The No-Nonsense Guide to Dieting in College, Made Easy Part 3: Six General Rules of Thumb (3-4)

By Ari Snaevarsson, Staff Writer

In the last article, we discussed appropriate caffeine intake and sleep. In this week’s article, we keep the ball rolling, moving onto the subject of fats. Under the microscope are Omega 3 and trans fatty acids.

  1. Omega 3s

This is a supplement that really does deserve the popularity it has seen in the past few years. For general health purposes, getting an adequate ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids to Omega 6 fatty acids should be a no-brainer (no pun intended).

Our early ancestors supposedly lived on a 1:1 ratio of these fatty acids, whereas the modern Western diet includes an Omega 6 polyunsaturated fat consumption around 16 times that of Omega 3s[4].

So what does this all actually mean? An increase in Omega 3 consumption and decrease in Omega 6 consumption shows reliant decreases in chronic inflammation-based disease (which accounts for virtually every non-genetic disease), especially and most importantly cardiovascular disease and cancer[4,5].

More specific to the acute goals of most college students, Omega 3 fatty acids are also known for their effects on brain function, allowing the brain to work “less hard” while achieving better cognitive performance[6].

Getting a proper ratio of Omega 3:6 fatty acids is really not that difficult. Whenever possible, opt for grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, and cage-free eggs over their unnaturally fed/raised counterparts.

Supplement 3-5g of fish oil pills that are high in EPA/DHA, types of Omega 3 fatty acids that show some of the greatest correlations with reducing the diseases we talked about earlier[7].

  1. Limit trans fat intake

Trans-unsaturated fatty acids, or trans fats, are created by partially treating an unsaturated fat with hydrogen (partial hydrogenation), thereby giving the fats unnatural qualities that allow foods to be kept at room temperature for long periods of time. There is little debate in the nutrition community of trans fats’ frighteningly high correlations with cardiovascular disease[9].

It is unfortunately not enough to simply read the nutrition facts on the back of your box of Oreos to determine the amount of trans fats. Manufacturers are allowed to round down to 0g when a food has less than 0.5g trans fats in a serving. The key here is to look in the ingredients list for “partially hydrogenated oils”.

Partial hydrogenation is common in industrially produced snack foods like cookies and toaster pastries, as well as fried foods. Companies employ this practice to preserve the shelf life of these foods, keeping them edible for much longer than would otherwise have been possible.

Because of their linkage to heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends limiting these to 1% of your total energy intake[8]. For the purposes of this article, I am going to make the simple recommendation that you avoid them whenever possible.

In the mood for a double chocolate chip cookie? Bake some at home. Maybe a peanut butter jelly sandwich is in order? Opt for natural peanut butters (usually recognizable by the layer of oil sitting on top in the container). Is it the end of the world if you fulfilled your craving for a few cookies from the grocery store or a burger from the local fast food joint?

No, of course not. Again, it is worth reiterating I am not advocating an all-or-nothing approach. Nutrition does not work like that; moderation truly is the key to success here.

In the next segment, we will go over the final two rules of thumb, which will be followed by an article addressing meal plans and making healthy choices at our dining halls and then finally a quick rant that will set the stage for the centerpiece of the series: How to construct your diet.


  1. Simopoulos, A. P. “The Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy = Biomédecine & Pharmacothérapie 56, no. 8 (October 2002): 365–79.
  2. Gleissman, Helena, John Inge Johnsen, and Per Kogner. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Cancer, the Protectors of Good and the Killers of Evil?” Experimental Cell Research 316, no. 8 (May 1, 2010): 1365–73. doi:10.1016/j.yexcr.2010.02.039.
  3. Bauer, Isabelle, Matthew Hughes, Renee Rowsell, Robyn Cockerell, Andrew Pipingas, Sheila Crewther, and David Crewther. “Omega-3 Supplementation Improves Cognition and Modifies Brain Activation in Young Adults.” Human Psychopharmacology 29, no. 2 (March 2014): 133–44. doi:10.1002/hup.2379.
  4. Swanson, Danielle, Robert Block, and Shaker A. Mousa. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits throughout Life.” Advances in Nutrition (Bethesda, Md.) 3, no. 1 (January 2012): 1–7. doi:10.3945/an.111.000893.
  5. Remig, Valentina, Barry Franklin, Simeon Margolis, Georgia Kostas, Theresa Nece, and James C. Street. “Trans Fats in America: A Review of Their Use, Consumption, Health Implications, and Regulation.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 110, no. 4 (April 2010): 585–92. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2009.12.024.
  6. Kris-Etherton, Penny M. “Trans-Fats and Coronary Heart Disease.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 50, no. s1 (December 2010): 29–30. doi:10.1080/10408398.2010.526872.
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