Food for Thought: Eat to Maximize Brainpower

Foods for Your Brain

Your brain is an organ that needs proper nourishment just like any of your organs. In this three-part series we talk about the right foods to help your brain function at its best for years to come. Here, part one on fish and those important omega-3s.

I was on vacation at a resort recently and it was great! Most of the folks there were over the age of 55 and obviously loved the holiday as much as I did. We got talking and got on the subject of our personal health experiences. I try not to discuss my work when I’m off having fun, but I couldn’t help but chime in because I had so much in common with the people in the group.

Food for Thought: Raise a Glass (part two)
Food for Thought: Power Nutrient CoQ10 (part three)

The theme of brain health supplements came up, and this has always been a fascinating subject for me because there is always new information available and I like to stay in the loop. My new friends were talking about a group of supplements for brain function and memory that they recently saw on a local TV show. As with any report you see on a new product, there are certain things you should consider.

The Brain is an Organ Worth Nourishing

For one, your brain is an organ, just like your heart, lungs and liver. It needs optimum nutrition to maintain a high level of function and last a lifetime. It is really important this nourishment comes from the foods you eat, the liquids you drink and the supplements you take.

Of course your brain has some unique needs that are reflected in the diet and supplements you choose. Your brain is mostly made up of fatty tissue, so the type of fats you choose to eat can greatly influence brain function.

One of the nutrients that kept coming up through the conversation was fish oil. In my opinion, the reason behind their interest was definitely warranted because there has been a great deal of evidence showing that omega-3 fats (found in fish oil supplements) are essential if you want to get the most from your brain health. These fats can be found in oily fish like salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, seal, krill and tuna. They are also available in a supplement form if none of these strike your fancy.

How Omega-3 Fats Work for Your Brain

Omega-3 fats can improve the way your brain cells work by fortifying cell membranes and keeping them fluid. These types of fats can also impact the way blood flows through your brain. The brain is an organ that requires a constant supply of nutrients and oxygen. And the interference of blood supply to key parts of the brain from damaged arteries may be one of the top preventable reasons why the older population is more susceptible to a loss of brain function from aging.

Another benefit to omega-3 fatty acids is they help to keep your arteries clean and free from plaque caused by blood clots, fat deposits and calcium. These types of fats can also greatly decrease inflammation that damages brain cells and hardens brain arteries.

A 2013 study in Oxford Journals, Cerebral Cortex showed that adults who used fish oil for six months could improve cognition and the structural integrity of the brain compared with a placebo treatment.

I recommend eating fish several times a week, but if you don’t care for the taste of fish, try your best to supplement it. Two grams of a high-potency omega-3 supplement every day will help you to achieve optimum brain health, especially if you are over age 40.

Check back for part two of the Food For Thought series this Friday, with more on nourishing your brain with the right foods.

Witte AV. Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids Improve Brain Function and Structure in Older Adults. Cereb Cortex. 2013 Jun 24