Brain Foods that Supply Essential Nutrients #2 ~ Essential Fats!

brain health healthy eating healthy recipes real food resilience sugarfree Mar 13, 2022

Last week I talked about the Brain Foods that Supply Protein (LINK HERE).

So many tissues, biochemicals and processes in our bodies require protein–and their building blocks, amino acids–that getting enough is a key strategy to saving your brain!  

As I’ve said before, one of the Key Principles to putting on the brakes on the presumed “downhill slide of aging” is to Eat Natural, Whole Foods that are rich in the many nutrients that will help our minds and bodies stay healthy — and in some cases even turn back the clock!!

Today we look at Brain Foods that include Essential Fats plus you will find 2 delicious recipes to put this knowledge into action!

HOW CAN YOU SAVE and protect YOUR BRAIN with FAT?

There are several types of fats. They’re broken down into two main categories: saturated and unsaturated. Unsaturated fatty acids are further broken down into monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated (PUFAs). The main difference between saturated and unsaturated fat is the number of double bonds each contains, as well as the unique effects on cholesterol levels and heart health. However, both can be included as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.

The main types of PUFAs are omega-3s and omega-6s. We don’t hear much about omega-6s because we tend to get too much of these in our diet already. Omega-6s are found in meat, poultry, and many common seed oils like corn and sunflower. So, the focus has been to swap out some of those omega-6s to get more omega-3s like our ancestors did.

Omega-3s are a kind of fat (a.k.a. fatty acid). Different fats are used by our bodies for different essential functions. They’re part of the membranes that surround each cell, and are especially important in the brain and nerves. They can mediate the effect of our immune cells as well as influence the production of neurotransmitters and hormones. 

Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, and have health benefits for the heart, brain, and our mental health.  In fact, it’s thought that the reduced intake of omega-3s over the last few generations is one of the reasons for the increase in many of the chronic diseases, both physical and mental, that are so common these days.

For more details on Omega-3s, check out this previous blog (LINK HERE).

FAT IS YOUR FRIEND!!

Since the 1950s we have been afraid of fat.  Why?  In 1951, a physiology professor named Ancel Keys, set out to find the root of heart disease.  He travelled to Italy and studied what is now known as the Mediterranean diet which he linked to low incidence of heart disease among those who ate little red meat.  

From here he went on to study the diets in other countries and concluded that diets rich in saturated fats caused heart disease.  Why was this an issue?  Because while there might have been a causal correlation, many factors were ignored AND countries which didn’t align with what he was trying to prove were excluded from his results.  Never-the-less, Keys went on to influence nutritional advice and public opinion, setting up decades of fearing fat, especially saturated and promoting official recommendations that we eat vegetable oils and margarine instead.  And we now know that these “fake fats” are not healthy, and eating them has has been detrimental to the health of our bodies and our brains!

As well, recent (2016) research unearthed historical documents that show that the sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead.

Based on all of this, the Food Industry responded by creating a myriad of low-fat processed food products, often with added sugar to make them palatable, further exacerbating the situation.

Does SATURATED FAT contribute to heart disease?  

We know now that saturated fat has been shown to raise protective HDL cholesterol - and also the benign large LDL - but not the smaller, LDL that can penetrate arterial walls.  

And it’s now known that SAT FAT provides a number of health benefits.  

They are building blocks for cell membranes, hormones, mineral absorption (calcium), carriers for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, fuel for your brain, and feeling full and satiated so less likely to overeat and snack on processed foods.

Key Takeaways:

  • Focus on high quality, healthy fats to help satiate you.  
  • Contrary to the marketing of the anti-fat industry, fats and oils are not bad for you. 
  • They don't cause cancer or give you heart disease.  
  • Our bodies need fat to survive, everything from building new brain tissues and hormones to help us absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.  
  • That doesn’t mean to go wild over French Fries or other “trans fats”–rather it means to consume real, healthy, energising fats found in their whole form, in nature.  

Examples of Brain Foods with Essential Fats:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil:  Fake Olive Oil has been in the news recently as some dishonest suppliers have doctored their oils with cheaper processed vegetable oils (which are not healthy oil products!).

Real extra virgin olive oil is among the top recommended brain foods due to powerful antioxidants that it provides known as polyphenols, as well as healthy monounsaturated fats. It’s a staple ingredient in the Mediterranean diet and the related MIND diet, which studies show are two eating patterns that are associated with cognitive benefits among older adults.

Including EVOO in your diet may not only improve learning and memory, but also reverse the age- and disease-related changes. The oil also helps fight against the kind of proteins that are toxic to the brain and induce Alzheimer’s.

