Why women need fat

Diet is such an unpleasant word. (Anything that starts with "die" can't be good, right?) But what if you just removed it from your vocabulary? According to some experts, not only should you stop dieting, you should eat more fat.

That wasn't a typo.

"I always tell women you need fat like you need oil in your car," said Beth Aldrich, a certified health counselor and author of "Real Moms Love to Eat: How to Conduct a Love Affair with Food, Lose Weight and Feel Fabulous." "Fat gives you essential vitamins, but it also makes you feel full."

Aldrich said when you try to fill up on fat-free or low-fat items, you wind up eating more.

"Your body intuitively knows what it needs," she said. "So if it doesn't get the necessary nutrition it will keep eating until it's satisfied."

Dr. William Lassek, co-author of the book "Why Women Need Fat," said another big contributor to our country's weight gain is the overconsumption of foods rich in omega 6, such as fried foods or bakery goods, which make it harder for a person to store healthy fats like omega 3. His research found women in Japan eat foods rich in omega 3 and low in omega 6, while Americans have done just the opposite.

"Back in the early '70s only one American woman in seven was considered obese," Lassek said. "Now twice as many fall into that group. If you compare that to Japan, only one in 20 is obese. Our chickens and cows are now being fed corn, which has 20 times more omega 6 than omega 3. If we had a balanced diet of omega 6 and omega 3 it would be OK, but we are way off balance."

He said dairy and sugar aren't the enemy — it's processed foods and high fructose corn syrup that add on the pounds. "The Danish diet is rich in fat, dairy and sugar, and only one Danish woman in 14 is fat compared to one in three in the U.S.," Lassek said.

"We have to go back to the basics," Aldrich said. "I tell women, if your great-grandmother ate it, it will probably be good for you."

Here are Lassek's and Aldrich's tips to avoiding weight gain while eating fat.

Hydrate. "We've gotten so used to not drinking water these days, but we need water," Lassek said. "Kids used to drink milk and water and now we all have sodas. This is pure high fructose corn syrup. And diet sodas aren't a good option. There's lots of data that suggests that diet drinks may promote weight gain."

"I tell people to start the day with a glass of water with lemon," Aldrich said. "It helps to flush out the toxins."

Load up on omega 3s and DHA. "If you can't get quality seafood, fish oil capsules or capsules high in DHA and omega 3s are very important," Lassek said. "Australia gets half of their DHA (docosa hexaenoic acid) from grass-fed beef and lamb. You can also put flax seeds in your salad. Eggs are also a good source of omega 3s."

"I drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil on things all the time," Aldrich said. "And coconut oil is getting a bad rap lately, but it's one of the good fats too."

Eat small portions often. "If you put both fists together, that's about the size of your stomach," Aldrich said. "I eat every three hours, and try to keep the portions under control."

Read labels. "People are reading the calorie count and not the actual ingredients, which is more important," Aldrich said. "It's about understanding the different types of fats. Butter isn't as bad as something that's 'polyunsaturated.' "

Eat real food in moderation. "We eat fat because it tastes good," Aldrich said. "When we eat real ingredients we take the time to really enjoy it — and wind up eating less because it's more satisfying. We have to think of food as a long-term relationship and get into a love affair (with it)."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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