Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fats 101: Part Two and Patrick Stewart

I was trying to sketch out a rough outline on what I was going to talk about regarding fats and I realized that this is a huge topic. Initially I thought I could cover it in one post, then a few. Now I am wondering how many it is going to take to do this topic justice. I am trying to keep this as simplistic as possible but still give enough details that it will make sense. Hopefully I am doing that. If not and you have any questions please let me know. Now let’s jump back in where we left off the other day.

Converting Linoleic and Linolenic Acids into EPA and DHA:

As we now know only to fatty acids are essential and those are both polyunsaturated fats specifically they are linoleic and linolenic acid. These fats are building blocks for other fats that our bodies can make. To convert linoleic acid into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) your body needs to add carbon atoms (by elongation) and two double bonds (by desaturation). Additionally EPA is elongated and desaturated to become DHA. Both EPA and DHA are used for gene expression and epithelial function.

EFAs and Eicosanoids:

Essential fatty acids (EFA) are also converted into eicosanoids, which are a lipid-like substance. Eicosanoids are involved in the immune system. Prostaglandins are a specific type of eicosanoid that you may have heard of since they are necessary for healthy blood vessels and regulate blood pressure. Our bodies make both omega-3 and omega-6 eicosanoids. The omega-3 eicosanoids are anti-inflammatory and the omega-6 are inflammatory. There are many studies that suggest that the balance of omega-3 and 6 eicosanoids impact the diseases of affluence (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.). If you want to read more about eicosanoids Dr. Barry Sears has written about them extensively and they are the basis for his Zone Diet.

Food Sources of EFAs:

Linoleic acid is abundant in the food supply. You can find it in nuts (walnuts), seeds, and oils like soybean, safflower and corn. However you know that I avoid oils and concentrate on getting my fats from whole foods like nuts and seeds which I will explain in more depth in this fat series.

Linolenic acid is also found in some oils including canola, soy and flax. However it is also in walnuts which most people enjoy.

What About Saturated and Other Unsaturated Fatty Acids?:

Saturated fats are not essential because our bodies can make as much as we need. There is no nutritional need to consume saturated fat. This includes not only animal saturated fats but plant saturated fats from things like coconut or palm oil.

Other than linoleic and linolenic unsaturated fats are not essential as the body can make it. There is some controversy regarding whether we are capable of converting enough linoleic and linolenic into EPA and DHA which I will address later in this series when we will look at some of the new science.

Monounsaturated Fats:

Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) get their name because what makes them different from a saturated fat is that they have one double bond in the carbon chain. Basically saturated fat is a straight line chain of carbon that is fully saturated with hydrogen. However a MUFA is a chain of carbons that is mostly saturated. However, there is one (mono) double bond in the chain of carbon. In other words there are two fewer hydrogen atoms because of that double bond. The chemical characteristics of MUFAs are between saturated and a polyunsaturated fats. The best example of this is what happens to olive oil (mostly MUFA) when you refrigerate it and it gets thick and gloppy but canola oil (mostly PUFA) stays liquid.

MUFAs (monounsaturated fats) got a lot of press lately with the popularity of the Flat Belly Diet which has the impact of convincing women that they need to consume them. However it is important to remember that MUFAs are not essential fatty acids. The definition of an essential fatty acid is that we need to consume it because our bodies are not capable of making it. In other words if you follow the Flat Belly Diet you are supplementing your diet with MUFAs that your body is perfectly capable of making. This doesn’t make much sense to me. However if you are substituting MUFAs for SFAs that makes more sense. It would be a healthier choice just not the most healthy alternative. Does that make sense?

Fats in Foods:

Foods are always a combination of fatty acids. You hear people refer to olive oil as a “healthy monounsaturated fat” all the time but that is not the whole store (or even terribly accurate IMO). Olive oil like all fats is a combination of saturated (SFA), monounsaturated (MFA) and polyunsaturated (PFA) fatty acids. In fact olive is approximately 14% saturated fat, 78% monounsaturated fat and 8% polyunsaturated fat. From the information above we know that only two PUFAs are essential. But olive oil is most MFA so how is it good for us? Olive oil doesn’t really look like such a healthy choice now does it?