Coconut Oil: Coconut oil may alleviate age-related cognitive deficits and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. It can help suppress cells that are responsible for inflammation. It may also help with memory loss as you age and fight bad bacteria that hang out in your gut.

Researchers found significant improvements in Alzheimer’s patients after 45 to 90 days of treatment with medium chain triglycerides from coconut oil. The primary mechanism of action appears to be prevention and/or reversal of mitochondrial damage in the brain. Coconut oil provides ketone bodies, which function as an alternate fuel for the brain as it becomes more resistant to glucose utilisation with age.

Ghee is made from butter that is cooked over low heat until the water evaporates and the milk solids have a chance to start to brown lightly, and settle to the bottom where they can be removed, leaving you with just the golden brown, liquid fat. It has a high smoke point—about 465º F compared to butter’s 350º F, and so it can be easily used in cooking. The cooking process also removes casein and lactose, making ghee suitable for the dairy-sensitive. 

And it is shelf-stable, meaning it can be stored without any refrigeration for extended periods of time.  It has a delicious, deeply nutty flavour, and so is delicious added on top of soups, stews or curries.

Ghee has played a key role in Ayurveda for centuries, where it's prized for its anti-inflammatory, digestive, and therapeutic properties.  Ghee is high in Omega-3s and butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid thought to be good for your gastrointestinal tract. 

Ghee is available in many health food stores, but it is pretty simple to make–just make sure you use organic, grass-fed butter for the healthiest result!

Avocados are actually a type of berry!  They provide a substantial amount of monounsaturated fatty acids and are rich in many vitamins and minerals. Avocados are a source of vitamins C, E, K, and B6, as well as riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and potassium. They also provide lutein, beta carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Avocados are a good source of folate, which plays an important role in overall dietary health. Studies have also found links between low folate levels and depression.  Folate helps prevent the buildup of homocysteine, a substance that can impair circulation and delivery of nutrients to the brain. Reviews of past research have linked excess homocysteine with cognitive dysfunction, depression, and the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which regulate mood, sleep, and appetite.

And if you haven’t already seen last week’s blog, check out these two brain food sources of protein that are also rich in Essential Fats:  Salmon & other Fatty Fish and Walnuts, Pumpkin Seeds & Other Nuts & Seeds (LINK HERE)

All of these nutrient-packed brain foods fight disease and protect brain cells.

Fats have been linked to many beneficial effects on health and have been shown to help improve heart health, boost brain function, promote satiety and enhance nutrient absorption.

A few examples of healthy fats include foods like avocados, eggs, dark chocolate, grass-fed beef, full-fat dairy, fatty fish, MCT oil, nuts and seeds, olive oil, coconut oil and butter/ghee.

Enjoy a good mix of these heart-healthy fats and pair them with a balanced diet to help optimise your health.

Recipes: Avocado Dressing on Shrimp Tacos

Avocado Dressing

Pair this creamy Avocado Dressing with any salad. Or reduce water to make a thick and delicious dip for chips or veggie sticks or a topping for Shrimp Tacos!

Makes: 1 cup

Prep time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 large avocado, peeled and seed removed
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced (or 1⁄2 lemon, about 1⁄4 cup)
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1⁄4 water, if needed to desired consistency

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients in a food processor until it reaches desired consistency.
  2. Will store in the fridge for 5 days.

Shrimp Tacos

Makes: 4 servings

Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cooked shrimp (defrosted, peeled and patted dry)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika (or spices of your choice)
  • 1⁄2 cup lettuce (chopped)
  • 1⁄2 cup purple cabbage (finely diced)
  • 1⁄2 cup carrots (julienned)
  • 1⁄4 cup radishes (sliced)
  • 1⁄2 cup parsley (chopped)
  • 1⁄2 cup cucumber (thinly sliced)
  • 8 wraps – your choice of lettuce leaves, corn tortillas, etc.
  • 1 tsp hot sauce (or to taste, optional)
  • 1⁄2 cup Avocado Dressing

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F (191C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Defrost, peel and dry the cooked shrimps. Combine the spices and sprinkle over the shrimps.  Place the shrimps on the baking sheet, with space between them.
  3. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until desired temperature, flipping at the halfway mark.
  4. Combine cabbage, carrots and radishes together in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Assemble tacos: on each lettuce leaf or taco shell, divide cabbage mixture and other veggies, shrimps, top with parsley, hot sauce (optional) and Avocado Dressing.
  6. Enjoy!

Make it a Complete Meal!  

Select and prepare another veggie, salad and/or starch and serve it with the Shrimp Tacos.

 

For more info on this and other natural health topics:

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