Simply put, we're passionate about healthy fats. Spectrum® brand started over twenty years ago with the purpose of making healthy oils available to the Canadian public. That commitment and vision hasn't dimmed one bit. Whether artisan olive oils and trans-fat free spreads, or supplements like Flax Oil and other essential lipids, we're committed to bringing you the best there is.
Are All Fats the Same? Not at all. Here are some basics on the various types of fats to help you make sense of what’s best for your own body.
Monounsaturated fats are at the heart of the highly touted Mediterranean diet. These types of fats are associated with promoting healthy cardiovascular function. Olive and Canola are examples of oils with high monounsaturated fat content.
Polyunsaturated fats include the ‘essential’ Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids. Since they serve as the building blocks from which cells are produced, they are often viewed as one of the building blocks of good health. Oils high in polyunsaturated fats include flaxseed oil, and safflower oils.
Saturated fats appear both in animal foods and plant foods. Most of what we consume in North America are artery-clogging, ‘long-chain’ saturated fats derived from animals. But plant-based saturated fats are made up mostly of ‘short- and medium-chain’ fatty acids which are thought to be a more “burnable” form of energy—the reason oils like coconut are popular with athletes.
When it comes to fats, Trans-fats may well be our worst enemy. Trans-fats are formed during a chemical process called hydrogenation whereby cellular chains of fats are artificially altered to create a more solid, stable substance. The result is virtually impossible for our bodies to break down.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are given the title 'essential' not only because they are critical in promoting overall health, but because they cannot be manufactured by the body; therefore, it is essential that we receive them in our diets. The essential fatty acids include the Omega-3 Fatty Acid, Alpha- Linolenic Acid (ALA), and the Omega-6 Fatty Acid, Linoleic Acid (LA). Read on for how to incorporate each into your diet.
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 is particularly critical to our bodies because they are put to use literally everywhere—our eyes, hair and skin, our brain, heart, nerves and joints. Every cell in our bodies needs Omega-3 fatty acids to thrive.
Studies show that populations that consume a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids have the lowest mortality rate from cardiovascular disease. But about 80% of North Americans are deficient in Omega-3. Nutritionists suggest off-setting this imbalance through adding an Omega-3 supplement to our diets, of which Flaxseed and fish oils are the richest source.
Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-6 fatty acids, are more plentiful and can be found in many vegetable oils including walnut, soy and corn, and in supplement oils such as borage and evening primrose.
Omega-6 fatty acids are broken down in the body to AA (Arachadonic Acid) and GLA (Gamma Linoleic Acid) which has been shown to help with skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis.
Omega-9 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-9 fatty acids are important monounsaturated fats that occur naturally in our bodies. But they are also prevalent in kitchen staples – olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil and almond oil.
Much of the praise showered on the Mediterranean diet is due to the cardiovascular benefits derived from Omega-9 fatty acids. Olive oil has been proven to raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad cholesterol (LDL), and has more antioxidants than any other oil.
Another role Omega-9 plays is to help offset the over consumption of Omega-6 rich oils like corn and soy. By consuming more Omega-9, we are balancing out our fatty acid profile to a ratio our bodies prefer.
Please note: the information presented here is not intended as curative or prescriptive advice.
Flaxseeds are a rich source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, dietary fibre, and vitamins and minerals. They have distinct benefits in both their forms—pressed into oil and as ground flaxseed.
Featuring concentrated amounts of Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), flaxseed oil is nature’s greatest vegetarian source of vegetarian Omega-3 Fatty Acids. ALA is called an essential fatty acid because it is vital to our health and since our bodies cannot produce it on their own, it is essential that we receive it from dietary sources.
ALA plays an important role in the health of our hearts. Several studies have suggested that consumption of dietary ALA may reduce the risk of heart disease and promote overall heart health.
Ground Flaxseed is a natural source of fibre (including mucilage), absorbing excess liquid, protecting the digestive tract and promoting bowel regularity. While the oil pressed from flaxseed is rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids, the seeds themselves are also a concentrated source of lignans - phytoestrogens that are not only suggested to be able to regulate hormone balance but which also have antioxidant properties.
