Different kinds of fats and oils can either nourish or degrade your brain health.
Say you’re making a salad dressing – what oil should you use? Is rapeseed or extra virgin olive oil a better choice?
Let’s look at the different kinds of fats contained in oils, starting with polyunsaturated fats: these can nourish the brain, but only in specific circumstances.
Omega-3 fats are a good example of healthy, polyunsaturated fats. They’re found in wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, eggs and grass-fed meats. They support the functioning of brain cells and boost memory, mood and executive function.
A study at the Charité Hospital in Berlin showed just how effective these fats are. Adults who’d been given Omega-3 supplements for 26 weeks showed a 26 percent increase in executive functioning compared to the control group.
But there’s a catch: while polyunsaturated fats found in fish and other products are great for your brain’s health, it’s a completely different story when it comes to refined, heated or processed oils like those used to fry food.
These processes transform fats. Once they’ve been treated, they contain huge amounts of aldehydes – a byproduct of oxidized fats. That’s a problem. Aldehydes impair the functioning of the brain. Too much fried food causes a buildup of plaque in the brain – one of the key characteristics of Alzheimer’s. Brains affected by the disease display higher levels of aldehydes.
Then there are monounsaturated fats: these nourish the brain and should be consumed in abundance.
That’s because they protect neurons and boost neurotransmission. Extra virgin olive oil, avocados and macadamias are great sources of monounsaturated fats.
The effectiveness of consuming large amounts of these fats was demonstrated in a study in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal in 2015.
The paper looked at the “Mediterranean diet,” which is rich in monounsaturated foods. Participants consumed a liter of olive oil each week and found that their cognitive functions such as reasoning, attention and memory improved, while their risk of dementia declined after just six years.
Finally, there are trans fats. These should be avoided as much as possible as they’re a serious hazard to your brain’s health.
These are typically found in pre-packaged, processed foods like cookies, margarine and vegan cheese. They help extend foodstuffs’ shelf life and give them a delicious buttery texture.
But however good they might taste, they’re a hazard. Trans fats stiffen neuronal membranes, making it more difficult for them to transmit information.
High trans fat consumption has been linked to brain shrinkage and a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. One study carried out in 2015 even suggested that a person’s ability to remember words decreases by 0.76 words per gram of trans fats consumed!
Don't be afraid of eating fats. You know now that they are important. Eat them and more than actually carbohydrates.