Over the years, fats have had a bad reputation and are often touted as one of the most harmful ingredients ever to go inside the human body. It turns out that not all fats are bad. In fact, the human body needs 44 to 78 grams of fat daily (although this number would vary depending on your daily caloric intake) to make sure you function well throughout the day. Good fats are loaded with nootropic benefits and the good news is you can supplement these fats in a nootropic blend for a better brain.
Here’s the surprising part: the human brain is made of at least 60 percent fat, most of which must be obtained from the foods you eat. What’s even more surprising is that your body needs fat to keep your brain healthy and in tiptop shape, especially as you get older.
Then comes the challenging part. Not all fats you get from food are bad ones. Believe it or not, there are many types of good fat, which your brain and body can benefit from. In case you are curious about the types of fat that should be included in your daily diet, stick around to find out.
First, why is fat good for the human brain?
With all the evils surrounding fat, it is hard to believe that your brain actually needs it. Aside from the 60 percent fat composition of your brain, fats come with many brain benefits to make sure that the most powerful organ in your body is in good condition.
Improve Cognition and Memory
The smooth processing of the signals in your brain through and in between nerve cells are essential to make sure that your brain is functioning well. By functioning well, this includes your memory and overall cognitive function.
Several studies show that good fat such as omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and age related cognitive decline. This is because aside from genes, your diet can also determine how much and how soon plaque buildup will be accumulated in your brain. The more you eat unhealthy fat like trans fat, the faster the plaque buildup will be, which leads to inevitable cognitive decline.
That’s not all. Including healthy fats in your diet increases the production of acetylcholine, a type of neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in both your memory and learning ability. Phosphatidylserine is another beneficial fat that helps with myelin layering, the component responsible for processing speed from axon to axon of adjacent neurons.
Good Fats Are Natural Mood Enhancers
If you suffer from depression, or even feel down and blue a little more than normal, good fat can help alter your chemical makeup and improve your mood. Healthy fats help nerve cells in your brain to communicate better. When that happens, it is easier to release feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin in your body, which leads to better mood.
The best part is healthy fats are safer and do not pose long-term health risks compared to antidepressant or anti-anxiety drugs to make you feel better. There are also natural anxiolytics(anti-anxiety) nootropics that can decrease stress, anxiety, and elevate your mood.
Encourages a Fat Burning State of Ketosis
Are you on Ketogenic diet? If yes, then you will be happy to know that good fats increases ketosis, which uses fat and not carbohydrates to fuel your energy levels. As a result, the ketones protect your brain against various diseases, thereby boosting your overall brain health as well.
The next question is this: what is considered good fat and what is considered bad fat to make sure that your brain is in tiptop condition?
Say Hello to the Good Fats to Improve Brain Health
Determining good fat from the bad ones can be tricky, especially if you don’t know what you are looking for. It can be challenging too, since some fats are masked and advertised as good fat.
To make sure you are on the right track, these fats must be included in your diet since they are good for your brain:
Monounsaturated Fat is Good for Brain Health
This type of fat is one of the best fats you should be feeding your brain. The best part is monounsaturated fat is abundant in many foods you eat, which is ideal because most of your fat intake should come from this type of fat.
What can monounsaturated fat do for you?
This fat lowers your LDL or bad cholesterol levels and maintains good cholesterol in your body, thereby reducing your risk of developing stroke and heart disease. Consumption of monounsaturated fat also reduces the risk of beta amyloid plaque buildup, which negatively affects your overall cognitive function. Beta amyloid is the plaque that is largely responsible for age related cognitive decline and more severe neurological damage that we see in Alzheimer’s patients.
One study also revealed that monounsaturated fat played a positive role in the cognitive functioning of older women.
Some of the good sources of monounsaturated fat are:
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Sesame oil
- Coconut oil
- Peanut oil
- Peanut butter
- Almond butter
- Nuts and seeds such as pecans, almonds, cashew, and peanuts
- Beans and legumes
This is also known as Essential Fatty Acids or EFAs.
Aside from monounsaturated fat, your brain and body regularly needs polyunsaturated fat to keep you healthy and functioning; hence the name “essential” fatty acids.
There are two types of essential fatty acids:
Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 is often touted as the “miracle food” and for good reason. It improves your body’s ability to build muscle, prevent diseases, lose fat, and everything in between that keeps you in good shape. When it comes to your brain, omega-3 is helpful too, because it boosts one’s mental wellness, protects your memory from deteriorating early, and supports your cognitive functioning. It is also known to help improve brain-related conditions such as ADHD, depression, and bipolar disorder.
