Friday, February 2, 2007

Brain food

Nutrition Vibrations-By Molly Peppo

Lately it seems we are being told about the dangers of trans fatty acids and of the benefits of essential fatty acids. While nutrition seems to be a confusing subject with conflicting studies published daily, it seems beneficial to avoid these trans fats and adopt a diet high in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Trans fats are already banned in many European countries.

In the last 100 years, the food supply has dramatically shifted from whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals to a food supply based on excessive animal fat and protein, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and processed foods made with trans fatty acids.

According to Dr. Donald Rudin, it's estimated that in 75 years consumption of omega-3 fatty acid has been reduced by 80 percent, due to decreased consumption of fish, loss of cereal germ by modern milling practices, and the high increase in trans fats and sugar intake.

The best thing to do amid all this confusion is to stay close to organic whole foods. Supplements can be beneficial, as the nutritional value of food is not what it used to be. Organic food, nutrient dense and free of pesticides (designed to paralyze the central nervous and reproductive systems of organisms) should be the basic foundation of diets.

According to Michael Schmidt, author of "Smart Fats," essential fatty acids must be obtained from diet. They may play a large role in maintaining brain function, a strong immune system, and the proper workings of the heart. EFAs make up the structure of cell membranes, and play a critical role in the functioning of nerve cells. It's from these essential fatty acids that our bodies make vital brain fats that help regulate the body's activity.

Schmidt writes that harmful brain fats can actually make cell membranes stiff and inflexible, and interfere negatively with the normal functional properties while affecting the brain's blood supply. Trans fatty acids are found in candy, chips, cookies, mayonnaise, fried foods, margarine and non-olive-oil based salad dressings. Anything that says partially hydrogenated oil should be avoided.

On the other hand, beneficial dietary fat can potentially influence nerve and mood behavior, cognition and even our ability to move.

So what are the right fats and how can we eat them?

Foods rich in essential fatty acids are flaxseed and flaxseed oil, hemp seed and hemp seed oil, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, cold water fish, algae and eggs. Use oils that are certified organic, stored in dark bottles to prevent rancidity, cold-processed and expeller pressed. Olive oil is a highly nutritious and beneficial.

Avoid foods high in dietary saturated fat, excessive animal fat, high trans fatty acid, alcohol and sugar.

The amazing thing about the human body is that our cells are replaced on a regular basis. By switching to olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds and their butters and oils, each cell has the ability to rid itself of accumulated trans fatty acids and restore the membranes to a more resilient and healthy state.

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