Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Brain Health


Written by Nicole Scheidl

August 27, 2021

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for improving brain health.

Research is showing that specific nutrients can affect the way our brain functions and the emotions we feel. Nutrition can impact our mood and outlook.

Scientist have been working on outlining important Brain Essential Nutrients, what I’m going to refer to as the BEN Scale, to measure the amount and type of nutrients that are essential for brain function.

A diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids supports the cognitive processes of your brain. On an evolutionary scale, a diet high in fish has been correlated in humans with the development of a bigger brain. And on the flip-side, diets high in trans fats are shown to have a negative effect on brain function.

The BEN Scale in real life

So, how do you implement the BEN Scale into your everyday life?

Long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids, are a vital nutrient for brain structure, but they cannot be easily synthesized by the body. Instead, these long-chain omega-3 fatty acids must be developed from short-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in the diet.

Brain function relies on dietary intake of DHA to support the brain’s grey matter. DHA is a major structural component of our brain. It is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain.

The role of DHA in Alzheimer’s disease is the subject of ongoing research, but what seems to be emerging is that nutritional intake of omega-3 fatty acids may have a more positive effect in healthy individuals than in individuals already challenged by dementia. That means it can have a protective effect on the brain.

omega-3 fatty acids

There is an interesting study that compares rates of fish consumption with rates of depression. In Japan, which has high consumption of fish (around 140 lbs per person per year) there are relatively very low rates of major depression. In Canada where there are low rates of fish consumption (around 50 lbs per person per year) there are relatively high rates of major depression.

The take-away from the research is that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain health.

Your Fit Minds Friday Challenge

Your challenge this week is to introduce into your diet foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Some foods to consider are:

  • flax (11.4 grams per 85 gram serving),
  • hemp,
  • herring and sardines (1.3 – 2 grams per 85 gram serving),
  • mackerel, salmon, halibut, tuna,
  • unsalted nuts such as peanuts, cashews, pecans, and almonds are also options.

You might also consider berries such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries. While they don’t have the amount of omega-3s that fish and nuts do, they are an option. For example, one cup of blackberries contains 135 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids.

However, if you struggle to increase omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, an easy way to do that is to introduce flax seeds onto your plate.

Getting the Most Out of Flax

One trick to eating flax seed in a way that allows your body to benefit from the nutrients in it, is to grind the flax seed with a pepper grinder and sprinkle it on your food. This aids in digestion and getting the most nutritive value out of the food. It also has very little impact on taste.


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