I am part Italian and always loved the flavor of a good peppery Tuscan olive oil so this news really crushed me. I have said many times it was easier for me to give up cheese than it was olive oil. However olive oil is not alone in its combination of fats all foods are like this. Even something like butter which we all think of as saturated fat is a combination of SFA, MUFA and PUFA. Fish is the same and is also a combination of fats it isn’t just omega-3’s as most people believe based on what they read in the mainstream media. Remember those omegas 3’s are in the PUFA category and provide EPA and DHA.

I am going to cut off the fat portion here so you have time to think about this and ask questions. My next fat post will build on the first two.


We started our morning at the farmers’ market like we always do. Rudy had asked if we could print something for him to hand out since his printer wasn’t working and we said yes and then we both forgot to take it with us. I keep telling you we aren’t morning people. You are starting to see that right?

Breakfast was a green smoothie for both of us. I have started to add vanilla extract to the smoothies and we both really like that. The green smoothies now contain: raw kale, frozen bananas, walnuts in Dan’s not mine, cinnamon, powdered ginger, ground flaxseeds, vanilla extract, water and ice. I sometimes add cardamom or nutmeg to mind depending on my mood. If you haven’t tried adding vanilla please do it changes the flavor more than you think.

Once we got home we hurried to get ready so we had time to drop the papers to him on our way to the boat. We got a nice thank you email from him on Monday. It is always nice when you can help people isn’t it?

We spent the day at the marina (surprise surprise) where Dan took many hours to go through a locker that was full of tools, spare parts and miscellaneous guy stuff and categorized it by type. The electrical stuff is together, that sort of thing. Good thing he knows this stuff because I am mechanically illiterate.

While Dan was organizing the guy stuff I was busy reorganizing lockers with my stuff in them. I also took time to write the last post and put a few comments on Facebook. If you aren’t following me there please do. I find that I update Facebook more than the blog because it is quicker for me to do.

Lunch was a simple soba noodle soup with veggies. I have been keeping dried mushrooms on board so that I can make simple dishes with a “meaty flavor”. Additionally I love that mushrooms boost the immune system. That simple fact alone is enough to get me to add them to every meal we eat. However I can’t say that I think Dan is going to put up with mushrooms in his green smoothie. LOL

By the time dinner rolled around I was not much in the mood to cook so I made a simple antipasto plate of curried mango hummus, carrot “chips”, tomato wedges, marinated mushrooms with garlic and thyme and artichokes with dill. Dan had his with whole grain toast.


Monday was one of those days that was a flurry of activity. I have been so behind in everything in my life it was day to try to get caught up. Unfortunately when you get as behind as I am catching up takes a long time. At the rate I am going I may have things somewhat under control by Thanksgiving.

I took this picture in the morning on my way to the PO Box. It is starting to look a lot like fall here now.

When I got to the PO Box there was a nice surprise waiting for me. Dr. Greger sent me a copy of his newest CD along with a sweet note because I took some pictures for the CD. What a nice man he is!

Once I made it to the marina I found out that my little duck friend loved the whole grain Cheerios that I bought for her when I went for a cat kibble run. I had allowed us to run low on cat kibble so I bought a store brand and Mr. Binky was having none of that. Early in the morning he wrapped himself around my ankle as I walked by the bowl of offensive cat kibble to voice his displeasure. Are you starting to see what a little brat cat he is? Good thing we love him. *shakes head* Mr. Binky does think Newman’s Own cat kibble is an acceptable store brand for any of you with equally picky felines. It was good to have one crisis crossed off my list.

Dinner at the boat was a simple meal that I tossed together based on what I had on hand. I used whole wheat fettuccini, cauliflower, red onion, garlic, thinly cut green beans, artichokes, cashew queso and salsa. I know it sounds like an odd combination but it worked. ;-)


It was another day of trying to get caught up at home. I am making slow but steady process on things though there is still a long way to go.

