The following foods are encouraged on the Overcoming MS program as part of a balanced diet. However, care must be taken with portion sizes, and how often these foods are consumed.
The reason for this is that whilst oily fish contains a high proportion of beneficial omega-3 fats (polyunsaturated) which have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect on the body, there is also a small amount of saturated fat present. Similarly, foods like avocado and olives which are rich in monounsaturated fats, that do not appear to affect inflammation but do protect our cells from degeneration (please see our fats page for more info), also contain a degree of saturated fat.
When balancing the ‘good’ fats on the Overcoming MS program, it is important to consider the foods you consume over the whole day, and the whole week. Avoid eating lots of nuts, olives, oily fish, avocado etc on the same day, but instead balance the quantities by controlling portion size and frequency over the period of a few days instead.
Nuts & nut butters
- Tree nuts: including brazil nuts, almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts and pecans.
- Natural nut butters: including almond, macadamia, cashew nut butter (peanut butter is higher in saturated fat and best avoided).
All tree nuts are advocated by the Overcoming MS Program. They are a great source of protein and healthy fats, especially walnuts, which have the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Peanuts: defined as a ground nut and not recommended due to their higher saturated fat content, and the fact that they are usually roasted in oil. There is also some controversy around peanuts being more susceptible to moulds that can contain carcinogenic (cancer-causing) toxins – aflatoxin.
- Not all nuts have the same fat composition. Brazil nuts, macadamias and cashew nuts contain more saturated fat than some other tree nuts e.g. almonds, so adjust your portion sizes accordingly.
- The best nut sources for the omega-3 fats are walnuts, almonds, pecans and pistachios.
- Overall, it is best to consume tree nuts in modest amounts; no more than a small handful in one serving (approximately 30g), and no more than 80g a day.
- It is better to consume whole nuts versus nut butters, since the same volume of whole nuts contains less saturated fat than the same volume of nut butter.
- Always choose good quality nut butters without additional oils or a number of other added ingredients. Some brands of nut butters use cheap, processed oils like palm oil, or hydrogenated fats, and may include high amounts of unnecessary added sugar.
- Enjoy nut butters in small amounts; spread thinly on wholegrain toast for breakfast, or maybe as a snack on wholegrain crackers, etc. They may also serve as a useful ingredient in recipes as a fat replacement.
Need to know…
- Always aim to choose raw, fresh nuts rather than roasted and salted versions. Roasted nuts are coated in sunflower oil and heated to temperatures that damage the oil coating as well as nuts’ own oils.
- Nut butters can also easily oxidize (become rancid), so make sure to purchase recently-pressed, pure nut butters and use in moderation.
- Storing nuts in the fridge can improve their shelf-life and preserve the oils within them from becoming rancid.
- Always avoid fried nuts.
Including: salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, herring, anchovy, fresh tuna.
Oily fish can be enjoyed in moderation on the Overcoming MS program. Aim for approximately three servings a week. The Holism study showed greater benefits in terms of relapse rate reduction, disability levels and quality of life for those who include oily fish three times a week in their diet.
White fish and other seafoods have a significantly lower fat content whilst still being a good source of protein, and can be consumed more often as part of a varied and balanced diet.
Need to know...
- The canning process for tuna significantly depletes the beneficial omega-3 fat, so for this reason only fresh tuna is considered an ‘oily’ fish. However, tinned tuna can still be included in the diet as a source of protein that is low in saturated fat but should not be counted as one of your three weekly portions of oily fish. Choose tins that store the tuna in brine or spring water rather than sunflower oil.
- Other oily fish are not affected by the canning process in the same way as tuna. They may be enjoyed in tinned versions as one of your weekly three portions of oily fish e.g. sardines, mackerel, pilchards, salmon.
- Apart from tinned tuna, all other oily fish retain their valuable oils whether fresh, frozen, tinned or smoked.
Predominantly a source of monounsaturated fat, olives also contain some saturated fat and so should be consumed in moderate amounts.
Need to know...
- Olives are about 10-15% fat, which is mostly monounsaturated fat (omega-9).
- An average serving of pitted olives is 15g -20g, or about 5 olives.
- Olives may also be high in salt due to the fact they are packaged in brine, which is another reason to consume only in moderation.
- Olive oil is recommended on the Overcoming MS program, but ideally should be extra virgin (cold-pressed and unrefined) olive oil which is the most healthful version.
The avocado serving size is officially 1/3 of a medium avocado, or 50g of avocado.
Need to know...
- Avocados, whilst rich in monounsaturated fat, are also relatively high in saturated fat so should be consumed in moderation.
- To moderate overall saturated fat intake, it may be best not to consume avocado every day, and to stick to the serving size of one third or 50g of avocado.
- Avocados can also be a useful ingredient for fat replacement in some recipes e.g. ‘chocolate mousse’ made with avocado, honey and cocoa powder.