Brain matter is mostly made up of fat which is why eating fats is an important part of a healthy diet. But not all fats are created equal. Extensive research on the role that fats play in our overall health has found high levels of essential fatty acids in our brains. They’re essential because they are vital to brain development as well as cognitive and behavioral functions.
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid found in many common foods. Since we don’t have the necessary enzyme required to produce this fatty acid, we must get it from our food. Omega-3 is found in some plant foods and certain fatty fish. Our bodies must convert plant sources of essential fatty acids, also known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), into a more usable form in the body known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
As we age, it becomes more difficult for our bodies to make this conversion. If we rely solely on plant foods for our Omega-3, we may develop a deficiency as we get older. Symptoms of a deficiency include slowed cognition, poor memory, and unstable moods. However, the EFA in fatty fish is already in DHA form so the body does not need to convert it. That’s why EFAs from fish is a preferred source for older adults. EFAs are especially beneficial to children who struggle with cognition and memory or anyone who is recovering from a brain injury.
Best Sources of Brain Food
To boost your intake of EFAs, try adding the following foods to your diet:
Fatty oily fish: anchovies, herring, mackerel, black cod, salmon, sardines, fresh tuna, swordfish, and shellfish.
Plant sources: pumpkin, flaxseed, walnut, wheat germ, and sunflower seed oil
Fish is not only a good source of Omega-3 fats but a great source of protein. Protein gets broken down into amino acids and these later develop into neurotransmitters that are important for memory. If you find that you don’t eat very much fish then you should supplement your diet with fish oil capsules. Two of the best sources are Krill Oil or Cod Liver Oil. You can find these in most health food stores. Look for one that has at least 200 mg DHA and 200 mg of EPA or a combined total of 400 mg.
For improved memory, the body needs acetylcholine, a vital neurotransmitter, made from phospholipids. In order for the body to produce acetylcholine, you need to increase your intake of choline and Vitamin B5. The best source of choline is lecithin. Lecithin can be increased in your diet by eating:
- Eggs (organic, omega 3 rich)
Or by taking it in supplement form: capsules or granules that you can sprinkle on top of foods. The following dosages are recommended:
- Choline – 500 – 1000 mg
- Lecithin granules – 1 tbs
Finally, in order for all of these brain functions to occur, you need to supplement by taking Vitamin B5 at a dose of 100 – 500 mg. It would be best to take a multivitamin or a B-Complex as these nutrients work best with other nutrients.
The following are things to avoid as they will disrupt or thwart good brain health: alcohol, caffeine, soda, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. Also, limit your exposure to cigarette smoke and heavy metals.
For more information on ways to improve brain function and slow the aging process read my book Secrets to Healthy Aging.
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