In the last five years, my relationship with fat has radically changed. Five years ago if you had looked in my fridge, you would have found pretty pink individually packaged non-fat yogurt, skim milk, low-fat margarine, and maybe some low-fat cheese if I was feeling decadent. Now it’s filled with foods that would make the fat-phobic me cower in fear: whole grass-fed milk, full-fat Greek yogurt, real butter and raw whole milk cheddar, not to mention meat and lots of fish. In my pantry you will find coconut oil, nuts, and several varieties of plant and nut oils and butters.
My ideas about fat changed after I was introduced to the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon a few years ago. Although I don’t follow all of her suggestions, the book opened my eyes to the fact that perhaps everything I had been taught about nutrition is really only one side of the coin. Since then I’ve done a lot of research about the best way to eat to boost fertility, make healthy babies and quickly recover from having a baby. Aside from the research, I’ve changed my eating habits and feel better than ever. Since adding more quality fat into my diet, I find that I have more mental and physical energy and also get sick less often. My husband and two children have noticed the same effects.
So I thought I would share three reasons that every mother (or soon-to-be mother) should introduce a bit of quality fat into her diet. Notice that I always say “quality” fat. I’m not saying you should go out and binge on French fries and cheesecake. But a few handfuls of nuts and a fresh avocado? Go for it! Here’s why.
3 Reasons Mamas Need Good Fat
1. Increasing your fat intake may help you get pregnant. Some studies suggest that a healthy fat intake can boost fertility, both for men and women. A 2007 study of over 18,000 women found a higher rate of infertility in the subjects who ate a diet containing lots of low-fat dairy products. Another study found a correlation between light or infrequent cycles and a high-fiber/low-fat diet.
2. Quality fats are good for pregnant moms. You’ve probably already heard about the benefits of fish oil during pregnancy. The benefits of fish oil are numerous and have been shown to affect both mom and baby well after pregnancy and delivery. A 2003 study found that babies born to moms who supplemented with cod liver oil during their pregnancy had higher IQ scores at age four than those whose moms did not. You can also get omega-3 fatty acids from other sources, including salmon, tuna and flaxseed oil.
3. Eating good fats helps during the postpartum period. Consuming healthy fats shouldn’t stop after pregnancy. A 2012 study found that adequate intake of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids can dramatically reduce risk of postpartum depression. Once again, usually women use a fish oil supplement to meet these needs, but it certainly can’t hurt to eat fish like salmon or tuna a few times a week.
You might have noticed that most of these healthy fats are unsaturated fats. So what about those infamous saturated fats, often touted as destroyers of heart health and waistlines? The verdict is still out, but there are plenty of experts out there who promote consuming saturated fat on a regular basis—in moderation of course. If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend the book Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon.
A final word: like most topics in nutrition, you can find plenty of studies out there that “prove” fat is a woman’s worst enemy. There is no one-size-fits-all diet for anyone, and some people find that a decreased fat intake has some benefits. I’ve found for my body type and needs, including healthy fat in my diet is a must, especially during and after pregnancy. Experiment with adding quality fat to your diet and see how you feel, but don’t overdo it. After all, too much of anything isn’t a good thing.
How much fat is in your diet? What are a few of your favorite healthy sources? —Nicole