In order to feel your best you need to support your mood-enhancing brain functions with healthy fats. Foods like avocado, flaxseed, coconut, egg yolk, salmon skin, and nuts contain important fuel for your brain, allowing neurological pathways to run smoothly and efficiently. It's time to throw out your pre-conceived notions about fat, stop being fearful of things that are good for you, and start enjoying more healthy fats in your diet!
Feeling sluggish, tired, brain fog, low energy, irritated, depressed? How much fat have you had today??
Omega-3 fatty acids are your brain's power mood food. By simply adding more omega-3's to your diet you can raise your dopamine level by 40%. (Dopamine is your brain's natural antidepressant.)
Where can you find Omega-3's you might ask?? Omega-3 fatty acids are found in three essential and non-essential fatty acids in nature:
1. DHA- the primary oil found in fish and algea, as well as the primary fatty acid found in the human brain. It's health benefits also include decreasing the chance of heart disease due to lowering triglyceride levels.
2. EPA- the other primary oil found in fatty fish, such as mackerel, anchovies, sardines, salmon, tuna and hoki.
3. ALA- the least available form of Omega-3 to the human body, as it is found in plant sources (like flaxseeds, walnuts, soy, chia seeds). ALA must be converted to EPA/DHA once in the body and thus can be malabsorbed in the process.
The best foods to get your healthy dose of Omega-3's?
Salmon has the highest content of DHA of any fish source, ranging from 2000 to 3000 milligrams per 6 ounce serving. Wild salmon has more usable fish oil than farm-raised salmon. The best variety of salmon to choose is the Atlantic salmon, but Coho, pink and sockeye salmon are also good choices.
For vegetarians who do not eat fish, other sources of omega 3 fatty acids can be eaten such as walnuts, flaxseeds and tofu. However, these contain ALA not DHA. Algae is a source of DHA omega 3's that is a great option for vegans. My favorite and hands down the best product out there for algae's and sea vegetables is Billys Infinity Greens. I recommend Billy's greens powder to all of my clients, vegan or not!
These small fish can contain up to 840 milligrams of omega 3 fatty acids per 3-ounce can. European anchovy canned in oil is a better source than raw. For herring, the Atlantic variety has more DHA than the Pacific fish. Of the three, sardines have the lowest amount of DHA.
Fresh bluefin tuna has the highest amount of DHA of any of the tuna varieties. Canned tuna can be a good source, and may be more economical. Look for a white albacore tuna canned in water, which contains 3 times as much DHA as "light" tuna canned in water, and 6 times as much as light tuna canned in oil, according to the USDA Database analysis.
So what about QUALITY?
Getting adequate EPA/DHA nutrition from fish sources can be tricky, as it is important to eat fish from a clean source. Fatty fish carry residues of the pollution they swim in. If you intend to get the bulk of your Omega-3 fatty acid nutrition from fish, make sure you know the source of your food. Check out Seafood Watch and arm yourself with information so you know how/what to order when you're out at a restaurant, or when you're shopping at the grocery store.
In my home and for my clients I recommend Wild Caught Atlantic Salmon, Wild Line Caught Tuna, and Wild Alaskan halibut and cod. If you can not find/trust these at your local health food stores I recommend Vital Choice. Your local farmers markets may have some great choices on fresh wild caught fish as well.
You may also want to consider providing your body with needed Omega-3 fatty acids through supplements or fish oil capsules. You have a plethora of options when it comes to fish oil, but believe me not all are created equal. Just as you need to source healthy fish to eat, you need to source healthy, sustainable fish oil companies to provide quality fish oil. My best recommendation, outside of my professional grade products, is Nordic Naturals.
But won't eating more fat, make me fat?
The short answer to this question is: NO. What we need to realize as a culture is that foods like egg yolks, nuts, nut butters, avocados, healthy oils, and even grass-fed butter are not the enemy! These foods have a very specific job in our bodies, and don't come close to the negative impacts of excess fructose and glucose. Remember that any macro-nutrient in excess will cause weight gain, but excess carbohydrates healthy or not, all break down to glucose in the body and are the culprit to the declining health of the western world.
I'll be continuing this discussion next week with my second post on fat and fat metabolism. It is important that you understand the sources of plant omega's that are good and not so good for you. Stay tuned!
Have a great week!
Sara Kosick, MNT
Owner Holistic Roots Nutrition
Honest Market Master Nutritionist
Master Nutrition Therapist Pura Vida Fitness & Spa