Studies have shown that Essential Fatty Acids (EFA), are necessary for healthy brain development, particularly from conception to 2 years old. When a child is malnourished in the earliest weeks of brain development, poor health and learning disabilities occur. Elderly people need for EFA’s too, as an aging brain can suffer from vision problems, Alzheimer’s, Dementia or Depression, and High Blood Pressure to name a few. What are EFA’s? Essential fatty acids are essential because the body cannot produce them on its own. We must get them through food. Let me share with you the top five things to keep in mind when caring for the most important body part, your brain.
First: 60% of your brain is made up of Fat. It’s a part of the lining of your nerves and of your cells especially in your eyes, brain and heart. EFA’s are also important for the immune system to work in fighting bacteria and viruses that attack the body. Finally, heart health depends on getting enough EFA’s to keep it running well.
Second: Omega-3 Fatty Acids are necessary to body mechanics working efficiently. Sort of like the motor oil to keep the gears running smoothly. They consist of Alpha-Linoleic Acid (ALA), Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA). DHA and EPA are found in fatty fish and we can make them from ALA in small quantities, but must rely on food to get enough to keep us healthy.
Third: What food contains EFA’s? We can get EFA’s from flaxseed, walnuts, salmon, dark green vegetables as well as fortified dairy products like milk, yogurt, soy milk, eggs and others. Omega 3’s also comes in pill form that contains fish oil and many people add those to their diet plan, too. How much do we need? While it is always best to get your nutrients from real food a recommendation for those taking Omega 3’s in fish oil pill form might be between 500-1000mg depending upon your health. You do not need pills if you are healthy and eating healthy food. As with any information you receive regarding your health an appointment with your personal physician is the place to start.
Fourth: The Omega-6 vs. Omega-3 controversy. Both Omega-3 and Omega-6 are considered essential fatty acids and thus both should be consumed. Omega-3’s protect heart health and help prevent strokes while Omega-6 lowers LDL cholesterol and helps reduce inflammation. We get plenty of Omega-6 in the Western diet from oils such as Corn, Soybean, Safflower and Cottonseed oils.
Fifth: Healthy diet and exercise are always the best answer to keep you brain and heart healthy. Even as little as 20 minutes a day pumps more oxygen to the brain and gets the blood flowing throughout the body. A research study by the University of Georgia reports benefits to the brain caused by exercise a) increases hormones that the brain needs to stimulate body responses and b) more neural connections are created which help fight cognitive loss. Adding mental activities like brain training along with physical activity is a double bonus to keep your brain in the game.