The weather was as gorgeous on Tuesday as it was on Monday so I had planned to spend the afternoon sitting in the cockpit writing this post. My precious little duck friend had other thoughts. She has learned that if she gets up on our finger pier that I feed her off the swim platform so that is her new trick. I know that Dan will not be happy if there is duck poop on our pier which is why I am encouraging her to stay in the water. However this also meant that four times I ended up feeding her in the span of a little over 2 ½ hours. Needless to say I didn’t get much done. Looks like not only cats but now ducks are telling me what to do. LOL

Patrick Stewart in DC:

I want to share as much of this as I can because the evening definitely exceeded our expectations. I knew as I was sitting there that I really needed to pay attention so that I could tell you all about it and actually took notes on my phone of different things he said because it was that thought provoking for me.

I am sorry that I don’t have a good picture to share. Seated in the row behind me was a dreadful and unhappy woman who wanted to appoint herself the picture Nazi. I was able to get one really bad shot with my cell phone but that was it. Let’s just say I am really happy this woman isn’t my neighbor or I would be in jail. ;-) Fortunately I was able to let this go and enjoy the evening.

I was able to find a picture of Patrick from earlier this year and he really doesn’t seem to be aging does he? He looked very agile and young last night too. I really want to know his secrets. LOL

Patrick Stewart is a fascinating man. I had no idea how funny he is but I spend most of the evening laughing and that is the sign of great evening if you ask me.

When he was asked how life has changed since he became Sir Patrick Stewart his response was “I get better tables in restaurants now”. It was so obvious that he doesn’t take himself very seriously which is very refreshing.

At one point he was asked if acting is difficult and his response was priceless. He said, “Acting is easy, life is hard.” Given some of the weeks and months I have had I agree with him.

I had not realized that he grew up in an abusive home. His father would abuse his mother on the weekends when he drank. As a result of that he is now a patron for a charity for abused women which I found commendable. Additionally he said that he started acting to escape reality and that he felt safer on stage than at home.

Talked about a small role he played with Rod Steiger years ago that he said he shares often with young actors because it made such an impression on him. They were shooting a scene in a car and they were finished with Mr. Steiger and told him he could break for lunch. He asked “What about Mr. Stewart?” and when they said they needed to a more shots with him and would use a double he lost it. Rod Steiger was enraged that this stage hand would “disrespect him and tell him he could leave the set while a fellow actor was still working on the same scene.” I thought this story said so much about Patrick Stewart’s character that he shared this often.

His favorite movie is “On the Waterfront” which I haven’t seen but after hearing his story I need to. Apparently Karl Malden was in it and Patrick loved his work in the movie. Patrick was invited to a dinner party in LA and begged the hostess to seat him next to Karl Malden which she did. He said he couldn’t stop asking questions about his portrayal in the movie. What he really wanted to know was what the motivation was when he lit a cigarette at a certain point in the film which Patrick thought was genius. According to Patrick Karl looked at him a bit confused and said, “I don’t’ know, I guess I just needed a smoke.” *LOL* He also said Karl Malden was extremely gracious as he probably wanted to enjoy dinner and I was bothering him all through dinner. He acted out what he was doing and it was a riot.

Last play before “The Next Generation” the director (or producer) wanted someone in the lead role that people had heard of. Patrick Steward said that made him go “ouch” since at that point he had been acting for 27 years. Can you imagine? He is so well known now it is hard to believe he was ever an unknown actor.

It was a fluke that he got the Picard role. He was doing a friend of his a favor. The friend was a drama teacher at University of California and asked him to read something on stage and one of the people behind Star Trek was in the audience. It took over 6 months to get from that to role.

Gene Roddenberry didn’t want Patrick to play Picard. But at the end the studio and many of the other people did and he got the role.

He talked about a screen test he did in a toupee and with a French accent that is in a vault somewhere. Wouldn’t we all like to see that? He said he sounded like Inspector Clouseau and then did a few lines from the opening of Star Trek in that accent and it was hysterical. I was laughing so hard tears were rolling down my cheeks.

When he was telling the story about the final audition there was another pearl of wisdom that he shared. He said that after every audition he does forgets about the role knowing that he did his best and now things were out of his hands. Wouldn’t we all be happier if we viewed things in life that way?

