I was at a dinner sometime ago and we were served delicious-looking Jollof rice with tempting moi-moi and chicken. A girl at my table was digging the food until she took a cut of the mom-moi and saw some pieces of fish in it and down goes her fork, she was done! As someone who has zero tolerance for food wastage, I asked the issue and she told me she never eat fish. Perplexed, I asked why and she told me she had no particular reason, she just doesn’t eat it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to save the food from wasting despite all. This brings me to the topic-FISH.
The benefits of fish on human brain health are indispensable. Studies have revealed that fatty and amino acids found in most fish are elements critical not only in building brain cell membranes, but also in fostering its proper development to make it function better.
The human brain is more than 60% fat! The majority of fat in the brain is the type that cannot be made by the body and must be supplied by the diet. The fats essential for optimal brain activity are the omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and, to a lesser extent, alpha linolenic acid (ALA). The brain requires more omega-3 fatty acids than any other system in the body.
The following is a breakdown on the vital nutrients found in fish that could explains how eating fish can be highly essential to brain health and function.
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Cold-water fish, like mackerel, trout, salmon and sardines, belong to the oily fish category, while haddock and cod, among several others, belong to the lean ones. Of these two categories, the former are higher in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than the latter in terms of brain-health benefits and as the brain’s building materials. In turn, this omega-3 fatty acid produces docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a more complex fatty acid that builds up the brain cell membranes, to boost the brain’s health and function.
2. DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid)
The DHA is responsible for building brain tissues, restoring neurons and improving synapses. An aging brain will show lowered DHA levels and this affects overall brain health. Without fish on the diet, deficiency in DHA can contribute or worsen brain conditions, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia in elder people. And younger people are not spared! DHA deficiency diminishes learning abilities for young people. So load up on salmon. It is good for young brains and may even be helpful to ward off or delay brain diseases in the post-golden years.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D acts with other nutrients, such as calcium, to improve healthy brain nerves, enhance cognitive abilities, and contribute to quickness of the thought processes. Vitamin D is not naturally abundant in most types of food, but it is found naturally and abundantly in fish. Research published in the Journal of Neurology showed that men with higher Vitamin D levels performed significantly better in a neuropsychological test than the other subjects with lower Vitamin D levels.
4. Protein and Amino Acids
The brain is a huge network and it needs efficient road, called neurotransmitters, to convey information within the network and even through the brain barrier. Essential amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are necessary for brain health. Unfortunately, the body isn’t capable of producing these acids on its own, and thus, needs to source them from food. In a study conducted by Harvard University, it concluded that fish produces high-quality protein containing these essential substances. Other researches supported this inference and discovered that amino acids significantly improve learning performance and promote mental acuity.
With sufficient quantities of EPA and DHA in the diet, the membranes of the brain perform at their peak level, which is essential for regulating mood, emotions, and staving off depression. In the absence of EPA and DHA the brain will choose an alternate source of lipids such as an omega-6 or monounsaturated fat which has very different properties from omega-3s and could therefore negatively affect your mental health.
Anything good for the brain becomes good for the body as the two are not mutually exclusive. This is true of fish and fish oil. They reduce depression, risks for death from cardiac diseases, and even death from all causes.
To be healthy and build a healthy brain, eat fish!