Omega Fats and Brain Health
Our society has gone through many diet fads, and with the keto-genic diet being all the rage now, there is a lot of talk about having healthy fats in our diet. From a brain health standpoint, it is important to make sure diets are well-rounded and include healthy, organic, plant-based and grass-fed fats. When fats come from a clean source, our bodies know how to use them.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about fats. In the 1950’s, John Kellogg was one of the advocates for a connection between fat and heart attacks. Since then, there has been a push in manufactured fats and foods. With the rise of Americans needing to have fast, quick solutions, the food industry has started manufacturing food. Our healthy gardening and food harvest has decreased. Our soil is lacking important nutrients. We are eating more Omega 6 and trans fat, which destroys our bodies, exposes us to neurotoxins, and causes our bodies to react with inflammation, hormone destruction, and a number of other health issues.
We are what we eat. Period. It is a struggle to get children to eat healthy, and it is impossible to live in a box and shelter them from all the commercial and societal expectations that they “need” sugar and junk to live a happy childhood. Personally, as a mother, I fight this battle every day. I am pretty sure my family has isolated conversations about what a hippie I am.
BUT, I notice a difference with my own child. I realize how much of a connection behavior and food has. That is one of the reasons my career has landed in this direction. I have spent late nights trying to figure out the connection. While there are many factors affecting a child, there is no argument that diet has an impact.
So why fats?
Our brain is made up of 60% fat. Science has proven that our brains are continuing to grow and prune, and to form synapses, and create neurotransmitters; fat is a requirement.
So what is healthy fat?
Healthy fat food usually carries Omega 3 fatty acids (ALA-alpha-linolenic acid), which is then broken down into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) This is what our brain knows how to use. When your fat source is processed, or exposed to chemicals, your body stores it in fat cells to protect your vital organs. When it is derived form a healthy source,your body knows how to break it down and use it.
Some great fat sources are
- Grass-fed cheese or butter (if not avoiding dairy)
- Whole, pasture-raised eggs
- Wild Caught, fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines or anchovies
- Cod liver oil
- Seeds (including chia seeds)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Grass-fed beef
It is a challenge to get kids to eat healthy, but I am a firm believer that they will learn from watching adults, and they eat what is in front of them. If you ever told me that my son, who vomited when we introduced any new texture at 1.5-2 would be eating wild caught salmon, home-made granola bars, and tolerating almond butter and flax seed, I wouldn’t have believed you. But over time, with consistency, he got used to it.
Your kids will too. Try cooking with coconut oil, pour olive oil on top of pasta, play around with some fun fish recipes. I promise, they will eventually try it, and you will notice a difference. Plus, when kids are eating the right foods, they crave the sugary, processed foods less because they are full. Then, they can enjoy that food at birthday parties and special occasions, and not be on a sugar roller coaster daily (more on that in another blog.)
Here are some great recipes to start with:
Still curious about the connection between you brain and food? I recommend reading Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense Of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.
Behaved Brain Wellness Center
Healthier Kids – Happier Parents
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