You Likely Need More Phospholipids and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

brain health healthy eating real food resilience sugarfree May 12, 2024

It is sugar (not fat) and a lack of omega-3s that are driving cerebrovascular disease. 

It is not cholesterol either, as it is a brain essential, meaning that eggs are positively good for your brain!

Unfortunately, effective marketing from processed food companies with a vested interest in steering you toward their unhealthy products (full of sugar, salt and processed oils) mean that many of us are deficient in the essential nutrients that will build healthy brains and bodies.

Strategy #2 ~ Get Plenty of Phospholipids and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s are a kind of fat (a.k.a. fatty acid). They’re part of the membranes that surround each cell, and are especially important in the brain and nerves. 

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.

Three of the omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important for health. They are:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) - essential fatty acid
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) - biologically active fatty acid
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) - biologically active fatty acid

ALA is essential - literally essential for health, just like essential vitamins and minerals. This is because the body can’t create it from other nutrients. It is this omega-3 that the body needs in order to create the biologically active EPA and DHA. In fact, research shows that the primary role of ALA is to be the building block for EPA and DHA.

ALA is the plant-based omega-3 and is found in many seeds like flax, hemp, and chia. It’s also found in walnuts, and olive oil. 

EPA and DHA, on the other hand, are found mainly in seafood, especially oily fish. They are also found in algae, which is a vegetarian source.

DID YOU KNOW? Fish have the biologically active forms of omega-3s because they eat the algae and store extra EPA and DHA in their fat!

The conversion of plant-based essential ALA into the biologically active EPA and DHA is complex and requires several steps and enzymes. Unfortunately, the process isn’t very efficient. The conversion rate of ALA to EPA is about 8-12%, while the conversion to DHA is only about 1%.  It’s because of the inefficiency of converting from the vegetarian source ALA to the active forms, that you are more likely to reap the benefits of a seafood source to get your EPA and DHA directly.


Phospholipids are not widely known, but they are also a brain essential, just like omega-3 fats which must be attached to them to work. 

There are a number of kinds of phospholipids, all starting with ‘phosphatidyl’. These are: 

  • Phosphatidyl choline (PC) 
  • Phosphatidyl serine (PS) 
  • Phosphatidyl inositol (PI) 
  • Phosphatidyl ethanolamine (PE) 

Phospholipids get attached to an omega-3 fat to build brain-cell membranes. Most DHA in your brain is attached to PI, PE or PC.

For example: Phosphatidylcholine attaches to DHA to create PC-DHA, sometimes called phosphorylated DHA.

The more PC-DHA you have, the lower your risk of Alzheimer’s, and the less you have, the greater your risk. Research has shown that those with Alzheimer’s have 2.5 times less in their blood and 20 per cent less brain volume. 

Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is also the raw material for the brain to make one of its most important neurotransmitters, acetylcholine. 

These critical phospholipids, while making up a large part of your brain, have until recently been sidelined because they are ‘semi-essential’, meaning we can make them to a limited extent but don’t make enough, hence they are, like vitamins and essential fats, an essential part of our diet. The phosphatidyl part is easy to make; it’s the other part, choline, serine, etc., that we have to eat.

Choline is an essential nutrient, much like omega-3 fats, and it is vital for health, especially for the brain, but it is not sufficiently supplied in many people’s diets, especially those who are largely vegan. 

While the body can make a little, it does not make enough, and thus choline is being reclassified as an essential nutrient.  Without choline, omega-3 doesn’t work. 

Food sources of Phosphatidylcholine:

  • Whole eggs
  • Organ meats
  • Fish, like salmon, tuna and cod
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Soybeans, but not processed - instead try fermented soy or steamed beans a.k.a. edamame
  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Cruciferous vegetables

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.  
  • It’s important to get enough choline from your diet, as this nutrient is involved in important bodily processes, including neurotransmitter synthesis and metabolism.
  • To ensure you’re getting enough choline in your diet, make a point to consume a variety of choline-rich foods, such as the ones on this list, on a daily basis.

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