Wanna Be Healthy? Go North! The Value of Natural EFAs

Did you know? Northern foods are healthier than tropical foods. What do I mean? Just this: that the nearer you live to the poles, the better for your health the LOCAL food is — especially in autumn. It’s all to do with the animals and especially the plants preparing for winter and storing vital nutrients which we can harvest and use. 

It’s Those Omegas Again

How do plants survive when winter is harsh? Two ways: underground storage when they’re dormant, for a spring burst into life, or seeds which will germinate quickly. The nearer to the pole the plants are growing, the shorter the growing season. And to survive, a plant needs rapid growth and plenty of time to preparation for the next winter. So near-pole plants are especially rich in the nutrients which can ensure rapid growth and a better chance to survive to fruit before the winter sets in again.

The way nature utilizes what’s available is to store energy as oils, that will be used in making new growth, and to store antioxidants to protect them from free radical damage over winter and during the growth spurt. (Animals do the same thing, storing fats and oils for repairs and the spring spurt and reproduction season.)

What gets stored? Crucially, the EFAs — essential fatty acids. These are the building blocks for any other fatty acids your body needs for health, and they are vital to eat if you want to keep healthy. Lack of these and vitamin C was the main cause of ill health — and death — in old-time sailing ships when they couldn’t or wouldn’t eat fresh foods. The most important fatty acids stored are the Omega-3 oil ALA and the Omega-6 oil LA. See my posts 8-11 from late March for details. 

These EFAs are richest in far-north growing plant seeds, especially flax and hemp, because Omega-3 ALA and Omega-6 LA are the lightest oils and most needed for your body cell wall flexibility in cold climates. The further north the plant is growing, the more EFAs it contains. The more you go towards the equator, the more of the oils in local plants are monounsaturated or saturated — better for hot climate cell walls. 

Along with the EFAs, high-latitude seeds also have a balance of the vital vitamins and anti-oxidants to give the seedlings a good spring start. If you eat the whole seed or cold-pressed raw (virgin) oil, all of these will be available to you. 

Fish Do It, Too

The same is true for fish. The best fish to eat for health are those swimming wild in high-latitude waters — sea or river — and especially the oily fish like herring, mackerel, salmon, trout, eels, pilchards and sardines. The fish oils are bursting (ad-speak but true!) with EPA and DHA, the body-building fatty acids, especially if you catch and eat them in winter. That’s next best after the EFAs and maybe better if your body is badly unbalanced from a typical nutrient-poor Western diet. 

These oils are also full of vitamins A and D which are otherwise hard to get naturally in winter. Though eating oils from the red-brown algae that feed the fish is even better (this is just coming onto the market in North America). 

Beware, though, of farmed fish fed on unnatural, EFA-poor diets; and if you eat those fish oil capsules (ugh!) expect the oil to be rancid. This is especially true of typical cod liver oil: it’s as rancid as the linseed oil (flax oil) used for paint making, and just as nasty. If you can stomach either, they’ll still do you good, but better to get your oils fresh. Fresh flax oil and fish oil taste delicious.

What About Animals?

Ah, yes. First, for really healthy food, forget intensively-reared farm animals and birds. They have to eat whatever feed is cheapest and keeps well in storage. As any EFAs in stored feedstuffs spoil quickly, they’re removed from the animal feed or converted to saturated or trans-fats. No, eat wild animals, or farm animals which forage for their own food, choosing what to eat from what’s available in nature, not what they’re given. What the animal eats is what you get eating the meat, dairy produce and eggs. I include only TRUE free range chickens in this as good: the ones which roam wherever they want, forage for food and need to be given very little chicken feed. 

These self-fed animals, birds and eggs are rich in good nutrients, and the further north they live, the more Omega-3 and -6 oils they make, especially as the season approaches winter. A warning, though: the livers of carnivores like bear and seal can be TOO rich in vitamins A and D; eat very little of this at a time if you’re offered it.

Your Challenge

So, will you choose to get healthy? Most people on a Western diet are very short of EFAs and many other nutrients. That leads to ‘sticky blood’, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, and a poor immune system. It’s easy to fix — just make sure that you eat less saturated and trans-fat and more of the right stuff.  For most people, that means flax oil daily and oily fish 2-3 times a week. It’ll make a HUGE difference to your well being!