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Guide to understanding fats in MS diet

There are many different types of fats. Some are ‘good’ for the immune system, others are neutral and some are ‘bad’. We need a balance of omega-3s and 6s, but many of us have too much omega-6 in our diet, which promotes inflammation. Here’s a useful list to help you figure out which is which.

Fats and MS infographic

‘Good’ fats: 

Polyunsaturated Fats (Omega 3) 



Flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, some leafy green vegetables, walnuts, fish and fish oil.

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Essential fatty acids (not made by our bodies, so must be sourced from food)

  • Keep cell membranes soft, pliable and resistant to degeneration 

Need to know…

  • Avoid cooking with omega 3 fats, instead add these oils to a dish after it’s cooked.

Polyunsaturated Fats (Omega 6)


Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, corn, soybeans, wheatgerm and their respective oils, as well as overconsumption of grains and some legumes e.g. chickpeas.

  • Promotes inflammation BUT does resist degeneration 

  • Essential fatty-acids, keeping cell membranes soft and pliable 

  • Maintain a healthy ratio of essential fatty acids: no more than 4:1 omega 6 to omega 3

Need to know…

  • Avoid cooking with omega 6 oils, instead add these oils to a dish after it’s cooked. Whole foods containing omega 6 should employ a moist cooking technique whenever possible. (see below for cooking techniques)

  • Fish is best cooked using moist techniques, or by adding water or steam to a dry method. 

Polyunsaturated fats have the lowest melting points and are liquid at room temperature and in the fridge. Many are what we call essential fatty acids – they’re vital for normal bodily functions but cannot be manufactured in the body.

Neutral fats:

Monounsaturated Fats (omega 9)


Olives, avocados, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and their respective oils, as well as unrefined rapeseed oil, sunflower and safflower (rapeseed) oils.

  • Considered neutral for the immune system

Need to know… 

  • Avocados, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts also contain high percentages of saturated fats, so they should be used in moderation. 

  • Oils containing omega 9 may be added during or after cooking, but take care when heating the oil and make sure to use moist cooking techniques. (See for cooking techniques).

  • It should be noted that safflower seeds and rape seeds are from two different plants – they are not the same. Safflower is very high in Omega 6 and low in Omega 9. Rapeseed oil and Canola oil come from the same basic source. Canola oil is from rape seeds that have been modified to exclude erucic acid – they are lower in essential fatty acids than rape seed oils. Canola oil is generally available in North America and Rapeseed oil is available in Europe, Australia and South America. 

‘Bad’ fats:

Saturated fats


Animal fats, dairy, and all tropical fats (palm and coconut).

  • Pro-inflammatory 

  • Often over-consumed in the Western diet and higher intake is associated with cardiovascular and other degenerative diseases, as well as worsening auto-immune conditions 

Need to know…

  • Avocados and many nuts are high in saturated fats and should be consumed in moderation 


Hydrogenated fats and Trans fats


Hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils (margarine) and refined ‘cooking oils’, such as canola or corn oils.

  • Highly inflammatory 

  • These fats contain harmful by-products created during processing, which can lead to increased risk of disease and cardiovascular problems