© Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Jan Hanson, L.Ac. 2001, 2002
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 - by:
- Eating omega-3 rich fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, or sardines)
- Using flax oil in salad dressings and other nonfrying oil uses. You
can meet your daily needs with about 1 tablespoon of flax oil; it is
also available in capsules at health food stores.
- Taking about 1000 milligrams of a fish oil supplement that has been
checked for purity; usually, there will be someone at the health food
store that knows about the purity of their supplements. For most
mothers, this is the simplest way to consume adequate omega-3s. (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.)
- Using 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.
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