The Sexy Nutrient

Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD12/20/17

What does sexy feel like?  It’s more than just putting on a little black dress or a sharp suit. At the core of your sexy self is a wellspring of positive feelings, including confidence, vitality and wit, as well as energy, aliveness, and gusto. Sexy is all about how you feel, how you think, how you look and how you live. 

Inside that sexy self is a whole lot of circuitry and circulation. For you to feel sultry, quick witted, and alive requires a fine-tuned brain that sends messages quickly and freely, a healthy heart that pumps blood efficiently and easily, and clear and elastic blood vessels that effortlessly move blood and oxygen throughout your body, from head to toe. The better that circuitry and circulation work, the more energetic you feel, the sharper you will think today and down the road, and the more likely you will radiate health and vitality.

The building blocks and assembly-line workers for those well-revved systems come directly and only from your diet. Just as you wouldn’t put sawdust into the gas tank and expect your car to run right, eat junk and you’ll feel like junk. Eat, move, and live right and you will be amazed how strong, confident, energized, sharp, and sexy you are.

The sexy diet is one based on real food, such as colorful fruits and vegetables, 100% whole grains, legumes, nuts, and calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat yogurt. Leading the sexy diet troops is omega-3-rich seafood.

What’s Fish Got to Do With Sexy?

Your number one sex organ is your brain. That is where imagination and desire are fueled. To think clearly and passionately you need to support your circuitry and circulation and then fuel your brain with the building blocks it needs to function at top speed. Each of your 100 billion brain cells is encased, like a balloon, by a sheath or membrane made up of two layers of fat. The more fluid or flexible those fatty membranes, the better they relay and transport information. (1)

The building blocks for brain cell membranes are the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA found in fatty fish. They are some of the most flexible fats in your diet. While saturated fats in meat and dairy products clog your brain (2), the more EPA and DHA you eat, the more is incorporated into brain cells, the more flexible your brain cell membranes, and the healthier your brain will be. (3-8)

How Much of What?

Fatty fish is the best dietary source of EPA and DHA. Ounce for ounce you get the biggest omega-3 bang for your buck with salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, anchovies and sardines. Other seafood is better than a pork chop, but has considerably less of these mood and mind-boosting fats.

Your mood and mind go up and down with how much fish you eat. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week (22) to support heart health. Eat it less than once a week and depression risk might increase. (9-21

Creative Ways to Eat More Fish

Whether salmon or lake trout, omega-3-rich fish are great just about any way you prepare them - grill, bake, broil, poach, or saute. Salmon pairs well with an assortment of toppings from cranberry chutney and watermelon-avocado salsa to pesto or just a simple mix of lemon and dill weed. Add your favorite fatty fish to stews and chowders, such as cioppino or bouillabaisse. Broil or grill and add to tacos, quesadillas and burritos. Use canned salmon instead of canned tuna for sandwiches or switch from crab cakes to salmon cakes.  Experiment with adding herring, sardines or anchovies to pasta sauces, pizza, caesar salad dressings or on crackers.

Sexy Supplements

Most Americans aren’t getting any where near enough of these omega-3s, averaging as little as 50 to 100 milligrams daily. (22,23) You need five to ten times that much, according to the World Health Organization. (22) So, if you don’t like or can’t afford fish, or if you are vegetarian, consider a supplement that contains EPA and DHA.

Rest assured that supplements are a great way to go. The bulk of the research on omega-3s found in seafood has used either seafood or supplements. (24-27) To identify a high-quality supplement, make sure your choice lists exactly how much of these two omega-3s you are getting, not one that just lists the amount of fish oil.(21)

The Answer to Sexy

Eating well, including increasing your intake of the omega -3s EPA and DHA in fish oils, is a huge step toward living a healthy and sexy life no matter what your age. 

Recipe: Crusty Cranberry Salmon

(From “The Food & Mood Cookbook” by E. Somer and J. Williams)

A serving of this delicious salmon supplies 2.5 grams of omega-3s!

Ingredients

1 1 /2 pounds salmon fillet

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries, diced

1/3 cup green onions, diced

1 /2 cup breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

pinch red pepper flakes

salt

1 teaspoon lemon peel, grated

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1) Place salmon on a foil-lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with lemon juice.

2) Dice dried fruit in food processor. Remove and dice green onions in food processor. In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, diced dried fruit, diced green onions, mayonnaise, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and lemon peel. Blend with a fork until mixture is wet and can be pressed together in clumps.

