Go nuts and green - Food for the Brain

Go nuts and green

Seafood is not the only source of omega-3 fats, nor is omega-3 the only essential fat. Nuts, seeds and their oils that come from a hotter climate concentrate omega-6 fats, while colder climate nuts and seeds, such as walnut and chia seeds, concentrate omega-3 fats.

This vegetable-based source of omega-3 is also rich in the leaves of colder climate plants such as kale, broccoli, cabbage and other greens. This type of omega-3, called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), must be converted into DHA to build the brain – and not much does get converted. That’s why oily fish, which are really cold-water carnivorous fish, concentrate DHA up the food chain, and their oils are a direct source of DHA.

© Patrick Holford & Piatkus

DHA can be derived from cold water seaweed, another cold climate leaf.

What’s interesting is that more women than men, including pregnant women and non-fish eating women, seem to convert more ALA into DHA as if the brain needs DHA so much that, if it’s missing but ALA is still present, it makes as much as it can.

Doubly interesting, and concerning, is that a pregnant woman’s body, if deprived of enough DHA, will actually substitute an ineffective fat, oleic acid, to build an ineffective brain, and the baby is born with a defective brain which is unlikely to ever fully recover. That’s how vital omega-3 DHA is both for a baby’s brain and yours.

So here’s what to eat and make sure they form a major part of your daily diet:

Think in terms of having a small handful of nuts or seeds and a large handful of these kind of vegetables.

Walnuts, particularly, are associated with improved and cognitive performance.

Chia seeds don’t need grinding as they absorb and become soft in liquid so you can add them to cereal or smoothies, even soups. Be sure to up your intake of water/herbal tea etc as they are very absorbent.