Fat. Really? Isn’t fat supposed to be bad for me? Well, fat – healthy, natural forms of fat – has made a comeback. Natural fats offer powerful benefits to your body — and your brain. Your brain is comprised of about 60 percent fat. Billions of cells rely of fat to operate optimally. Without healthy fat, our brain doesn’t function as well. And when our brain is not operating at a high level, well we all know how that affects the rest of our lives.
Can Fat Really Be Good for My Brain?
Yes. Because our brain is made up largely of fat, our brains need fat to work well. To be clear, we are not talking about supplementing our diet with spoonfuls of Crisco every day. We are talking about natural forms of fats, omegas, and DHA that is proven to nourish, protect and enhance the performance of our brain’s cells.
Studies show that nutrition affects brain development and function throughout our lives. A healthy diet of nutritious plant-based greens, vitamins and proteins help develop and maintain our brain. And fats play a key role.
Fueling your brain with fat, in particular, encourages ketosis, which provides energy to the brain and helps protect against brain diseases, among other health benefits. A diet high in monounsaturated fats can also increase production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in learning and memory.
Understanding Common Fats and Their Relationship With Your Mind and Body
1. Saturated Fat
Saturated fats are one of the main components of your brain’s cells. Hence, we need saturated fats for our brains to function well. In one study, it was found that people who ate more saturated fat reduced their risk for developing dementia by 36 percent. Saturated fat also provides benefits for the liver and immune system and helps maintain proper hormone balance.
But, saturated fats come with other health issues. High intake is not what we recommend, only understanding the relationship of it to your brain. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 5-6% of one’s diet be comprised of saturated fats. For 2,000 calorie diet, that is 12 grams a day.
2. Polyunsaturated Fat
Polyunsaturated fats contain essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. Our brains need these fats to function properly. Studies show that eating high quantities of omega-3 fatty acids may be linked to reduced rates of major depression. The catch is our body is not able to produce these fats naturally. Fortunately, there are many healthy and tasty sources for us to include in our diet (see below).
DHA is an essential omega-3 fatty acid, DHA has demonstrated an ability to help brain functions like memory, speaking, math and motor skills. Consuming higher quantities of omega-3s has been shown to help improve conditions such as ADD, depression and bipolar disorders.
6 Foods With Brain Nourishing Healthy Fats
Salmon contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. To best preserve the integrity of the omega fats, salmon is best prepared steamed or lightly grilled. Omega-3s are also present in sashimi and sushi raw fish.
Avocados are delicious sources of monounsaturated fats. They promote healthy blood flow throughout the body, including the brain. More blood flow means a higher functional brain. Bonus: avocados are also good for your heart. They also contain potassium and magnesium, both of which are strong brain and heart supporting elements.
3. Olive Oil
Plant-based healthy fat source olive oils can help improve memory and protect against dementia and cognitive decline. Use olive oil over medium heat to cook salmon, and use it as a dressing additive to your kale salads.
A handful of nuts a day is a great nutritional “habit.” Nuts are an outstanding source of unsaturated fats and vitamin E, both of which support better brain functioning. Walnuts, pecans and almonds help protect against cognitive decline. Unsalted nuts are ideal, and a great additive to salads.
5. Whole Eggs
Whole eggs contain saturated fat and choline, which can boost memory skills and overall brain health. Egg whites are a healthy source of protein, providing energy.
Understanding Fat and Your Brain
Understanding healthy and unhealthy sources of fat in your diet is the key. Include unprocessed, plant and fish-based food sources of healthy fats, and eat them in moderation. Eating healthy fats in moderation can help nourish, protect and support optimum brain function for life.