When the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company asked why he returned to the stage once he was well known the answer was touching. He said that when he lived in Hollywood he had to stop reading the London papers because when he read the reviews of his contemporaries on stage he would get sad because he wasn’t with him. This is when he knew that he had to go back to the stage since it is what he loves.

There was a lot more than this but I don’t want to bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say it was a great evening and much better than either of us expected.

Dinner at Jaleo:

Fortunately for us the garage where you usually park when we go to Jaleo was just a few blocks from the Shakespeare Theatre so you know where we decided to go for dinner right?

We seem to be getting the same server every time lately. I really need to learn his name. We had the same guy who was talking to us when the earthquake hit the last time we were there.

We started with the veggie paella which we don’t get often but were in the mood for carbs.

Next we ordered our favorite dish the mushrooms with garlic, herbs and lemon. I really love this dish.

We also ordered the fennel and apple salad with walnuts but had them leave off the manchego cheese. When I make this at home I might add a few thinly sliced olives for salt which was left out by eliminating the cheese.

After these three dishes we were both starting to feel full but once I heard the sorbet was house-made and vegan (you have to be careful some places add egg white for some unknown reason) we ordered a serving to share. It had a very intense orange flavor and was only slightly sweet, I thought it was perfect.  I didn't ask but I am sure the cookie wasn't vegan so we didn't eat it.

The dessert menu got my wheels spinning on things to make a healthy vegan version of so I took a few pictures so I didn’t forget. I thought it might do the same for you which is why it is included here.

This is the tea menu. I had the apricot cinnamon tea and Dan had our usual blood orange.

Happy Thoughts:

Life has been pretty good lately so I will just try to hit the highlights here.

• Dan and I both are getting a lot of relaxing time in on the boat. It is very hard to be stressed when at the marina. Why did we go without a sailboat for so long? Oh well, live and learn right?

• It was great to be able to help Rudy out with the print outs he needed for the market. I also appreciated his nice thank you email. Who says there aren’t many nice people anymore?

• Dr. Greger just made my week with the CD and nice note. It is comforting to know that there are many more gracious people in the world other than just those people we know and love.

• Tuesday was fantastic. We both loved Patrick Stewart and dinner at Jaleo was terrific as always. This is shaping up to be a wonderful week already.

Signing out:

I am running a little bit behind and want to get this posted before Dan makes his way to the boat for dinner. Talk with you all again soon. Happy Wednesday!


  1. Oooh, I love patrick Stewart. the evening sounds wonderful!

  2. Neca,

    Patrick Stewart has the most incredible voice. I could listen to him read the phonebook. It was a fabulous evening. Neither of us had any idea he was funny. Sorry you did get to see him too.


  3. Not on the topic of this post, but I wanted to ask you a question. I saw a youtube video for making a great "cheese" sauce with macadamia and bell pepper. One recipe referenced adding rejuvelac to ferment the cheese and up the "cheesy" factor.

    Just by itself the recipe sounds good and I know you make a lot of nut cheeses. Have you tried fermenting them, or just the basic recipe?

  4. Wow!! So much going on! I had to comment because last fall when I went to New York I saw Patrick Stewart on Broadway and it was also such a thrilling evening--what a superb actor! I would have loved to hear him speaking "as himself." And how lucky are you to get that CD from Dr. Greiger?

    Great info about all the fats, too. And your food looks delish, as always. Such a packed post!

  5. Alicia,
    I love the idea of mushroom anything these days, thanks to you! Paella sounds good, right about now :)

    Paz :)

  6. Neca,

    I have made fermented cheese of sorts but didn't use rejuvelac. Instead I used probiotic powder. It did give it a more "cheesy" aroma. However I didn't think it improved it enough to do it again. I hope that helps.


  7. Ricki,

    I thought of you when I bought the tickets to see Patrick Stewart since I remembered your post.

    Sorry for the tardiness of my reply. I have been swamped lately.

    I hope all is well with you,

  8. Chandra,

    We eat mushrooms most days. :-) I just can't get enough of them. There is at least one paella recipe on my blog, maybe more.

    I hope things are going well with you and Teresa.



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