetoxdiva says

      There are many many sources for the information that I quote. Ray Peat (an example of his work can be found on, a noted and reputable biochemist and endocrinologist is a wealth of information and has changed the way I understand the human body and both the long term and short term effects of nutrition (or the lack thereof). There are countless studies done to support his work.

    • thedetoxdiva says

      Grapeseed oil does have PUFAs and yes, it is commercial (it’s been used in Europe for year). Cold pressed, it is better, in my opinion, for cosmetic use. I have used it in the past and, in a pinch, use it if I run out of everything. I prefer saturated fats and definitely insist on my clients using those fats when trying to heal.

  6. Ally says

    Hi, I came across some grass fed Suet in the butcher shop the other day and was wondering your thoughts on that? It was super cheap, could that be used for roasting veges instead of coconut oil. And are there PUFA’s in split peas both green and yellow? Thanks.

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