This is because of eicosapentaeonic acid or EPA and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA commonly found in algae. These two components found in fatty acids are the reason why your memory is well protected and cognitive functioning is still in its best shape. Specifically, EPA supports cognitive function while DHA is responsible for the growth, development, and function of the human brain.
DHA is a nootropic that science supports. The Journal of Nutrition studied the effects of DHA on community volunteers aged 35-54 years old with no neuropsychiatric disorders. The authors found that a higher percentage of DHA lead to improved performance across 5 dimensions of cognitive functioning. Participants’ working memory, non verbal reasoning, mental flexibility and vocabulary all improved.
Even more telling is the strong correlation between DHA, working memory and vocabulary as these parameters continued to show linear gain even after prior education and vocabulary were accounted for. The implication for DHA is that it’s a major component of brain health throughout our lifespan .
Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids
There is not much spotlight on omega-6 compared to omega-3, but this doesn’t mean it is not special. When combined properly with omega-3, this type of essential fat can also reduce inflammation in your brain, helps in the development of the brain and nerve tissue, and regulates your mood.
You can get polyunsaturated fats from the following:
- Grass-fed animal meat
- Free range chicken eggs
- Chia seeds
- Fish oil
- Vegetable oil such as soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and corn oil
- Green leaves
- Soft margarine that is not hydrogenated
- Seeds like sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds
Not All Saturated Fat is Bad For Your
You heard somewhere that saturated fats are bad for your brain. On the other hand, saturated fat comes in good forms too, because surprisingly, it is one of the main components of human brain cells. It is also naturally occurring in many foods we eat.
To keep your brain healthy, make sure you go for natural saturated fats because they help strengthen your brain cells and keep your brain healthy and functioning properly. Try to avoid high-fat meats and some dairy products because they are high in saturated fat that is not so good for the brain.
If you want to get the right kind of saturated fats, then make sure you include the following foods in your list:
- Whole eggs
- Lean meat
- Poultry products like chicken and turkey, sans the skin
- Palm oil
- Coconut oil
- Palm kernel oil
To be safe, limit your intake of saturated fat to five to six percent of your daily caloric intake. For instance, if you consume 2,000 calories per day, saturated fat must not be more than 13 grams daily.
Bid Bye-bye to the Bad Fats and Improve Your Brain Health
Now that you know what types of fat you should include in your diet, the next thing you need to remember is the type of fats you need to avoid.
You might ask why.
High fat diets- with the bad kinds, especially those that come from unhealthy fats, triggers an autoimmune response in the brain’s central nervous system. Instead of protecting the brain against unwanted elements, it knocks out the protective response, thereby damaging the synapses of the brain, specifically in the hippocampus. Keep in mind that the hippocampus is responsible for learning and memory – and you really don’t want to mess that up.
Therefore, you need to avoid trans fat, which is the most evil type of fat around. Trans fats do not behave the same way as natural fats, which could open doors to various health complications that affect your body, including your brain. This is because trans fats have been partially saturated with hydrogen to extend shelf life, which causes cellular destruction, messes up your body’s hormone production, and increases inflammation in the brain. It also decreases your brain’s total volume, which in return, adversely affects your brain’s natural function and processing capability.
These foods are high in trans fat and should be avoided at all costs:
- Processed foods like crackers, triscuits, and microwave popcorn
- Store-bought salad dressings
- Baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and other pastries
- Muffins - alternative recipe for brain healthy muffins
- Fried foods like doughnuts and French fries
- Pie crust
- Fast food - Check out our list of foods to avoid for the best brain health
- Vegetable shortening
Be careful, though, because trans fat comes in different names too. If you see “esterified fats,” vegetable shortening, “or “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” on the label, put it down and move on to healthier alternatives.
Takeaway Message on Fat for Improving Brain Health
Never underestimate your brain and its current condition. Even if it seems fine now, there will come a time when your memory, learning ability, and cognitive function will decline. Don’t wait for that day to come.
The key is to start taking care of your brain as early as now and take note of the good and bad fats you should and should not include in your diet. Sticking to the good fats will help in maintaining your overall brain function and health for years to come.
You can also supplement with nootropics to improve the functioning and protection of your brain. Herbal nootropics offer nutrients that your brain and body readily use to improve processing speed, neural communication, protection from beta amyloid plaque buildup, neuroregeneration, as well as sleep recovery - when your brain is in over drive cleaning up all of the junk from your day. The “junk” is oxidants, chemicals, toxins, and stressors that accumulate throughout the day.
Remember this: it matters what type of fats you eat and NOT how much you are eating, so watch out and take it easy on your consumption.