Flaxseed has been a coveted source of health for millennia. Ancient Egyptians and Greek physicians like Hippocrates touted its ability to cure various ills. In the 8th century A.D., King Charlemagne thought flax so essential to health that he wrote a series of laws requiring his subjects to consume a certain amount each year.
In more recent centuries, classic herbal medicine texts note that flaxseed oil has been used to relieve gastro-intestinal pains and infections, colic and hemorrhoids. Applied topically, flaxseed oil was mixed with calcium oxide to use on burns, and blended with honey to remove facial spots. The seeds themselves have been used for a bevy of ailments—from alleviating constipation to treating coughs, colds, respiratory infections and urinary tract infections.
Lignans are phytoestrogens found in high fibre foods such as cereals, grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Researchers have found flaxseeds to be the richest source of plant lignans, with lignan content 100-times higher than its nearest competitor, oat bran. Once ingested, lignans have both an estrogen and anti-estrogen-like effect, similar to soy. Scientists believe the effects of lignans on estrogen metabolism, in addition to their antioxidant and fibre properties, may explain why populations eating diets rich in lignans have a lower incidence of cancer. Other studies indicate flax lignans reduce cholesterol and prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and diabetes in animals. Clinical studies are currently underway to see if the same effects apply to humans.
Everything we do has an impact on the planet. At Spectrum® brand, we strive to make the gentlest impression possible and, if we can, leave it in a better state then when we began. Here are some of the ways we're doing just that.
Organic farming is, at its heart, the way farming used to be before the 20th century. Organic methods avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, instead using natural means to optimize a crop and nourish the land for future use.
Crop rotations, organic compost, cover crops and companion planting are all traditional methods to maintain soil productivity and nutrients while controlling pests and weeds. These practices protect our water supplies and soil, while protecting us as humans from toxins and chemicals.
The organic movement is a long chain of contribution--from the farmer making the commitment to organic practices, to the manufacturer supporting organic agriculture in their purchasing patterns, to the consumer choosing organic produce and products when shopping at the store. It takes all of us to gain momentum.
The organic movement has taken deeper root in the last decade, something which Spectrum® brand is proud to have been, and will continue to be, a part of. We offer a wide array of organic products and seek to use organic ingredients whenever they are available and meet the high quality standards we demand.
The term biotechnology refers to "the exploitation of biological processes for industrial and other purposes." One area of growing concern with biotechnology is the subject of Genetically Engineered (GE) foods.
America is the world's largest producer of Genetically Engineered crops, with a full 70 percent of U.S. soybean crops being GE. As these crops are proliferated around the world and in our daily food supply, governments, growers, regulatory agencies and consumers are taking a hard look at the complex issues behind biotechnology.
Background on Biotechnology
Traditionally, crops have been carefully hybrid over many years, with scientists or farmers cross-pollinating selected plants to achieve an outcome with desired characteristics of the parent plants. Genetic Engineering brings that natural process to a cellular level, whereby scientists isolate a specific gene sequence of a particular plant (or other living organism) and insert it into the gene sequence of another to produce an "improved" result-disease tolerance, ripening characteristics, higher yield, etc.
Proponents for Genetic Engineering claim that biotechnology will feed starvations and reduce the use of pesticides. Critics claim that we do not yet know the full ramifications of these alterations for future crops, ecosystems, societies and the human body itself. Let's look deeper into each:
Critics of Genetically Engineered foods argue that the full effect of these cellular manipulations simply cannot be evaluated over the short term. Several incidents have already occurred to cast doubt as to their safety. Unintended toxins and poisons have been unwittingly introduced into some foods; splices between foods like nuts and soybeans have increased the risk of serious food allergies; and the nutritional quality of foods that have been Genetically Engineered is often times inferior to traditional foods.
