Unlocking the secrets to optimal brain health and meal satisfaction lies in the realm of healthy fats. These essential macronutrients not only enhance the deliciousness of our meals but also play a pivotal role in nourishing our brain. Surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of our brain is composed of fats, making it evident that a well-rounded intake of this macronutrient is indispensable for peak cognitive function.
In this enlightening article, we delve into the profound benefits that fats confer upon the brain, shedding light on their vital role in supporting cognitive well-being. We will explore the various types of fats and their specific contributions to brain health, and also unveil the significance of ketones in promoting mental clarity and focus.
Different types of fat
Fat is an essential macronutrient that provides energy, aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and supports various physiological functions in the body. There are several types of fat, each with different chemical structures and health implications.
Saturated fat is common in animal products such as meat, poultry, butter, cheese, and other dairy products, and is usually solid at room temperature (butter, palm oil). It’s not necessary to avoid foods that are high in this type of fat, however, it’s recommended to be mindful of their intake and enjoy them with a variety of other fat sources in your diet.
Unsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature and are considered healthier than saturated fats. There are two main types of unsaturated fats:
- Monounsaturated Fat. Monounsaturated fats are found in foods such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Including monounsaturated fats in the diet can help improve heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol levels (the "bad" cholesterol) while maintaining or increasing HDL cholesterol levels (the "good" cholesterol).
- Polyunsaturated Fat. Polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils like soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and fish oil. They include two essential fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, have anti-inflammatory properties and are beneficial for heart and brain health. Omega-6 fatty acids are present in various plant-based oils, and while they are also essential, modern diets often contain excessive amounts of omega-6 compared to omega-3, which may promote inflammation if not balanced properly.
Trans fats are artificially created through the process of hydrogenation, which converts liquid vegetable oils into solid fats. Trans fats can be found in many processed and fried foods, such as baked goods, margarine, and some fast-food items. These fats are known to raise “bad” cholesterol levels and lower “good” cholesterol levels, significantly increasing the risk of heart disease. Due to their harmful effects, it is recommended to minimize or eliminate trans fats from the diet.
Why are ketones so important?
Ketones are made by your liver when your body goes into the metabolic state known as ketosis, which happens when your body uses fat as fuel instead of glucose. This happens when you limit your daily carb intake to less than 30-50 grams per day, then your body will start using ketones to supply your cells with the energy they need to carry out their functions. Ketones make sure your brain and muscles function properly.
If you follow a ketogenic diet or a low-carb diet, you already know how important ketones are. But if that’s not the case, you must know that ketones are readily transported across the blood-brain barrier, providing an efficient energy source for the brain. This is especially significant during periods of low glucose availability, such as fasting or when carbohydrates are limited, as it helps to maintain cognitive function and mental clarity.
TIP: have a high fat high protein breakfast to boost your brain function in the mornings!
How do healthy fats boost our brains?
Healthy fats, as we can see, play a vital role in boosting brain health and cognitive function. The brain is composed of approximately 60% fat, and it requires a steady supply of essential fats to support its structure, function, and overall well-being. Consuming the right types of fats can have several positive effects on brain health.
1. Building brain cell membranes
Healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, are essential components of cell membranes in the brain. These fats help maintain the integrity and fluidity of brain cell membranes, which are vital for communication between nerve cells (neurons) and the efficient transmission of signals in the brain.
2. Supporting neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that facilitate communication between neurons. Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in the synthesis and function of neurotransmitters. Adequate levels of these fats can help support mood, memory, and overall cognitive function.
3. Anti-inflammatory effects
Chronic inflammation in the brain has been linked to various neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline. Healthy fats have anti-inflammatory properties, which help protect brain cells and reduce the risk of cognitive impairment.
Some healthy fats have been shown to have neuroprotective effects. They can help shield the brain from oxidative stress and harmful free radicals, potentially reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.
5. Improved blood flow
Consuming healthy fats can positively impact cardiovascular health, leading to better blood flow to the brain. Adequate blood flow ensures that the brain receives the necessary nutrients and oxygen, which are essential for optimal brain function.
6. Enhancing brain plasticity
Brain plasticity is also known as neuroplasticity and it is the brain’s activity to adapt and reorganize itself in response to experiences and learning. Healthy fats, especially omega-3s, have been associated with improved brain plasticity which supports learning, memory, and cognitive flexibility.
7. Improved mental health
Several mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and ADHD usually have in common low levels of essential levels of fatty acids in the brain. While correlation doesn’t imply causation, it’s a fact that healthy fats, in particular omega-3s, help have better brain function and prevent some diseases.
Foods rich in healthy fats to include in your meals
Including foods rich in healthy fats on a daily basis not only will benefit your brain and heart health but your overall health and energy, so here’s a list of our top 5 nutritious and delicious foods rich in healthy fats to eat every day:
1. Funky Fat Chocolates
Our Funky Fat Chocolates are made with the healthiest ingredients for you. Also, they have added organic MCT oil to keep you energized and satisfied for a longer period of time. Our MCT oil derives 100% from coconuts and is combined with Acacia Fibre. Also, they make the perfect snack and you can choose the flavor you love the most. You can eat the chocolate bar as it is or mix it with some other ingredients to create delicious recipes.
2. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of healthy fat and they're packed with nutrition! They’re filled with micronutrients, healthy fat, and protein among others. They are great to snack on or to use as a topper for your breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Avocado is a great source of monounsaturated fats, which can help support heart health. It is also rich in fiber and micronutrients such as potassium and vitamins E and K. You can add slices of avocado to salads, sandwiches, or make guacamole. They also make for a great cooking oil, with its neutral flavor and high smoke point.
4. Olive oil
Olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet and is a great source of monounsaturated fats. It has a fat composition similar to avocado. It is great to use with veggies or as an olive oil-based salad dressing since you’ll absorb more of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K found in most vegetables. When it comes to cooking it is best to use it for low-heat cooking.
5. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Include fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, and trout in your diet, your brain will thank you!