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Cardiovascular Health: New Nutrition Strategies Part III

by Penny Crowther(more info)

listed in heart, originally published in issue 179 - February 2011

The previous two parts of this article described how the role of cholesterol in heart disease is overplayed, discussed important factors including oxidative stress, elevated fibrinogen and homocysteine, inflammation and insulin imbalance and suggested nutrition solutions.

In part three I will discuss the role of the right fats in cardiovascular health and explore the emotional aspect of heart problems in the context of Chinese medicine and the theory of the five elements.

Omega 6 - The Forgotten Fat

The benefits of omega 3 from fish oil, nuts and seeds have been well publicised in recent years in relation to cardiovascular health. Omega 3 fats have a strong dispersing effect on deposits of saturated fat in the bloods.

What is often forgotten is that omega 6 fats are just as vital. These fats are needed for many body functions, especially those involving the heart and circulatory system. Modern diets usually supply plentiful amounts of omega 6 fats in the form of commonly used oils such as sunflower, corn and safflower. This leads to the (wrong) conclusion that we are satiated with these fats. These oils may be in relatively plentiful supply in our diet; however, they are often heavily refined and processed and usually heated, which totally destroys their beneficial properties and results in the formation of unhealthy chemicals. To obtain the undamaged omega 6 fats, these oils must be pure, unrefined, cold pressed and eaten unheated. Many people do not achieve this in their daily diets.

Furthermore it has become a popular practice to supplement omega 3 oils. This may potentially lead to an imbalanced omega 3 to 6 ratio which can be corrected with evening primrose oil capsules or use of the following oils with food:

Hemp seed oil is an omega 6 rich oil, with an ideal balance of 3:1 omega 6 to 3. It is delicious on salads. Udo Erasmus, an internationally acclaimed expert on essential fats says hemp seed oil is "the most perfectly balanced, natural essential fatty acid-rich oil available".

Sesame oil has a high percentage of omega-6 fatty acids. Make sure it is cold pressed from raw seeds in order to preserve the full quota of beneficial fatty acids and antioxidants.

Extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil, whilst beneficial for the heart, is not a good source of the omega 3 and 6 fats, being a mono unsaturated fat rather than a polyunsaturated fat.

Remember that if any of the above oils are fried or heated, the beneficial fatty acids will be destroyed. They can be used in salad dressings, mayonnaise and yoghurt or poured over warm (not hot) vegetables or grains.

Fish contains omega 3 fats in the already converted forms of DHA and EPA, which the body can take up and use straight away. So keep eating oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardines, pilchards) three times per week. For a list of endangered species to avoid eating see

Interestingly, studies have shown that grass fed, free-range animals produce meat and milk higher in omega 3 fats than intensively farmed, grain fed animals. This is another good reason for eating organic or free range produce.

Trans Fats

A trans fat is a polyunsaturated fat that has been structurally altered by high temperature heating or hydrolysation. Trans fats displace healthy fats in the cell membrane, causing it to be rigid and inflexible; they cause oxidative damage of fats. They are attracted to sites of plaque in the body. Check labels carefully for the presence of trans fats. Thankfully, as more is known about the harmful effects of these fats, they are appearing less frequently in packaged foods.

Emotional Healing

Any heart health programme is not complete without an emotional perspective. Throughout the ages the heart has traditionally been associated with love. According to ancient Chinese medicine, the heart is one of a pair of organs associated with the element of Fire. Fire is warm, vibrant and vital. When the heart energy is healthy, the Chinese likened it to a plant in full bloom, having reached its full potential. In this state, the heart's capacity to give and receive love is fully realized and relationships flourish. Conversely, when there is lack of self love, lack of compassion for others, broken heartedness, emotional coldness or lack of passion, the heart energy is out of balance. Prolonged stress of a physical or emotional nature affects the heart energy, dampening the spirit and leading to a lack of joie de vivre. If severe it literally leads to 'burn out'.

The Australian Bush Flower essences are a gentle way to nurture emotional imbalances of the heart. Pink Flannel Flower is for accessing the heart intelligence (intuition) and keeping the heart in an open receptive state. It combines well with Bluebell which opens up the heart and allows the free expression of emotions. Little Flannel Flower will bring playfulness, spontaneity and joy and allow us to live whole heartedly. Philotheca is for receiving and accepting praise, love and support from others. Black-eyed Susan is a great anti-stress remedy for over busy people who are always rushing around and striving to fit more into the day. It brings stillness and tranquillity to the heart and nervous system.


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About Penny Crowther

Penny Crowther BANT CNHC qualified as a nutritional therapist in 1997 and has been in clinical practice ever since. She has seen several thousand clients over the years, at her practice in London and online. Penny now specializes in nutrition for women in their 40s and beyond, particularly around peri and post menopause. Mid Life for women can be a time when fluctuating hormones play havoc with your wellbeing. In the midst of all the publicity around HRT, it's easy to forget just how powerful diet and lifestyle changes can be when it comes to navigating the menopausal years.

Penny will guide and support you through specific changes to your diet, targeted to you specifically, in midlife. She provides practical, easy to follow menu plans with easy and delicious recipes. The food you eat affects every cell and system in your body. It optimizes how you look and feel, both mentally and physically.

To book an appointment view consultation options here >>

As well as being a regular columnist for Positive Health, Penny has written for Holland and Barrett, and contributed to articles for the Daily TelegraphThe Times Literary supplement, Pregnancy & Birth and Marie Claire. She has been featured in the Daily Express, Daily Mirror and on local radio.

Penny is a registered nutritional therapist with standards of training endorsed by BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) and CNHC. This includes completing 30 hours of continuing professional development, annually.

Penny’s approach to health is holistic, and takes into account emotional, mental and environmental factors as well as nutrition. She has trained in coaching and studied many complementary therapies before qualifying as a nutritionist, which provides a broad foundation of knowledge in her nutrition practice. Penny may be contacted on Tel: 07761 768 754;

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