Those supporting biotechnology insist that it will decrease usage of pesticides. But the unfortunate reality is that herbicide-resistant crops (those that have been altered to withstand large doses of toxic, broad-spectrum chemical 'weed killer') made up a full 80% of all GE crops planted in 2000. As plants are altered to be more resistant to a particular disease or insect, the risk exists that those pests will adapt accordingly, necessitating an ever-increasing and faster mutating array of pesticides and herbicides. What's more, some plants which were genetically altered to be pest-resistant have already been shown to damage beneficial insects and soil fertility. Again, it is difficult to foretell the full effect of these 'super-crops' on the future of natural foods.
For the past 12,000 years, most of the world's cultures have been agriculturally based. Families and tribes have handed seeds down from generation to generation and preserved and cherished the tie between humans and earth. But biotechnology severs this tradition. GE seeds are being patented by the companies that create them, and one of the trends is for scientists to build in a 'Terminator Technology' which renders seeds infertile after a certain time, forcing a farmer to buy the new strain. Genetic Engineering threatens to change the face of farming and shift the power from an individual family to a large, global company with societal impacts that we cannot fully understand.
We at Spectrum® brand take the issue of biotechnology very seriously, and go well beyond what is 'required' to make sure that our products are free of Genetically Modified ingredients . . . and that our customers are truthfully informed by our labels.
At Spectrum® brand, we believe that where we source our products affects more than just our bottom line. We source the great majority of our products from small farms, often run by families who are committed to sustainable agriculture and organic practices, for a variety of reasons.
When a large food company buys up tracts of land for growing crops, there is often little thought put in to the communities surrounding the land, the long-term fate of the land, and sometimes even the quality of the crop itself. Decisions tend to be bound by bottom lines dictated by corporate headquarters, which can create a domino effect of negative outcomes.
Monoculture vs. Biodiversity
The implications of this distinction run deep. To begin with, corporate farms practice what is called 'monoculture'--they plant acres and acres of one crop in order to streamline mechanized processes. Monoculture depletes the land of nutrients and encourages certain diseases, weeds and pests which are dealt with by an array of pesticides and herbicides. This type of agriculture is extremely harsh on the environment.
By contrast, small farms often practice what is called 'biodiversity'. They rotate crops to prevent soil depletion, nourish soil with compost, interplant various crops for natural weed and pest prevention, and have a long-term view of what is best for the land. They are concerned with 'sustaining' the health of the land for years to come, which is where the phrase 'sustainable agriculture' comes from.
Large scale farming can have a devastating impact on rural communities, and has indeed changed the face of America, and the world, over the last century. Studies have shown that by encouraging small-scale farming in poor areas and third world countries, poverty is reduced and the hope of prosperity rekindled. Small-scale farming is one of our best hopes for preserving the deeply seeded agrarian traditions found in so many societies of the world.
Spectrum® brand is cognizant of the myriad benefits of small-scale farming, which is why we devote ourselves to culling trusted family sources for our products.
We at Spectrum® brand are committed to ongoing research and development to create packaging that sets standards for our industry. Traditionally, we have packed our EFA products in a plastic called High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), like most other EFA companies. But in our quest for a better way, we are now converting all of our EFA liquid product packaging to Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE) for two important reasons:
A better bottle
EFAs are fragile. There's simply no skirting that issue. That's why all of Spectrum Essentials ® brand' bottles are black with an hermetically sealed cap--to keep out light and oxygen, two main adversaries of delicate Omega-3s. PETE plastic provides a superior barrier to oxygen and heat and is extremely tough. Part of making EFA oils that we can be proud of is finding a package that will preserve their integrity and freshness. PETE plastic does just that.
A softer impact on the environment
PETE plastic is 100% virgin, food-grade plastic. But it is also the most highly valued plastic for recycling. More recycling communities accept PETE plastic than any other, minimizing waste and landfill mass. It is also a dramatically lighter plastic-a full 35 % lighter than HDPE, which means less fuel is used to create each bottle. These little differences add up to a smaller footprint left on the earth.