By Monica Corrado, MA, CNC, CGP
Healthy fats are critical for good physical and mental health. A lack of healthy fats or eating low-fat can lead to depression, an inability to concentrate or focus, brain fog, memory loss, stressing out, high anxiety, and dementia. These are all brain function issues…issues of mental health or illness.
Animal fats and cholesterol are essential for the development and function of the brain and nervous system. All children and adults need healthy fats. Children need them for focusing and attention issues as well as for those with ADD, ADHD, SPD and OCD. Those on the Autism Spectrum need them even more.
Healthy Fats, Cholesterol and Protein
Healthy fats are naturally saturated animal fats– butter from grass-fed cows, ghee made from the same butter, tallow from pastured beef and lamb, lard from pastured pig and bacon fat from natural bacon without chemical nitrates. Also, grass-fed butter has the perfect fatty acid profile for brain health. Pastured butter is great brain food.
Other healthy fats include fish oils, cod liver oil, raw and unfiltered olive oil, coconut oil, flax oil (best in the form of seeds), nut and seed butters, avocados, cheese (raw preferred) and seeds. Note: With the exception of flax, nuts and seeds must be soaked, sprouted or fermented in order to be digestible and their nutrients to be available for your body to use.
Food affects everything in the body, especially brain function. Other foods your brain needs to function optimally in addition to healthy fats are cholesterol-rich foods, amino acids (protein), and certain vitamins and minerals … particularly choline. Reliable sources of choline are liver, grass-fed meat, and nuts.
Cholesterol is a hormone and NOT a fat and is important for healthy brain function. Every cell and structure in the brain and nervous system needs cholesterol to build itself and to accomplish its many functions. Synapses don’t happen without cholesterol. If you have problems with memory loss, brain fog or concentration, then add some cholesterol-rich foods to your diet. It’s as simple as heaping some grass-fed butter on veggies.
Cholesterol is critical to proper nervous system function. Myelin coats each nerve and nerve cell thereby insulating them and 20% of myelin is cholesterol. If there is not enough cholesterol in the diet, brain function will be impaired. Cholesterol-rich foods include caviar, cod liver oil, egg yolks from pastured hens, butter from grass-fed cows, and cold water fish such as shellfish, salmon, sardines, and mackerel.
Our brains also need amino acids which are the building blocks for protein. The best protein for your brain are not products like powdered “pea” protein. The best protein is in pastured eggs, wild-caught fish, fatty fish (salmon), shellfish, grass-fed meat, poultry, pork, wild game, raw milk and cream. Grass-fed beef is a natural source of healthy Omega-3 fats and it has the optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats (3:1), just like pastured butter. In addition to being a good protein source, egg yolks are also rich in choline. For their highest nutrient value, eat egg yolks runny and skip the egg-white omelets.
The Brain and Digestion
There are more brain function disorders than in the past and digestion has a lot to do with the upsurge in these problems. It doesn’t matter which foods you consume if your digestive system is not functioning optimally as they will be unable to nourish the brain. Food must be digested, absorbed and then transported to the brain to be utilized. This does not occur with a leaky gut.
If you have any brain function or mental health issues, you may assume that your brain is under attack from toxins and undigested protein in the bloodstream caused by a leaky gut. In this case, you must work to heal the gut, or your symptoms will continue and get worse. Many people have had success by following the GAPS (Gut and Psychology SyndromeTM) diet, by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. This is a way of eating, and not eating, that heals many mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and autism. Food heals.
Once the gut is healed, it will be important to reduce foods that cause inflammation in the brain and therefore hinder brain function. This means reducing carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates, sugar of all kinds, gluten (especially from American wheat), and excito-toxins. Excito-toxins are those toxins in food that over-excite the neurons in the frontal lobe of the brain. Examples of excito-toxins are food dyes, aspartame and MSG. This includes diet sodas, blue, red or neon green sports drinks, gummy bears, fruity loops, or similar cereals.
The best food for your body and optimal brain function is clean, REAL FOOD. This means ORGANIC or at least non-GMO. Check with your local farmer! Sometimes farm fresh food is higher quality than “certified organic”. For more information, see my article “What is Real Food? Why does it Matter?” in the March/April issue of Regenerate Magazine.
And don’t forget…eat more butter!
For Further Reference and Information…
Campbell-McBride, Dr. Natasha, Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, ADD, Dyslexia, ADHD, Depression, Schizophrenia and www.gaps.me