A Guide To Healthy Fats & Why They Are Important For Brain Health
Did you know that approximately 60% of the brain is made up of fat? Yep! Crazy hey? Not only does fat play a huge role in the structural components of the brain, essential fatty acids (EFAs) in particular are involved in the synthesis and functions of brain neurotransmitters—that is, the chemical messengers that communicate to other parts of the body. Ensuring you're getting the right amount of healthy fats is super important for optimum brain function!
Good Fat vs. Bad Fat
Unsaturated fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated)
Just like everything in the nutrition world, not all fats are created equal! Unsaturated fats (like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) are the 'healthy' fats we all want to be eating more of. Unsaturated fats can help improve cholesterol levels by decreasing bad (LDL) cholesterol and increasing good (HDL) cholesterol and are great for both brain and heart health.
Examples of monounsaturated fats include; unsalted nuts, olive oil and avocado whilst polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 rich sources such as oily fish, chia seeds and flaxseeds.
Saturated fats can be found in both animal and plant products. Unhealthy saturated and trans fats can heighten your risk of heart disease by increasing the bad (LDL) cholesterol and lowering the good (HDL) cholesterol.
Foods that commonly contain saturated fats include butter, coconut oil, ghee, the skin of chicken/poultry, deli-style meats (salami and ham) and ice cream, just to name a few.
According to The Heart Foundation, trans fats are found naturally in some foods, such as butter, dairy and some meat products. Most of the trans fats eaten in Australia are from processed foods.
Trans fats are typically found (or hidden!) in packaged foods such as baked goods including biscuits, cakes and pastries, salty snacks such as microwave popcorn and potato chips and deep fried foods such as hot chips and bacon as well as margarine.
The spotlight on Omega-3
Omega-3, found in sources such as oily fish, is one of the most widely studied nutrients when it comes to brain health! This is due to the fact that omega-3 fatty acids are a vital component in the brain's membrane itself (specifically the myelin sheath) which is needed for conveying nerve signals and thus, proper communication within the body. It’s the exact same reason our brains love other healthy fats so much... it’s part of their structural build! There is evidence to support that adequate intake of omega-3s in the diet may improve cognitive function like memory and decrease the risk of conditions such as Alzheimer's (as well as feelings of anxiety and depression). Nut consumption has also been shown to help improve cognitive health which translates to improved memory and learning amongst other brain benefits.
OUR FAVOURITE SOURCES OF HEALTHY FATS:
- Atlantic salmon
- Hemp seeds and oil
- Chia seeds
- Raw nuts and seeds (walnuts in particular for bonus points!)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
HOW TO INCORPORATE THEM INTO YOUR DIET:
Aim for three serves of oily fish a week by enjoying a tuna pasta salad for lunch or getting creative with miso salmon or a grilled fish recipe for dinner! Be sure to also check out this vegan frittata recipe made with avocado oil.
If you don’t like fish or follow a vegan diet, aim for plant-based sources of omega 3s such as chia seeds, hemp products, walnuts and flaxseeds. Add them to your smoothies and raw treats so that you ’re not missing out on the good stuff.
If you find raw nuts bland, try seasoning and roasting them yourself in the oven for added flavour as some packet nuts that you find at the supermarket are really high in salt and can be roasted in cheaper oils such as canola.
Other ways to get your nut fix is by enjoying them in a healthy snack bar! The Supercubes White Choc and Macademia Bar in the June Brainfood Box contains the goodness of macademia for a health dose of Omega-3 as well as the added benefits of both pre and probiotics for a happy tummy!
Want to learn more about brain health to improve your mood, focus and productivity? Purchase the June GoodnessMe Box to gain FREE access to our 14 Day Brainfood Challenge kicking off on June 15, 2020.