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Tips From Our Nutritionist

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Dietitian and Nutritionist Alison Bencke

There are 3 major types of fatty acids in your food: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. When illness flares, consult your doctor immediately as your doctor may recommend stopping weight loss activity. These 3 fatty acid (fat) types are joined on a common backbone to make a molecule called a triglyceride. Any combination of fats can occur in various foods; however, different foods have varying compositions of these fats, and some are better for your Crohn's disease diet plan than others.

Saturated fats

Most people are aware that saturated fats are considered bad for health, and there is no evidence that humans need saturated fat in their diet. Such fats predominately occur in animal-based foods. Conflicting data exist about coconut and palm oils, which also include large amounts of saturated fats. Saturated fats from animal sources are usually solid at room temperature and are found in butter, cheese, and milk fats. These fats may be invisible or visible in meat.

Low-fat alternatives to milks and yogurts can be eaten daily as part of your Crohn's disease diet and reduced-fat cheeses can be eaten in moderation (they still contain saturated fats). Trans fats, found in some processed foods, may be as dangerous as saturated fats for human health.

Monounsaturated fats

These fats are useful in your Crohn's diet plan as they keep your omega-3 fat levels high while not contributing significant saturated or omega-6 fats. Olive and canola oils are examples of predominantly monounsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fats

The important dietary polyunsaturated fats to pay attention to are omega-3 and omega-6 fats. These fats compete in your body to use the same enzymes. While one of the omega-6 fats, linoleic acid, is essential, modern diets high in polyunsaturated fats probably supply too much omega-6 fat.

Omega-3 fats have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, and a balance is needed between omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Deep-sea fish such as sardines, salmon, tuna, and mackerel are noticeably oily and not surprisingly have the highest concentration of omega-3 fats. Fish oils containing the long-chain omega-3 fats give the greatest anti-inflammatory effect.

To increase the anti-inflammatory fats in your Crohn's disease diet:

  • Eat fish regularly, preferably oily fish. Aim for at least twice a week
  • Look for omega-3 enriched yogurts and milks, or choose low-fat products so that you do not swing the omega balance toward the omega-6 fats. Avoid grain-fed meats (grass-fed meats have higher omega-3), butter, cream, and "junk food"
  • Use canola, flaxseed, or linseed oils. Olive and walnut oils are other good choices that have reasonable omega-3 fats without excessive amounts of omega-6

Note: these tips should not replace advice from your physician. Always check with your physician before making any changes to your eating habits.

See also: Feel-good recipes, Doctors and insurance, Well-being and Crohn’s