© Rick Hanson, Ph.D., and Jan
Hanson, L.Ac., 2005
Fats That Are Good for a Mother
I always thought fat was bad, but now I'm reading about "good fats."
What should I do?
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are in the news because they are needed for
a healthy heart and brain, plus they are absolutely crucial for the
healthy development of a fetus or child. Unfortunately, they are usually
deficient in mothers since they are drawn on heavily to grow a baby
during pregnancy and breast milk is loaded with them, and most women
don't have anywhere near enough to start with.
Increasing your intake of one type of EFAs-omega-3 oils found in fish
and flax-can help prevent cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis,
asthma, diabetes, and depression. It can also make your hair and skin
more moist; dryness, including dandruff, is a potential sign of omega-3
deficiency. And pregnant or breastfeeding women can help the optimal
development of their child's brain by getting optimal amounts of these
Here's how to get the good fats you need:
- Do not use refined oils.
- Make virgin olive oil your everyday oil.
- Minimize your use of safflower, sunflower, soybean, and sesame oils.
- Avoid trans-fatty acids. These are found in deep-fried foods, and in
the hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats used in margarine, and
in most baked or packaged foods.
- Increase your intake of a vital type of EFA's - omega-3's:
- Eat omega-3 rich fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, or sardines); but
try to consume no more than 2 servings a week, to avoid getting too much
of the mercury, alas, and is increasingly found in fish at the top of
the food chain.
- Take a fish oil supplement that indicates on the label that it has
been "molecularly distilled" for purity. Take enough to get about 500
milligrams/day of a key ingredient called DHA. Some people can tolerate
taking the oil in a spoonful, but most people will want to spend a
little more and get it in capsules.
Some people prefer flax oil to fish oil due to being a vegetarian.
Unfortunately, many people lack some of the enzymes or co-factors needed
to convert flax oil into the long-chain fatty acids your body needs,
which already exist in fish oil. If you do choose to use flax oil, make
sure you're taking a good multi-vitamin/multi-mineral supplement as
well, for the co-factors it contains.)
- Use a gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) supplement if you have symptoms that
suggest a deficiency, such as premenstrual tension, eczema, or
arthritis. You can find GLA in supplements of primrose, borage, or black
currant oil. Daily suggested doses are given on the labels.
With these small steps, you'll be supporting your health and well-being
* * *
(Rick Hanson is a clinical psychologist, Jan Hanson is
an acupuncturist/nutritionist, and they are raising a daughter and
son, ages 12 and 14. With Ricki Pollycove, M.D., they are the
authors of Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind,
and Intimate Relationships, published by Penguin. You can see their
website at www.nurturemom.com or email them with questions or
comments at email@example.com; unfortunately, a personal reply may
not always be possible.)