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Why Women Need Fat

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Why Women Need Fat

SHAPE: Where can we find "good fats?"
LG: Good fats are fats high in omega-3. DHA and EPA are the most important and active forms of omega-3, and the most abundant source for both is fish and seafood, especially oily fish. Just three ounces of wild-caught Atlantic salmon has 948 milligrams of DHA and 273 milligrams of EPA. The same amount of canned tuna fish has 190 milligrams of DHA and 40 of EPA, and shrimp have a bit less. Unfortunately, all fish and seafood are also contaminated with mercury, a brain poison, and the FDA advises that women and children have no more than 12 ounces of fish per week, limited to those which have lower levels of mercury (we have a list in our book).

Fish oil capsules or liquid can provide an additional and safer source of DHA and EPA because the oils are usually distilled to remove mercury and other impurities, and DHA from algae is available for those who do not eat fish. The basic form of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid, is also good because it can turn into EPA and DHA in our bodies, though not very efficiently. This is found in all green plants, but the best sources are flaxseeds and walnuts, and flaxseed, canola, and walnut oils. Monounsaturated fats, like those in olive and canola oil, also seem to be beneficial for health.

SHAPE: What about "bad fats?" What should we stay away from?
LG: Our current problem is that we have way, way too much omega-6 in our diets. And because our bodies "know" that these fats are essential, it holds on to them. These oils are found mainly in fried foods such as like chips, fries, and commercial baked goods. They are also added to other processed foods to increase the amount of fat, since fat makes foods taste better. As much as possible, limit fast foods, restaurant foods, and processed foods from the supermarket, because these foods tend to have a lot of omega-6 fat.

The second kind of omega-6 that we get too much of is arachidonic acid, and this is found in meat and eggs from animals (especially poultry) fed on corn and other grains, which are the kinds of meats you usually find in supermarkets.

SHAPE: How important is exercise when consuming the good fats?
LG: There seems to be a positive synergy between exercise and omega-3 fats. Women who exercise more tend to have higher levels of omega-3 in their blood, and those with higher omega-3 levels seem to have a better response to exercise. The amount of omega-3 DHA in the membranes of muscle cells is linked with better efficiency and endurance. Increasing exercise and omega-3 levels together may also help women to lose excess weight.

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