3) Place dried fruit mixture on top of salmon and press together, covering entire top of fish. Bake until the fish is flaky, but not dry, approximately 20 minutes (time will vary depending on thickness of fish). Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional Analysis per serving: 406 Calories; 41 percent fat (18.5 grams); 4.5 grams saturated fat; 37 percent protein; 22 percent carbohydrate; 1.6 grams fiber.

References

1. Orr S, Bazinet R: The emerging role of docosahexaenoic acid in neuroinflammation. Current Opinions in Investigational Drugs 2008;9:735-743.

2. Molteni R, Barnard R, Ying Z, et al: A high-fat, refined sugar diet reduces hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neuronal plasticity, and learning. Neuroscience 2002;112:803-814.

3. Virtanen J, Siscovick D, Lemaitre R, et al: Circulating omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and subclinical brain abnormalities on MRI in older adults: The Cardiovascular Health Study. Journal of the American Heart Association 2013;2:e000305.

4. Virtanen J, Siscovick D, Longstreth W, et al: Fish consumption and risk of subclinical brain abnormalities on MRI in older adults. Neurology 2008;71:439-446.

5. Sanchez-Villegas A, Henriquez P, Figueiras A, et al: Long chain omega-3 fatty acids intake, fish consumption and mental disorders in the SUN cohort. study. European Journal of Nutrition 2007;46:337-346.

6. Wurtman R: Synapse formation and cognitive brain development: effect of docosahexaenoic acid and other dietary constituents. Metabolism 2008;57:S6-S10.

7. Yurko-Mauro K, McCarthy D, Rom D, et al: Beneficial effects of docosahexaenoic acid on cognition in age-related cognitive decline. Alzheimers & Dementia 2010;6:84.   

8. Cardoso C, Afonso C, Bandarra N: Dietary DHA and health: Cognitive function ageing.  Nutrition Research Reviews 2016;29:281-294.

9. Parker G, Gibson N, Brotchie H, et al: Omega-3 fatty acids and mood disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry 2006;163:969-978.

10. Chiu C, Huang S, Shen W, et al: Omega-3 fatty acids for depression in pregnancy. American Journal of Psychiatry 2003;160:385.

11. Mamalakis G, Tornaritis M, Kafatos A: Depression and adipose essential polyunsaturated fatty acids. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 2002;67:311-318.

12. Timonen M, Horrobin D, Jokelainen J, et al: Fish consumption and depression. Journal of Affective Disorders 2004;82:447-452.

13. Sontrop J, Campbell M: Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and depression. Preventive Medicine 2006;42:4-13.

14. Mamalakis G, Kalagerpoulos N, Andrikopoulos N, et al: Depression and long chain n-3 fatty acids in adipose tissue in adults from Crete. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2006;60:882-888.

15. Hibbeln J: Fish consumption and major depression. Lancet 1998;351:1213.

16. Tanskanen A, Hibbeln J, Tuomilehto J, et al: Fish consumption and depressive symptoms in the general population of Finland. Psychiatric Services 2001;52:529-531.

17. Sinclair A, Begg D, Mathai M, et al: Omega 3 fatty acids and the brain. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007;16 (suppl):391-397.

18. Freeman M, Hibbeln J, Wisner K, et al: Omega-3 fatty acids: Evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2006;67:1954-1967.

19. Owen C, Rees A, Parker G: The role of fatty acids in the development and treatment of mood disorders. Current Opinion in Psychiatry 2008;21:19-24.

20. Hibbeln J: From homicide to happiness: A commentary on omega-3 fatty acids in human Society. Nutrition & Health 2007;19:9-19.

21. Hibbeln J, Nieminen L, Blasbalg T, et al: Healthy intakes of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2006;83(suppl 6):1483S-1493S.

22. http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/dosing/hrb-20059372

23. Grosso G, Galvano F, Marventano S, et al: Omega-3 fatty acids and depression: Scientific evidence and biological mechanisms. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity 2014; 2014:313570, March 18th.                                

24. Kris-Etherton P, Hill A: n-3 fatty acids: Foods or supplements? Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2008;108:1125-1130.

25. Arterburn L, Oken H, Hoffman J, et al: Bioequivalence of docosahexaenoic acid from different algal oils in capsules and in a DHA-fortified food. Lipids 2007;42:1011-1024.

26. Arterburn L, Oken H, Hoffman J, et al: Algal-oil capsules and cooked salmon: nutritionally equivalent sources of docosahexaenoic acid. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2008;108:1204-1209.

27.  Pinto T, Vilela A, Farias D, et al: Serum n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are inversely associated with longitudinal changes in depressive symptoms during pregnancy. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences 2017;26:157-168.

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