Foods for Better Brains and Hearts

omega 3

In a December 19, 2018 feature story, Medical News Today cited the value of fish as one of the twelve best brain foods. Fish oil contains a nutrient called Omega-3. Medical evidence seems to indicate that it protects brain health, especially during pregnancy, in early developmental life, and in older adults. Omega-3 is known for preventing strokes because it prevents the development of arterial plaque. It’s also known for improving thinking skills and for possibly minimizing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. It can even fight depression and anxiety. All of that is beneficial to brain health.

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats EPA and DHA promote good blood circulation and the prevention of blood clots. They protect brain health plus cardiac (heart) health, according to medical studies. Medical expert debates about the brain benefits of fish oil and brain health are mostly about the value of swallowing fish oil supplements versus eating Omega-3 foods themselves (e.g., Omega-rich fish, canola, flaxseed, and soybean oil plus chia, hemp, and pumpkin seeds, green leafy vegetables and seaweed). If you eat sushi, you’re filling yourself with plenty of Omega-3. If you swallow fish oil pills or capsules with Omega-3, though, you’re only taking a less powerful extract derived from its original source. They’re designed for people who can’t or don’t want to eat fish.

There’s no wisdom in taking too much Omega 3 in a supplement or in your meals because that can cause bleeding, loose stools and other gastric problems, plus nausea, rash, and fish odor in your breath. Eat reasonable amounts of Omega 3-rish foods, and if you prefer not to eat fish, ask your doctor to recommend the correct supplements for you.

Let’s look beyond Omega-3 for foods that nourish heart health. An August 2018 Harvard Health Letter touted heart-healthy whole grains because they’re packed with fiber. Fiber removes cholesterol from the body. A bowl of whole grain oatmeal takes longer to digest than the one-minute version stripped of essential nutrients. Whole grain oats have a low glycemic index, so they’re great for preventing hunger pangs and blood sugar spikes (a problem for anyone, especially diabetics). The newsletter included information about fiber-rich beans being full of protein and minerals which can protect the heart from high blood pressure. Low-calorie dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and one component of Omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid. Those greens are good for cardiac health, too. Nuts and oranges, like dark leafy greens, hold phytochemicals that lower blood pressure and balance cholesterol levels. Avocados hold plant compounds that lower cholesterol levels, and that’s good for heart  health, too. Add a sensible amount of extra-virgin olive oil to your salad in order to balance your blood sugar levels, to lower dangerous LDL cholesterol levels, and to prevent excessive blood clotting.

Enjoy your delicious heart- and brain-healthy meals. You have lots of food to choose from for the sake of variety and a sense of satisfaction.