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Nutrients for the Brain: Omega-3’s

Welcome to our series on brain healthy nutrients!  This week we’re talking about omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3’s are not a particular kind of oil but a type of fatty acid that makes up an oily substance- most often found in fatty fish such as fresh salmon or sardines. It is called omega 3 because of its structure that gives it its beneficial properties. Omega-3’s have been found to have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory properties and have been studied as treatment for various psychiatric disorders.

A particular kind of omega-3 called DHA is particularly beneficial in cognitive function. These fatty acids make up 30% of the membranes in the brain and therefore crucial for membrane integrity. They also help to support the receptors in the brain that enable transmissions to be sent and received in the brain and control the storage and release of certain neurotransmitters- both improving and impacting cognitive function. Other studies link deficient intakes of omega-3’s to impaired utilization of glucose in the brain which impacts learning and memory processing.

Low levels of omega-3’s are linked to various inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease, ADHD, anxiety disorders, etc. However, an optimal concentration of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is crucial for the balance of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory processes in the body. Most Americans are deficient in omega-3’s and eat a diet high in omega-6’s (found mostly in vegetable oils). However, both are necessary for optimal health.

Here are some ways that you can eat more omega-3 fatty acids:
– Eat fatty fish preferably from a fresh, wild caught source: salmon, mackerel, or sardines (even just 1-2 servings a week is beneficial)
– Nuts and seeds: Flaxseed, chia seed, and walnuts. Although these foods often have their nutrients tied up by compounds meant to protect them, soaked or “activated” nuts/seeds are often a better choice.
– Seed oils: flaxseed oil.
– Omega-3 supplement: Make sure the source is high quality. Lifestream offers a high quality omega-3 supplement in oil and capsule form.


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