It doesn’t really matter what your doing in life. You could be writing the speech that will change your career, teaching your child the alphabet or creating a new painting- wherever you are at, your brain, the most metabolically active organ in the body, is constantly replenishing and repairing itself. If it’s the most active and transformative organ, how do you care for it? As a society, we put so much time to “fix” our bodies because we believe it will enhance our life. We take care of the body by sacrificing the mind. It’s time to reverse this notion. If you have passion to make lots of good things happen in your life then how do you create and maintain the memory from your brain to get there?
If you want to perform at the highest levels of optimal brain health, one of the most important tools is what you put on your plate. The most central nutrient for your brain is fat. Much of the food we eat not only ends up being used by the brain for energy but also ends up in the brain itself. The brain needs fat more than any other nutrient, because the brain is made of fat. The problem is that if we feed it unhealthy fats, we wind up with an unhealthy brain. A study published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Daniele Piomelli, the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in Neurosciences, teamed up with UCI’s James McGaugh, to examine how dietary fats facilitate memory retention.
In this study, rats trained on memory tasks were given a substance called oleoylethanolamide (OEA), which is a monosaturated fat that normally increases in the gut after the ingestion of dietary fat. Several days later, the rats given OEA performed better on the tasks than rats that were not, demonstrating enhanced learning. They discovered that OEA causes memory consolidation, the process by which superficial, short-term memories are transformed into meaningful, long-term ones. It does this, Piomelli said, by activating memory-enhancing signals in the amygdala, part of the brain involved in the consolidation of memories of emotional events.
There are three primary categories of fat that naturally occur in the foods we eat: monosaturated fat, saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Healthy fats keep our brains flexible and “smart” while poor-quality fats keep our brain cells sluggish. Below is a short description on what to add and subtract from your diet.
This is a brain-friendly fat is mostly found in cooking oils, including olive oil, safflower oil, canola oil, nuts and avocados. It is high in antioxidants, therefore, subject to less oxidative damage. This means when they become incorporated into your brain cells, they are less vulnerable to free radical attack, which is less prone to damage.
This fat can create more of a sluggish brain. Saturated fat is found primarily in animal origins, such as lamb, beef, pork, chicken, whole-fat diary foods and eggs. These fats are more prone to oxidative damage and raises levels of homocysteine, the amino acid that can be toxic to the brain and cause memory problems and mood disorders.
Some of these fats are great for the brain, but the problem is we don’t eat enough of them. Polyunsaturated fats include the important essential fatty acids that cannot be made by the body but must be obtained by food. There are 2 types that are most important for your brain: omega 3 fatty acid and omega 6 fatty acids.
Omega 3 fatty acids are found in cold water fish, leafy green vegetables, pumpkin seeds and some grains. Omega 3 is broken down to two other fatty acids, eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanenoic acid (DHA). The body has no trouble making EPA from food but unable to process an appropriate amount of DHA. When we consume excess amounts of bad fats, such as trans-fats, and alcohol it interferes with the conversion of omega 3s to DHA. Then the low levels of DHA can create decreases cognitive functioning, depression, irritability and slow response time.
Omega 6 fatty acids are found in cooking oils, nuts and most seeds. Many people use cooking oil as their primary source of omega 6 fatty acid in their diet but, unfortunately, this is not the best source of omega 6 fatty acid for the brain. The commercially processed oils are converted into trans-fatty acids, which promote free radical production and inflammation. In conclusion, consuming fats such as saturated and tans-fat, interfere with the proper absorption of polyunsaturated fats.
The brain is an extremely metabolically active organ, making it a very hungry one, and a picky eater at that. Food is a powerful medicine. Simple changes in your diet can protect your body and your brain against poor brain function, mood disorders, and neurological problems.