Brain Foods Part 3

This is the third installment in a series on brain foods – foods to include in your diet, and your children’s diets, to keep your brains healthy. These will help to keep your brain and the rest of you healthy. A couple readers had emailed me asking me to clarify what I meant by “healthy fats.” The following is a brief guide to healthy fats. These will help to keep your brain healthy, and help to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Let me emphasize two points here: walnuts are an under-appreciated source of healthy fats, and provide a variety of health benefits; olive oil should replace corn oil in your kitchen, as a healthy fat and for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. In fact, in addition to providing health benefits through simple nutrition, some of these foods also contain various antioxidant or anti-inflammatory agents that place them in a category of herbs, medicinal herbs, or herbal remedies.

535px-3_walnuts

walnuts: an under-appreciated brain food

Sources of Brain Food Fats:

  • Avocados contain mostly mono-unsaturated (good, easy to metabolize) fats. One avocado contains about 20 grams !! of fat. My favorite way to consume avocado is guacamole, but our kids aren’t too crazy about quac. Try including sliced avocado in salads, and on sandwiches.
  • Fish, specifically oily, cold-water species (salmon), are a great source of omega-3 fats. A note of warning: being high up on the food chain, these fish accumulate mercury. Therefore, the balance for your diet will be to add healthy fats, but avoid a toxin (mercury). A safe guideline is to limit these fish to once per week for growing children.
  • Flax seeds contain healthy fats and fiber. Try grinding them fresh in a coffee grinder. Sprinkle on anything: cereal, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, oatmeal.
  • Nuts – both whole, and as nut butters – are a great source of healthy fats and protein. [Note that peanuts, basis for the most common nut butter, are actually legumes, not nuts. Peanuts have a less healthy fat profile than true nuts. Worse, many popular brands of peanut butter
  •  re high in unhealthy fats.] Try whole nuts and nut butters from almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts.
  • Olive oil can be a very healthy fat. Use only premium olive oils for the health effects. Look for “extra virgin” and “first press” on the label. These premium olive oils contain agents that have strong anti-inflammatory benefits (oleocanthals) and even analgesic (pain-relieving) properties.

Guidelines for the Brain Food Fats in your Diet:

  • Limit saturated fats. These are typically animal fats (found in butter, whole milk, cream, fatty meats), and (surprise) coconut oil.
  • Avoid trans-fats. These are found in processed foods, snacks, pre-packaged foods, junk food.
  • Limit omega-6 fats. Found in corn oil, safflower oil, soy oil, and sunflower oil, and the foods made from them.
  • Enjoy mono-unsaturated fats. These are found in nuts, olives, avocados, and oils made from them.
  • Enjoy omega-3 fats. Found in oily, cold-water fish such as salmon, sardines, anchovies; also flax-seeds, walnuts, hemp-seeds.

Summary

Include these healthy fats as brain foods in your diet. The easiest step is to ban corn oil from your kitchen, and replace it with olive oil. This simple step will immediately help make your brain healthier. Because it can be challenging to get little children (and even older children) to try different nuts or fish or avocados, try the flax seed trick: simply grind some fresh flax seeds in a coffee grinder and sprinkle them into other foods. Do it on the sly if necessary. Not only do these steps provide great brain foods, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects can have long term benefits for those with chronic inflammatory disorders: asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, inflammatory join disease, and many others. Make the effort for your health.

See you here next time … stay informed, stay healthy.

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Hi, I’m Russell Faust, author of this medical education blog.

Russell Faust, PhD, MD boogordoctor

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Resources

Image Credit: walnuts from wikimedia, used under Creative Common License:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3_walnuts.jpg

 

 

Comments

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